Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A day at home: downtime as worktime

Greetings, internauts! I write to you from my white leather IKEA Poang chair, be-Croc'ed feet up on the footstool, cosy in my Waterloo track pants, my Lululemon thinking hoodie, and a big mug of tea. It's 5pm as I write this; I've been sitting here pretty much all day, except for that chunk of time I was reading on the couch so the dog could warm my feet up.

I've had just the most amazing day, frankly, and I wanted to share it:

  • 6:45-8:20: shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, roust child and animals
  • 8:20-9:05: take kid to bus, take dog for walk
  • 9:05-10:30: write conference proposal, reorganize 30 open Safari windows
  • 10:30-10:50: dancing break (Violent Femmes), empty dishwasher, call husband
  • 10:50-12:00: read intensely and rapidly through materials for summer workshop
  • 12:00-12:20: lunch, make latte
  • 12:20-2:00: read opening two chapters of new book in my exact area
  • 2:00-2:20: play piano
  • 2:20-4:00: intense blitz of organizing research notes and web clippings for project
  • 4:00-4:30: goof around with the dog, eat apple, make tea
  • 4:30-5:00: write research blog post for other blog
  • 5:00-now : work on this blog post
What's amazing is the kind of sustained focus I've been able to bring to a variety of important but awful tasks: reading, writing, databasing, etc. And how even though I've worked way hard on these really intense tasks, I don't feel burnt out. I am looking forward to my family coming home. I'm ready to talk to people again.

There's something really important about these days where I don't have to go to campus, that many of you probably feel, too. This is probably only the second or third day since new year's where I have not had at least one on-campus obligation to attend to. Being on campus every day, day in and day out, can be very productive in a lot of ways, but it's really unproductive in others. You know I hate the getting dressed and putting makeup on and doing the commute and trying to pack a lunch or find something edible on campus. And people see me and suddenly I have students lined up at my door, or someone pops in with something that wasn't urgent but since I'm around do I have twenty minutes? Then I have to commute home again. The clothes are itchy. I don't have a good reading chair.

I hear that it sounds whiny. But believe me, I am on campus a lot and for a lot more meetings than many people--I am a VP on our Faculty Association, and there's a LOT of meetings associated with that. I'm not complaining about that. What I want to do is stress the importance of the at-home days.

It's not really down time. It's a different, essential kind of work time.

My sister jokes about me working in my pyjamas. And essentially, I am. But it doesn't mean I'm not working hard. Arguably, the kinds of work I got done in my pyjamas are much more efficiently and competently accomplished in that attire and in this location than they would be at the office in my heels.

I guess that's what I want to say. In this era of professor accountability, and "room optimization" scheduling software that sees non-teaching days as a kind of luxury professors ought to count themselves lucky to have any of during the week, I strike out a blow for home work. Working at home means that I can intersperse really intense, exhausting brain work with a bit of downtime I really enjoy. I am physically comfortable, and I am psychically comfortable. I have my fridge and my dog and my cat. My latte machine. There are no students here, and no administrators. I have the freedom to give it 110% for 45 or 90 minutes at a time, then lie down on the floor with my feet up on the couch doing yoga breathing.

It matters. Without intense kinds of downtime there is no intense kind of worktime. Without my track pants, there is no book project. 

5 comments:

  1. I never thought of working from home as downtime- simply as a better form of working. :) Seriously- as you say there is no time wasted on commuting, getting ready for work, and making sure I have everything I need. Nothing feels more like time wasted than realizing I went into the office simply because of one meeting.

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  2. Coming from a student who did most of her reading and assignments in trackpants, propped up on pillows, in bed, I can say a hearty YES to this post.

    I love working from home and your point about being psychically comfortable completely resonates. Button up shirts and heels have NOTHING on a thinking hoodie. :)

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  3. I ALWAYS get more work done at home than at the office. There are not people poking their heads into my room interrupting; there are no distractions in the hallways. Instead of wasting an hour commuting, I take 10 minute breaks in work and am so much more productive. So I agree with you wholeheartedly on this one.

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  4. What they said.

    Even though I find the poking of head into your office for a discussion of digital pedagogy incredibly energizing in its own right, those omnipresent, deadline-looming tasks (yours and mine) don't appreciate the alternate realm of productivity. They're still waiting to be done after the 45 min. commute home.

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