I feel a bit ambivalent about writing this.
I work with so many academics that I know most of you are more disaffected and disillusioned about your work than ever before. You just don’t want to do what you used to do. And yet, here I am offering to help you be productive.
To be honest, I WANT you to work less. In fact, no small part of my coaching is designed to help you disconnect from the “work = worth” lie.
AND, I want the work you do choose to do to be easier.
If only making it happen it was as easy as wanting it! The path out of the belief that work comes first is a long and winding road. It certainly has been for me. I set limits and ignore them. I take time off and worry about what is not getting done. I get ready to send something to be read by someone else and succumb to second guessing and text petting. So, if you are looking for someone who has it all figured out, you might want to look elsewhere.
What I can offer is acceptance and training in decreasing the misery. In the seven years since I launched Unstuck, I’ve found that most scholars join because they think they are the only ones struggling and are looking for something, ANYTHING, that will help them finish a thing and join the imagined group of hyper-productive scholars. A magic formula, if you will. Once they engage with the program and community, they realize that they are FAR from alone and there is no one-size-fits all “productivity” program.
It’s my experience that most self help is written by and designed by people with a very particular type of (read: white, male, neurotypical) brain. And their “get a plan and follow it” advice fails to engage the massive complexities of the lives of people who are required to play 4D chess to navigate the world. As if getting up and going to work are the only things many of us are balancing from 9-5! (And as if we are only working 9-5!) Of course, you are struggling to get everything done because your “everything” includes other people, places and things that need to be navigated and managed.
I am confident that you can recall a time when you had a solid work plan. You maybe even had an outline and had blocked off the time to work. And then daycare called. Or your niece who is trying to get out of a bad relationship. Or your mentee who comes to your office whenever being one of the few of her on campus gets overwhelming. According to the books, you are failing to follow a plan.
In my productivity course Unstuck: The Art of Productivity, one of myths I challenge is that your reality is controllable, and that uncontrollable is not the same as being out of control!
That’s where my coaching always starts: How do we navigate the reality we have rather than trying to force our reality into what someone else claims it should be? How do we accept the work we can do and stop beating ourselves up for the work we can’t?
I am going to be offering posts over the next couple of weeks to help you begin thinking about that shift in perspective. How to plan AND learn to roll with it when things don’t go to plan.
The first step is identifying the rules.
The next few times you set off on a plan, notice what you are thinking and feeling. Notice the messages you are telling yourself. Are you confident? Anxious? Have you pre-determined what success will be? And then ask who is talking? In other words, who has a hand in shaping your narratives of what “productivity” looks like.
PS: If you are not a member of my private social network devoted to healthy work habits, join here. It’s FREE! I offer a bunch of advice.