Late last week, in the middle of Funding Application Madness '09, I went to see one of the University counselors for the first time. Ky's been on my case to do this for a while now, and Chris had started suggesting that it might help me as well, but I finally got my act together and made an appointment. I don't know what I was so scared about; I don't know if somehow I suspected that I'd end up being assigned some crazy person, or that she'd convince me that everything that I held to be normal was completely wrong, or that somehow my life would turn upside down as a result of this. Actually, I don't know what I expected.
But I got an entirely reasonable woman named June, who sat down with me and discussed stress management and methods of structuring my life so that I could motivate myself to get work done and minimise distractions. She suggested that what I needed most was to pick a place where I get my best work done, and dedicate that spot for work. We established that my desk in the office was that spot, since it's the same desk where I wrote my MA thesis, and it's not that spot on the couch where I keep trying to work, but the TV is right there tempting me. This way, when I walk into the office, my brain will already be beginning to think "I'm going to work now." She also suggested that I restart some of my other strategies I instituted when I was writing my MA thesis, such as setting office hours at home, during which time I shut off the phone and maybe the internet too.
This was my homework for the next two weeks: work from my desk, between 9:00am and 2:30pm, with a half-hour lunch break, during which time my phone is shut off, and then stop working at 2:30 and let myself do whatever I want. (I'm also, as of tomorrow morning, going to start running before Chris leaves for school again, so that I leave the house once before I start to work.)
The theory is that I'll put off the blogging, the housework and the phonecalls until after 2:30, rather than spend the entire day in that muddy middle ground of procrastinating and trying to work, where I don't really enjoy the distractions because they make me feel guilty. Now they're rewards. (Not that housework is a reward. But I can put it off for a few hours, knowing that I'll get to it after I've researched for a while.)
So, I started following the schedule today. (I couldn't start on Friday, because that was my Day of Haunting the History Department Until Everyone Gave Me Their Letters of Recommendation, After Which I Could Send Off the Application. I fully expected to spend my Friday like that, and that I was going to purposely take the whole long weekend off, and so I didn't even plan on starting my office hours until today.) Okay, I didn't shut off the phone until the afternoon, because I had an appointment this morning. And, even though I only got two hours of work done this afternoon, I stopped work at exactly 2:30 anyway. Baby steps, people. But it was good practice, getting a few hours of concentrated work done and then putting it away, being satisfied that I've done enough for today. And I did get good work done during those two hours.
Now let's see if I can keep this up.