I may have had a breakthrough on the “prioritizing” thing.
I’ve always struggled with finding time to write, especially to work on my dissertation. There were so many more pressing concerns, like prepping for classes. My advisor would tell me that I had to make writing a “priority,” but I didn’t understand how that would work - there were urgent tasks barking in my face, and working on my dissertation was something I could push down the road.
Two months ago, I moved to a new city and started a new job. I have two boxes marked “dissertation,” and they remained unpacked - until yesterday morning. I told myself: I’m going to spend the first two hours of my day tackling the diss, and however much I can accomplish in two hours, I’ll “stick a pin in it” and continue the next day.
This is hard for me. The perfectionist in me wants to accomplish huge amounts of work at one time. But I decided to try it.
How much did I get done? I pulled a stack of papers out of the first box. Some needed to be filed (I did that) and some needed to be sorted (like the three different versions of my IRB application - had to figure out which one of those was the “latest and greatest.”) In so doing, I realized I wanted to make a minor change in my data collection procedure, and that this might require an amendment. I called the IRB office at my previous institution, and yes, an amendment is necessary. At this point, my two hours was up.
It was hard to stop there. I wanted to revise the necessary pages, fill out the amendment form, and submit it, but I realized that this would probably take another two hours or more. I had exam questions to write, and papers to grade. So I set it aside, to add to the next day’s work.
And a funny thing happened. I find myself looking forward to getting back to it, to picking up where I left off, to making more progress. And I’m realizing, this is what it means to make something a priority. It doesn’t mean that you only work on that thing, just that you work on it first.
Perhaps this is obvious to others, but it’s taken me awhile to figure it out. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to make those revisions and fill out that amendment form - or see how far I can get in two hours.