It has been nearly a year since I’ve made a blog post. There were several swimming around in my mind, but they never emerged onto the silicon paper of my blog. There are many reasons: way too busy, the world is too crazy these days, and perhaps there was a bit of procrastination…
I like having a lot of things to do, and I have an optimal point where just the right amount of work leads to the most productivity. When I have too much free time, I find that I don’t get a lot done. But it is also easy to get too little free time, and that erodes my productivity.
This past year has been quite busy for me at work. My lab moved from the University of Florida to the University of Georgia about 3 years ago, and last year was important in getting new projects funded, new people established, and new papers published. I spent most of the year trying to keep productive with too little time on my hands. That can work for the short-term, but it can be exhausting too and is not sustainable for the long-term.
Even though I’ve always had the mental image of the relationship of productivity and busy-ness in the simple drawing above, I also know that it is more complicated than that. “Busy” can be anything that needs to be done, but as I’ve often noted in this blog over the years, I find that working on interests outside of my main job will usually rejuvenate me.
The key is to find the right balance between getting the important “real” work done with enough time to fit in other interests. Finding the right balance can lead to true satisfaction in life.
The problem, at least for me, is that “other interests” is a pretty big group of things. If I could make a drawing that represents more than 3 dimensions, I would add axes for all of my interests: family/friends, health/exercise, leatherwork, music/guitar, and more.
This past year has been good for some of these “other interests” and lacking in others. In “family”, I became a grandfather to the most beautiful little girl. Anytime that I can get just holding her as she naps is about as good as it gets. I also managed to keep up a pretty good running schedule this past year and am in decent physical shape. I’ve also managed to keep up a fairly regular guitar practice and lessons, and even though I’m still a real novice, it is coming along.
The “other interest” that really suffered this past year is leatherwork. I only had a few good sessions in my shop, including one where I made a (long overdue!) simple bag for a friend and another to make a notebook cover. These few weeks in the shop were extremely therapeutic, and I’m always trying to figure out how to spend more time working on my craft.
Facebook and other social media outlets have been in the news a lot this past few years for their abuse of people’s personal data and manipulation of elections. They are also a huge time sink! I have never spent too much time with Facebook, but for the past several weeks I’ve not been logged in. This was in response to a boycott Facebook by the NAACP after revelations that Facebook allowed the targeting of African Americans in fake political advertising.
I am not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but my plan for 2019 is to be more deliberate with my time. I can’t make more, but I can take better stock in how I spend what time is there. All of my work and “other interests” don’t allow much time for social media and other electronic distractions. These e-activities generally do nothing to promote satisfaction and happiness, though they can be extremely time consuming. I’m planning on more time in the shop and less time agitating over the latest trends in social media. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Wise words, Art! Finding balance requires constant focus on what is important. Tending to urgent but unimportant things can fill every day. Glad to hear your new lab is thriving. I hope to see you some day! Congratulations on your new grandchild, such a joy.
Hi Caroline, Thanks as always for the nice feedback. I get the sense that you are quite good at focusing on the right things! I’d love to see you too, and I’ll let you know next time I’m in the Bay area. Happy New Year!
What a lovely gift to receive this in my inbox today…! Very inspiring. I will read, digest, and perhaps edit this comment when I get out of bed…and have some coffee….!! But in the meantime, thankyou for this, I hope you will be doubling your output and posting perhaps two messages this year…!! Happy New Year…!
Richard, thanks for the nice words! I do hope to at least double the output this year. It isn’t often that is possible and one of the great advantages of starting with a very low bar! Happy New Year!
This is so true for academic life, a wise man!
Thanks, Rick! Nice to hear from you in this context. Happy New Year!
We wish you and Katherine a happy, healthy, productive 2019. John and Janet
Happy New Year to you and Katherine. We love your blog. We leave Senegal on Saturday. Do come visit us.
We would love to see you soon. Senegal sounds exciting! Thanks for reading my blog and for the kind words. Safe travels!
Happy New Year to both of you!