Monday, April 18, 2005

The curse and blessing of compartmentalising

In order to work with the subjects I need to focus on to develop my research, I need to push the administration and teaching away from my mind for compact chunks of time. The last few weeks I have been spending 1-2 days working at home, in order to be allowed to focus undisturbed. This has been a blessing in many ways, for instance I work more relaxed, which is better for my back, and I don't get interrupted constantly, which is better for my head. After the first somewhat stressed attempts, I have now managed to organise the home-days in a way that lets me drop into the flow of writing and doing research with - if not ease, then at least not the effort it was a month ago.

Now I have problems at the other end of the scale of my tasks. Due to the many reforms, both structural and technical, the routines of running the college are fluid - and not in a nice, gentle malleable way, but the way water undermining a dam is fluid. If I spend a couple of days not paying attention to the many decisions being made at all levels, or if I notice, but fail to consider how they concern the work I am responsible for, I end up doing twice the work with half the result.

Today's example: I had planned to spend the day on a thorough revision of the course descriptions for the Information education. Last week I discussed this with the staff, they and I started doing some initial proofreading, I attended a meeting on the juridical side of the course descriptions, and I was ready to sit down and do a good, decent course-administrative job, the kind of stuff responsible professors are supposed to do.

Only to find that over the week-end, I had no more access to the plans. Somebody had decided that because this was too chaotic and difficult for random professors to be doing (and to a certain extent it is), one person was to do all the work for the entire department. Which, of course, is a joy, I could have taken some notes on a piece of paper and passed him last week, told him to figure out the implications of the changes in the educational law for the descriptions, and gone off to do something else. Instead I did twice the work I needed to, only to have another person doing the job I had been preparing for.

It's such a waste: of my time, of his, of the sparse resources of the college; and I wasted it because I had let a memo slip by while I was keeping my mind on the research - that is, doing my job. It is not just a dilemma, it's a catch22 - I can't get it right, ever.

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