On Being Overwhelmed and Attacking a Nagging Backlog of Work

I opted to spend my day attacking a backlog of items that I have been putting off for a few weeks. I was getting to the point where there were enough of these relatively small projects piling up that their collective weight was beginning to approach the overwhelming stage.

My first goal was to whittle down my email inbox, which had over 20 important but not time-sensitive items. I think that this was a smart move, because I had an equal amount of people waiting for some response from me, and some of these unanswered emails date back to last week. I always answer student emails ASAP, but a bunch of these emails were from readers of this blog. The idea of 20 people virtually looking over my shoulder was a bit unnerving, and I am glad that I started with this stress reducing activity.

I next started working on the many pages of forms I need to placate the graduate school. There is a cynical joke in the world of academia that there are more university forms needed to graduate than a person might write in a medium-sized thesis. I had been putting this off since, oh, last summer, and if I intend to graduate in December, this necessary paperwork needs to get completed.

Feeling refreshed after a four-mile walk, I jumped into my spring semester book orders. With regard to this task I actually am about a week ahead of schedule, but I like to get this finished early - department chairs appreciate not chasing down instructors, and students can use the extra time to shop around for textbooks if they are turned in on time.

Interestingly, the process of cleaning out the adminstrative skeletons from my closet seemd to energize my writing. After spending most of the day working on tasks other than my dissertation, the writing muse paid me a visit, and I cranked out another five pages of new text.

So to those of you feeling ovewhelmed by work, I highly recommend attacking a bunch of small, nagging problems first. I suspect you will find that a significnt burden has been lifted from your workload, and perhaps this will carry over into your more pressing concerns.