Productivity Tuesday: Not So Happy Feelings

By Kellee Weinhold, TPII Productivity Coach

Welcome to the Productivity Post and Podcast! Each Tuesday, I post a short blog post and recorded coaching session.

This week’s post is courtesy of a current UNSTUCK: The Art of Productivity* participant, who posted the most wonderful update about her writing this week.

CONTEXT:

Each facilitated* UNSTUCK session includes membership in a secret Facebook group, where participants talk about their challenges and successes, including insights from the process of adapting a new writing practice.

A core practice of UNSTUCK is designed to reclaim our integrity with ourselves by showing up for short writing sessions. It is built on the habit building idea that writing a small amount every day (keeping your word) is more valuable than a once a month binge session knit together with daily avoidance coated in shame and despair.

The other core practice is to get up close and personal with all the negative messaging we put in our own way. With morning pages and “Questions of the Day,” I invite participants to sit with their feelings rather than run from them. Deal with them so they can get past them to writing.


I clocked my 15 mins of writing a number of times this week. Yet I have been struggling with what happens next. At first, I am all: “Go Me! Woop! Woop!”. Happy feelings. But this is usually quickly followed by “Jesus H Christ: there is still so much needing doing.” These are not so happy feelings. These not so happy feelings are bigger than the happy ones. I feel not so happy WITH them, and not so happy AT them. I am supposed to sit with them. My reaction to this prospect is: “You have GOT to be kidding me.” But I have tried. And I have been all: “Oh sh*t. Maybe I get these ‘still so much to do’ feelings because I want them to come. Maybe I am attached to them. Maybe I am scared at the prospect of what I would do were I to have to write without them as company.”

So that is what I have been thinking about this week.

As it happens, I have also been up to my eyeballs three out of four days this week with interviewing candidates for various kinds of academic jobs. In all of these selection panels, I have been in the chair. This is a relatively new thing. It is rewarding work, but all consuming. I feel as though I have been able to fight the fight from a position of relative power. And I realised something, coming out of an unusually off-the-charts shocking set of deliberations for one of the selection panels. What I have been reminded of is, first: I am a category mistake. I should not, normally, be allowed to be in charge (my lady brain and all). So, simply showing up for the day and making it work is crazy-go-nuts feminist practice. One of my panel members (also having a lady brain) said to be at the end of two solid days of interviewing: ‘You know, I was told that you are scary, and that I should be careful. But I see now that the problem is not you being scary, it’s you being so competent and comfortable with your authority. Were you a man, you would be talked about in very different ways.’

So, I was mulling this over, and mulling over the sh*t that kicked off on a later day this week in a different panel (in which I was also, albeit unexpectedly, in the chair). In this panel, and I kid you not, one of the most institutionally senior members announced at the start of our deliberations as we were summing up our initial impressions: ‘She’s a little girl! She’s no [academic job title].’ (Imagine. And this fellow was not even hobbled by having a lady brain!) Moreover, this observation of him in fact pithily summed up a whole vibe that had been informing much of the interviews that day. So, yours truly [unexpectedly launched into the chair for the final deliberations] felt some strong feelings. They were not happy feelings. But they were powerful feelings. And I took these feelings and doubled down and threw all the tools in my toolkit (smiley face, cross face, happy voice, soliciting voice, stern voice, ‘don’t be a naughty boy’ phrases) at this small group to try and make sure that this was a conversation in which patently illegal pronouncements had no place. Or at least carry no weight in our decision.

So, this morning I woke up tired. And I woke up still with this week of interviewing playing on repeat in my head. And I found myself ‘sitting with my feelings’ about BOTH my writing and my professional practice. And I feel like they had a lot in common. That simply writing is a category mistake. That being the one in charge is a category mistake. That they both give me a fight or flight adrenaline rush. And that pushing on, outwitting it all, is hugely energy consuming.

So, I feel like it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. And that, just maybe, it might make sense to rename my overwhelmedness feelings at the incrementality of my writing progress. That I could rename them more along the lines of how I name my feelings at fighting the fight of the f*ckwit prof and the ‘little girl’ [who got the job, btw]. That is, this all makes me tired. It is a lot of work. Situations that demand structural redress are not about to go away. Writing projects will always be bigger than whatever is do-able on the day. But I would also like to think that I may draw strength from recognising that simply showing up for work –writing or chairing– is in itself subversive. Is in itself transformational. And is in itself a win. And that the problem of tiredness has a solution: it’s called rest.


Listen here as Kellee unpacks the key lessons of this post:

*On August 21st, we will begin offering UNSTUCK UNPLUGGED. Available for purchase whenever you need it, UNSTUCK UNPLUGGED gives you access to all of the posts and coaching videos, minus the group interaction and FB group. No waiting for the next interactive session to begin!

About Karen

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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