(Way Over) 15-Min Improv Blogging

It’s that time in the evening when a) I have so much work to do, but I am b) too tired to work and c) it’s objectively a good time to go to sleep so tomorrow wouldn’t suck, yet d) I don’t want to go to work because I am very busy all the time and I start telling myself stupid $hit, like that I deserve to have a bit of time off to fart around on the web.

There is no deserve. There are many people doing crappier, more poorly paid jobs. They are the ones who deserve to rest, and eat comfort food, and enjoy whatever kind of entertainment they want.

N.B. If you want me to completely disregard your advice or ad for whatever, start it with “You deserve to [be allergy-free/thin/healthy/loved] [have time to relax].”


There is just way too much work to do and I am starting to feel helpless, because I don’t know how to pull it all off.

I have a large class and it’s taking up nearly 2.5 days of my week. Lectures, discussion, writing up HW and solutions, office hours, email, and of course there are the exams and grading.

I have grad students to meet with, and so many papers to write. I am hitting the limits of my stamina, in that I (shockingly!) cannot spend a whole day interacting with various undergrad and grad students, spend several hours in the evening driving kids around to activities and then putting them to bed, and then still have the energy for the intellectual heavy lifting. I can understand how people start taking seriously dangerous stimulants.

There are many work aspects that are a chore, so I procrastinate, yet they don’t go away.

Then there are things such as writing papers, that require me to have my wits about for more than 15 min at the time. It’s so unbelievably frustrating to have to fight so hard to be able to write papers. And why is so much work so deathly boring?


I have discovered that a few colleagues are unbelievably selfish, utterly self-centered egomaniacs. I feel a mixture of disgust and envy, because life would be much easier if I were comparably selfish.

On the other hand, it would not be, because I am female and I people expect me to be available and helpful, and get all pouty and huffy when I am not. When a student has a conflict with other classes, they always come to ask me to reschedule; somehow, I am supposed to be more flexible and more understanding than the dude teachers, I wonder why that is. I had a very weird email exchange with a foreign student, who started by asking me to discuss science with him and basically remotely advise him; I ignored him a couple of times, but he kept emailing, so I responded in the vein that I had no idea who or what he was, but that I guessed he was a student somewhere, that the local professors were the first resource for all things academic, that you can’t just ask unknown people to advise you, and that if he wanted something from someone he had to introduce himself, give a bit of background, send a CV, and then ask. Long story short, a few emails later, in which I informed him that I had intention to recruiting students and no time to advise people remotely, and after all of which he still hadn’t sent me a CV or any info on what the heck his background was, the dude scolded me for being selfish and not giving students like him a chance. Can you believe it?  Because he thinks he’s entitled to (he deserves) my time and attention, and thus fuckin’ demands it.

There are a number of young women in my class. With a few, I have established a nice rapport. Others are giving me weird looks. *sigh* This brings back thoughts of honorary dudeness.

I wonder if being a woman academic will ever result in me getting actual respect, automatically, like the dudes do, instead of having to metaphorically beat it out of every single person, male or female.

Speaking of beating stuff, I am back at kickboxing — oh, how I’ve missed it! I love it so much. I hope my shoulder lets me continue.


  1. Oh yeah, I relate so hard! I keep thinking I probably shouldn’t have said “yes” to so much. I don’t mind being busy, and I love my job. But sometimes it gets kind of crazy. My day yesterday:
    – heavily edited the research project section of the fellowship application of my fellow, wrote my mentor letter for same, drafted letter for faculty co-mentor who is too busy to do it himself, drafted required IACUC modifications for the new project.
    – drafted budget and program design section for a new training grant due next month, located internal funding to cover the proposed program’s fallout costs
    – emailed accountant, dean, and administrators to reverse a certain faculty member’s accidental (not!) but inappropriate charges to a students’ funded award
    – emailed accountants to determine why a departmental fellow’s salary is being charged to an unknown account instead of the correct account
    – met with executive leadership to explain and stragetize solutions to stalled production of an online course.
    – tried to locate funds to permit completion of a students’ research project, which is exceeding the budget due to ridiculous internal charges for pulling charts.
    – drafted progress report for existing award, contacted accountants to create required spending report, looked up recent changes made on the required progress report form
    – read & evaluated 12 graduate applications, conducted two international interviews, finalized planning for upcoming graduate program interviews during which I will have to interview visiting students all day and then use my weekend to recruit at 2 dinners and a poster session. Emailed individual notes to all applicants we interviewed a few weeks ago.
    – declined to perform a 1 hr one-on-one practice interview for marginally qualified internal applicant who hopes to matriculate in a different doctoral program at my school.
    – Secretary called to say she will be out sick all week.
    – explained why I am late reviewing 9 internal award research applications (due today)
    – received another 12 internal award applications to review
    – discussed with chair what to do about the inadequately revised final thesis of a doctoral student who has already defended and started a prestigous fellowship elsewhere. Received copy of thesis to review.
    – discussion with chair what to do about faculty member with several students who is sadly likely to be denied tenure and leave next year.
    – discussed plans for upcoming student opinion survey
    – reviewed planning progress for upcoming conference we are hosting
    – taught research ethics class
    – planning meeting for a new medical school class
    – sister called – she can’t find the right income tax forms
    – answered several emailed technical questions from my lab while I am in meetings
    – called and emailed and called again–to obtain a doctor appointment this week for my child, who is ill. Cleared my schedule for the morning later this week so I can take him to the pediatrician. Pediatrician explained that we need to be there 1 hr before she even sees us because this is how long it takes for them to put us in a room and take his temperature, and she doesn’t look at his chart until we are on site–it is “their established procedure”. Antibiotics are very serious drugs, they have to have lots of time to review and consider his medical history before seeing him and possibly prescribing antibiotics. (I am a PhD and professor and this is my research area. This is not actually true.) We are lucky to get an appointment at all this week because they are so busy. No, appointments are never available after school–they only ever schedule patients to be seen from 8:30am-3pm. They are astonished when I suggest that since 100% of their patients are supposed to be in school during this time, they should consider offering appointment slots at other times. I call my child’s school to explain and try to excuse his absence from school. This is necessary because the school has made it a new policy to ding students’ on their report cards for every absence even if they are ill; the school’s policy is a response to national laws that penalize public schools for all student absences.

  2. I LOVE kickboxing! Cannot stand yoga (all that breathing…), but kickboxing does it for me. I had an instructor some years ago who encouraged us to think of people you would like to punch 🙂
    Astonishingly, I did not have any at the time. I would have no problem coming up with faces now. Must have gotten a lot grumpier with time!

    I also have an overwhelming backlog of stuff to do. So obviously, I am reading your blog instead.

    I did not have to teach yesterday, so I planned to work on a manuscript all day. Instead, I had a similar day as a previous commenter (artnscience), and somehow the evening came and I did not even get to open the manuscript file. Just putting out fires all day. I have to figure out how to stop that from happening…

  3. Sympathies, xykademiqz. Honestly, it’s nice to know you’re mortal too. I don’t fight my subconscious that much anymore when it decides it needs to play. I used to. I try to plan around it now, scheduling fun and stupid times even on busy weeks, knowing I’ll never been the hypomanic, focused research engine of my dreams.

    @artnscience: There are national policies dinging students for all absences, even when they are sick? That’s the most ridiculous and epidemiologically insanely stupid thing I have heard of in a long time.

  4. @a person

    Oh it’s common in workplaces as well. A friend of mine clued me into a policy that his company has, wherein they are promised a bonus of several thousand dollars at the end of the year, but only receive it if they never call in sick for work. Which is I’m sure just fantastic for productivity since everyone is working while sick all the time.

  5. @jojo – That is so stupid. I hope someone does a study showing the epidemiological burden. Arguably, the policy also discriminates against older and less immunocompetent employees too (who will become unduly sick). I hope HR gets hit with the plague first.

    Sorry, bitter morning.

  6. Much sympathy for the overworked/overwhelmed feeling. I get that periodically, too. It usually means that either I’ve got some piece missing in my time/work management system (e.g., when I went out on my own as a contractor/entrepreneur, the number of disparate threads I needed to keep hold of went up, and so I needed some new systems) or that I just have too damn much work to do and can’t see a way to finish in time. The only way I’ve found to help things in the second case is to write a list and start checking things off. I’d love to hear what works for you, since you’re a list hater. I’m always interested to hear how super productive non-list making people make things work, so I can have ideas to suggest to others!

    As for the respect thing… I am working hard right now on getting to a place where I’m OK with the fact that I’ll never be given respect the way men are. I just won’t. I can’t let it keep making me angry. But it does. So I’m working to figure out how to get past that. I’ve got a post brewing on that, actually.

    I miss kickboxing. I should try again to fix that.

  7. You need to join my department. We have cultivated an egalitarian atmosphere where mkst women are allowed to be as self-centered and unhelpful as most men.

  8. Good god, that is awfully busy. Don’t know what to say, other than hope it gets better.

    Stimulants, wait what? Is that thing common in US academia (other than in students, that is)?

  9. Coffee and black/green tea are really common among academics, I don’t think anything else is (maybe soda?). Students take caffeine in other forms as well (e.g., Red Bull), but I hear the use of ADHD drugs (like Ritalin and Adderall) is widespread across the US, especially during finals week, although I have no idea about my university (I see them toting giant coffee cups). Apparently, when kids who take the stimulant meds graduate and go on to work, they keep the same habits (I was googling a bit, and apparently they say “I don’t know how else to get things done”). I have no idea how widespread the use of old-school stimulants is (like cocaine); probably much less, because they are illegal unlike the ADHD meds.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s