Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Productivity is relative

I've spent the past few days beating myself up because of my recent lack of productivity. In the past week, I've had several days where I didn't do any worthwhile work at all, and the days when I did get work done, progress was painfully slow (and interruptions plentiful). I was really unhappy with my lack of progress, and this sort of snowballed into a whole "woe is me, I've done nothing worthwhile on my sabbatical and I'll never finish this stuff and I'll never get tenure and die penniless in a ditch somewhere." (OK, not so much the last part, but the rest of it was on the endless loop playing and replaying itself in my mind.) Not enough to completely derail me, but enough to make me feel less than wonderful about the work I was doing.

This morning, I had to send an email to my chair outlining all of the things I've done in the past year---teaching, research, service---so that he can put together his departmental report. And you know what? I've had a pretty damn good year. I've been productive. Research-wise, I have what I think is a pretty good combination of new projects, in-progress projects, and just-needs-to-be-written-up-and-sent-off projects. My research students are producing publishable work. There are publications that will appear this year (soon, in fact). There's lots at various stages in the pipeline right now, and some new directions just waiting to be explored, too. Teaching-wise, I developed and taught a brand new course and I'm working on developing another, cross-disciplinary one for sometime in the future. And my extra-college service has been particularly strong this year. So I have a lot to be proud of.

Funny how I didn't believe it until I had to justify it to someone else.

This whole exercise, though, made me go back and reconsider what I've done over sabbatical. Sure, this week was slow, and sure, what I've been doing on sabbatical is not what I intended to do. But sabbatical has been "differently productive". I did a whole new line of research extending something that I originally thought was a dead end, done by some students a year ago; that will be going out for review within the next two weeks. I've been writing up lots of stuff that previously was just sitting around, gathering dust. Tying up loose ends of various projects. Going back and reanalyzing things that didn't make complete sense before, but that I never had time to go back and look at. And I've sketched out another major piece of my work, one that will probably be 2-3 separate projects---but it's all outlined and ready to go (and I've even started a small part of it).

So I'm once again happy with my work and my progress, and not beating myself up anymore.

The one thing I'm still unhappy about is the damn journal article that is still hanging around. The one I was supposed to submit by the end of December, remember? Yeah, well, I got so frustrated with it that I had to set it aside, and ended up setting it aside for the better part of 2 months. But it's back in the active rotation of projects, and the new plan is to submit it by mid-April. And I will do it, even if I think it still sucks at that point, because it's more important to get it out and in the pipeline than to wait for it to be perfect.


FemaleCSGradStudent said...

Wow. I could have written this post for this very same week. I might try the exercise you describe, justifying my productivity to a ficticious person. Might make me feel better.

Jane said...

That's a good idea! Sometimes I also get the same sense of accomplishment by updating my CV---but this, I think, was much more effective.