Friday, September 7, 2007

The Law of Conservation of Sleep

In the past I have joked about "the law of conservation of sleep" --- my hypothesis that there is only so much sleep in the world, and for everyone who has an especially good night's sleep, someone else has a bad night or insomnia. (Perhaps it works within one person's experience --- I have certainly had good and bad sleeps this week.)

But now I think I have observed with my highly scientific observation process a new phenomenon, that I will tentatively call "The law of conservation of productivity" (yeah, it should be a theory first; whatever. In my world I'm the king, so deal). I postulate that there is actually a finite amount of productivity and focused-ness circulating, and an excess in one person is balanced by a corresponding deficit in another. Or, correspondingly, that there is a finite amount of productivity in a person's week, and once over that limit it becomes almost impossible to continue productive-ness.

At least, this seems to be the case with me. Wednesday was extraordinarily productive by my count ---- I caught up on grading in-class stuff, tackled a bunch of essays (not that all my students had turned the essays in on time --- hello! Get it in, please) and prepped for class. Usually I've been spreading that out across a whole week. As if that was my output for the week, yesterday was a wash; I went back to bed and slept late, then spent the afternoon, after prepping the class, staring at internet sites and NYT articles. The late essays went ungraded.

So will today continue my deficit of productiveness, or can I turn it around somehow? It's not like I've been doing all that much besides teaching these days. The dissertation is quietly growing mold over in the corner. The job market materials remain un-updated. I need to get on it and get back on track, so I'll need to be more productive. But can I escape the law of conservation of productivity? Will I be stealing someone else's mojo, or end up disproving my postulate?

Anyway, I racked my brain for some way to vanquish my desire to nap and decided: bullets! And public shaming techniques. These are often helpful.
  • clear out the huge backlog of dishes in the sink
  • grade all the essays
  • make sure all in-class writing and attendance are up to date in gradebook
  • read next class readings
  • make prompt to hand out Monday
  • email AWOL student
  • email a prof and two grads about market stuff
I'm sure I could add more, but I won't get the feeling of joy and accomplishment from having a fully crossed-off list. And I need to do the emailing last in the day, because email paves the road to hell the internet. Righto! Off for coffee!

Update: Gah! There were more essays than I had thought. And I had left all but two at my office, so I had to go in, and did some other errand-y stuff besides. Well, ok. I can at least get the emails off my plate as well. Sigh. Freakin' stuff and the need to do it.


Belle said...

Oooh, I like the productivity phenom! That explains so much! Like, I don't know.... my life? I'm now totally convinced there's a bank of productivity from which I've already tapped my account for the day, week, month or year. That explains the incomprehension I feel when I stare at the stack of work on my desk and wonder where my give-a-shit has gone.

The account is empty, perhaps overdrawn. To whom do we address for new infusions of productive-ness?

Sisyphus said...

heh, where oh where has my give-a-shit gone? I like it.

As to your trouble, I suggest psychic vampirism. Attach yourself to the annoying toadying busy bees in your department and drain the productivity from them. Then leave them a helpless whimpering puddle on the floor while you scurry away laughing manically, leaving scholarly articles and graded essays in your wake.

Or you could drink a couple Red Bulls.

kfluff said...

I very much like the idea of the conservation of productivity. I think I'd add two codicils to your law: first, that any act of productivity creates an equal and opposing act of recovery. (A great day of writing, for me, is often followed by a day of laying on the couch watching What Not To Wear.) And two, productivity breeds productivity, and likewise, inertia breeds inertia. (I can watch What Not To Wear for many many days...)

It may be the case that these two contradict one another.

Belle said...

You have the best ideas: psychic vampirism. I'll sharpen my teeth.

It has the added benefit of the wimpering puddle. You rock.