Working from behind vs. Working to build

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For a good long while now, I’ve been working in catchup mode, like Indiana Jones running from the big stone. I had made a lot of commitments, and following through on them kept me so busy that I didn’t have enough hours in the day to focus on building new things.

Because my plate has been so full, I’ve said no to some new exciting possibilities, because I knew I wouldn’t have time for them. And I haven’t had the chance to forge into new directions because I’ve been working from a backlog.

In recent days, I feel like I’ve caught up. Have I done everything that I planned to do or met every obligation? No, but I’m getting there. But I’ve turned a corner, in that I’ve been able to budget time for projects that are looking towards the future. Writing a grant for a project I’m excited about, rather than one I feel obligated to do. I still have a bunch of manuscripts in a backlog, but I have the luxury of choosing the ones that are inspiring to me at at the moment. I still have plenty of obligatory duties, but for the bandwidth that I’ve maintained for scholarship, there’s more room to steer.

Because of events happening with extended family, in my home we have the option of bringing in some new (to us) furniture, which is old and beautiful. But, my house is already well furnished. If I’m bringing in something new, then something else has to go. Otherwise, the place just gets too crowded, and then the situation just becomes non-functional. Yes, that 130-year old trunk is gorgeous, but there is such a thing as too many antique trunks, Do I want to have a bunch of antique trunks? Yes, I do! But do I have space for all of them? No, I don’t. So, a choice has to be made. And then there’s that beautiful coffee table. Which was made by the great grandfather-in-law. But then again, we’ve got one that fits our needs already, so well. So, we’ve got to choose. These are the same decisions that I’ve had to make – consciously or otherwise — for research, administrative, and outreach goals. There’s not enough space in the calendar.

As a tenured faculty member, I’ve decided it’s wise for me to keep some fraction of my workload not committed to any particular project. That latitude is where creativity lies, and where inspiration can strike best. And where I can choose to say yes to exciting things as they come past.

Do you have time in your schedule to pick up an exciting opportunity, if it should present itself to you? Is there something that you can clear from your agenda, so go give yourself more freedom for spontaneity?

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