Red - Column for 1/3


My mother once attended a lecture on organizing one's life, wherein the author spoke about priorities. She described it to me at the time and although I can only remember a little bit of it now, it made a big impression. Essentially, he spoke about activities in one's life, and categorized them on whether they were urgent activities and/or important ones. The sets of urgent activities and important activities intersect but are not the same. So for example, taking your kids to the Zoo may important but is not urgent. He pointed out that most people spend an enormous amount of time on activities that are urgent but not necessarily important. He suggested that people look at the activities that they spend time on and determine which, if any, were important in a long time horizon. And then try to organize the activities in your life that are urgent in such a way as to make room for the important-but-not-urgent things.

I remembered this philosophical approach recently, and so with it in mind I'm trying to make New Year's resolutions and realign some others. I want to set the important things first in my life.

1) I will not stress about money: For me, this is much easier said than done. The reality is that we have been doing pretty well, and fretting is not an effective use of my time and mental energy. The hard part is that I have never really been in debt before, and it weighs on my mind. However, now that Christmas is over and we are not buying presents and airline tickets we should even be able to hold our own and maybe even pay things down. We can handle this financial holding pattern until my fiancÚ gets a job at which point the debt which has been bothering me will disappear.

...We are already doing what we can, the rest I have little or no control over... so I will endeavor to set it aside.

2)I resolve to use my time and energy more wisely: This includes watching less Home & Garden Channel, writing and reading more, and getting more exercise.

3) I resolve to enjoy my work more: It is said that if you chose a job you love, you never do a day's work in your life. While this is a nice philosophy, it is basically not true in practice. Even if you really like your job, all jobs have boring bits that have to be slogged through to get to the part that is interesting and fun. I already do enjoy my job, so in some ways it seems like it should be easy. However, I didn't put it on my list as a gimme...I need practice. I need to practice recognizing the "fun" parts as fun, and the "unfun" parts as temporary. I have the problem that I work best under pressure, so I should look at the non-pressured times as available for the contemplative explorations of the academic and intellectual implications of the stuff I have been madly producing for a deadline. What I tend to do is obsess (see resolution 1 above) and putter.

4) Submit one paper for publication. I know what you are thinking...Finally, something concrete.

5) Submit one paper to a conference. Same thing.

Overall, I'm working on a calm and Zen like approach to life. In an attempt to go with the overall theme, I'm not allowed to stress about whether or not I'm living up to my new resolutions. Therefore, I'm allowing myself to throw out any of these resolutions that cause more stress than happiness.

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