Thursday, 21 February 2013

Finding That Space

I mentioned in my last post that I experimented with working from home last week. This was an attempt to see how I would manage my time without the restriction of a set routine, and now I'm surprised to find myself struggling to face my old routine again. It's already Thursday and I've been sitting at this same desk in my study upstairs all week, writing and reading and drinking as much tea as I could care for. It's been a little better than I had expected...

Postgraduates in the humanities at York are lucky enough to have the wondrous Berrick Saul Building as a study space, which houses the Humanities Research Centre and a buzzing community of like-minded, tea-and-cake-fuelled individuals all enduring and revelling in the accepted highs and lows of postgraduate research. Since October I have mostly been working at my desk on the first floor of this glorious building, getting in between 8 and 9am each morning, stopping for lunch with the other linguists at 12:30, and leaving between 4 and 6pm each evening. The routine of the situation is all well and good, but I found myself bound by it, frustrated by my inability to focus after 3pm and leaving too early without having done much because of this lack of focus: somehow it wasn't working for me, so I had a test-drive of a routine-free week of working from home.

Well, it was glorious. I mentioned in my last post that I'd start work at 6am: this is when I'm at my peak, pre-breakfast, pre-dressed, pre-caffeinated. I sat in my dressing gown with my hot lemon (part of my pre-wedding beauty regime) and wrote, passing an hour of pure, uncomplicated writing without looking up from the computer screen. The words would just fall right out of my head and onto the page, not constipated by any thought or pressure. I'd break for breakfast, then come back up to my study with a second cup of tea and check my emails. Once my brain had been exhausted for the morning I'd take a brisk walk (to make up for the lack of movement since I wasn't walking to campus) and then have lunch, before getting back to my desk for some more work. My afternoon slump was completely avoided with a run or some housework, and then back to the desk again for some final work before the end of the day.

I realised in that week that this is how I do it to my best ability: distraction isn't my issue, but energy is, and once my intellectual energies run dry I am culpable of browsing Twitter and Facebook for 'inspiration' (aren't we all?). As with everything, working to strengths and acknowledging weaknesses is key, and for me that involves taking advantage of the fact that I'm living that dream schedule of no 9-5, no set workplace, no boss watching over what I do.

But there are, of course, some downsides. Somehow I feel guilty, like working in my own space (which we painted ready for such purposes) is a bit of a taboo, especially when there's a lovely space to work on campus. And there's the characterisation of the lone doctoral student, plugging away at a desk piled high with books and papers, ears ringing from the silence, social skills curdling gently next to the mug of cold tea. And I miss the linguist lunches, the company of people who in such a short space of time have become friends; it's so easy to miss out on things when you don't fill a space in people's days. I have misanthropic tendencies and I'm aware that I could be accused of harbouring these more fiercely when I work from home, but a class at the gym or a guest lecture on campus soon reminds me that other people do exist, and actually they're good to have around.

My brainstorming blackboard
So I don't know whether I'll keep this up or not, whether I'll succumb to the misplaced guilt and start making packed lunches (oh my I hate making packed lunches) every day and towing myself off to campus as early as I can bare each morning. Or whether this will become my routine, the silence in my ears and the extra caffeine hits maybe providing the boost that I need to get me through the next 30 months. All I know is that when I imagine the 'grown up' me, whoever she is, she's working hard in her study upstairs, surrounded by empty mugs and piles of books, sheets of paper strewn over the floor. Apart from the laundry that is drying on the rack behind me, this scene right here is eerily similar, and I'm thinking that maybe this is the only chance I have to be that woman upstairs, scribbling away frantically as the day gets dark outside, then stumbling down to the kitchen in a wordy haze, ears ringing from silence, finally ready to shut down for the day.

1 comment:

  1. Do what you need to do, what is right for you, when you need to do it.
    Nothing is set in stone. Routines change as different needs arise.
    Lisa x