I like a good list. I like the order of it, the sense of things to get done and cross off.
I woke up early this morning knowing that I had to make a list because it’s nearly Christmas, the world hasn’t ended, and there are two whole weeks away from work ahead of me.
I dimly remember the days when my Christmas lists used to be about what presents I had to buy, which parties were on when, and a timetable for getting all the cooking done. Now that I’ve moved away from family, and largely given up presents, and my partner does the cooking, you might imagine I’d struggle to make a Christmas list at all.
Well no. My list is just as packed as it ever was, but now it’s full of all of the work I have to catch up on before I go back to work.
Some of this work is of my own making. I don’t have to write books, and so I could jettison the writing of the final chapter and the editing that is number one on the list. And for that matter I could get rid of number two and three, which are to finish off two chapters for other people’s books. However my book is one which will be a REF entry, and writing it to this particular timeline is not entirely of my own volition. Nevertheless, I like writing and the thought of having some uninterrupted time in my cosy home office sounds like a bit of a treat after the term I’ve had.
But the next things on the list are perhaps less of my own making – although of course I always have a choice to do them, or not. There are three journal articles to review. Now if Editors send out invitations to review in December they don’t need a PhD to work out that this means they are asking colleagues to work over Christmas. But yes, I guess I could have refused, but I did refuse the other four that came in at the same time and I did feel obligated to do some of them. Scholarly gift economy and all that.
Then there’s finishing off a bid, and reviewing other people’s bids as part of our internal peer review and selection process. UK Research Councils seem to have taken to setting some submission deadlines very early in the year, and they don’t seem to worry about the fact that this does mean they are assuming that people might have to work over Christmas. As long as it’s on their desk in January when they go back to work, it seems to be OK.
I also have a thesis to finish reading, but of course I could have done that earlier – if I’d been able to fit it in. But if all British universities were happy to send examiners a pdf it would have been much easier to knock this off during one of the several train trips I’ve had to make in the last few weeks, but that was not to be. It seems we are still wedded to the notion of a heavy print tome which is not exactly compatible with a mobile academic life. And these days I’m just not prepared to lug a big book to and from and around London when I can travel with only an ipad.
At the end of my Christmas list are some things that I really want to do. I’ve got some research data I’ve been itching to get at. And I’ve got a pretty enticing pile of books sitting next to my desk. These aren’t all work, although most of them would be described as academic.
So here’s my Christmas temptation. It’s not a question of eating too much chocolate, or drinking too much champagne. Rather, it’s a case of – do I go onto the Australian Research Council site and click on my assigned reviews – or – do I start on “Men who hate women and women who kick their asses: Stig Larsson’s Millenium trilogy in feminist perspective” (King and Smith, 2012)? The ARC currently comes way above “ Men who hate women” on my Christmas list.
Oooh…it’s not that I won’t do the ARC job at some point but actually it’s not due till the beginning of February and so it is one I could put off … and it really feels so bah humbug at the end of term to give when I could receive….
So I’ve now put a new first job on my Christmas list. And that is – revise Christmas list. Put off anything that can be put off and move it to the bottom of the list – and put the enjoyable things as high up as they can go.
I’m doing those revisions now, and wishing you all the best for your “holiday” season and your Christmas lists.
ps. And in the spirit of good cheer, patter may go on holiday for a week if the mood strikes, but will certainly be back in the new year.