>How do I switch my brain from "teaching" to "research"?

>Help me. Give me advice. Tonight I finished my teaching day (and week) at 5:30 and then headed off to the rec center for a run. During said run, all I could think about was the week of teaching behind me and the week of teaching ahead of me, even though tomorrow is my day o’ research and I have a work hardly-in-progress due to folks in a reading group in a month.

How do I make myself stop thinking about teaching and start thinking about research? They’re both making me equally anxious right now (yeah, two of my classes aren’t going so well — or at least are frustrating *me* — and I’m kind of stuck on the research project) so you’d think I’d be equally obsessive about them. But I can’t seem to switch my focus to the research project.

How do I do that? Or rather, how do *you* do that? All advice welcome and appreciated, please!

(And by the way, I hope to do a related, and perhaps more developed post in response to the thoughtful post Dr. Crazy did on setting aside time for research and writing. But right now it’s not the time that’s a problem for me — or maybe, really, it is — but the focus.)

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16 thoughts on “>How do I switch my brain from "teaching" to "research"?

  1. >These days I block parts of the year out. I can write fiction during teaching periods (mostly) and write pop articles, but the deeper research waits tll my focus is better (or a deadline approaches). When teaching and admin is light or non-existent, I move back to research mode. The big problem with this mode is that I have to save up all my library use for blocks of time – I need to be vastly organised.I have never been able to do much work in the mornings, except teaching or fritter-admin. Evenings are simple. I come from a big family and love doing the book stages in front of the TV. I have a system of note-taking that fits this perfectly. Harder after teaching though – I tend to be unable to research days when I have to put that same energy into people.

  2. >You know, ADM, I think you hit the nail on the head. I’m just not used to or settled in my schedule yet, or used to the need to juggle, since I was on leave from teaching last semester. And I’ve had a hard time fitting in running, as well. But I think maybe last night’s run and the constant thoughts of teaching was indeed very helpful in the long run (heh) since this morning I’m a little more focused.Gillian — yes, usually I’m more like you — setting aside parts of the year for different things. But alas I have a dealine looming! Ack! So focus on teaching *and* research is necessary now. I wish there was a switch to flip in my brain.

  3. >I feel your pain. As a 1st year PhD student (though I have LOTS of experience in grad school at the master’s level), I’m having a hard time getting started on my research project in between classes. Luckily I won’t have any more classes after this term, but I’m expected to get a lot done over the current term. I’m definitely not living up to those expectations, which is getting me down and makes my advisor wonder what she’s done by choosing me for her lab. How do people do it?!?

  4. >Ok, this might sound silly, but when I’m really having trouble switching gears, and I’m working on research-related stuff at home, I put on my Dissertation Tiara. Yes. I have a little plastic tiara that somebody got me right as I was starting my dissertation, and I put it on, and I wear my Writing Clothes (which often include a sweater with a bathrobe over it and yoga pants and running shoes), and I put everything I’ll need on my dining room table. Somehow, the act of dressing up for working on research and creating a mood with the Dining Room Table of Anxiety goes a long way toward getting my mind off of teaching. I would never teach looking how I like best to look when I write.

  5. >Dr. C, that’s f-ing *hilarious*! And I believe it works, too! The image of you in your bathroom, running shoes, and tiara, at the dining room table — and possibly with the Man-Kitty on your lap? — is the funniest damn image of the writer-at-work *ever*. OK, now I want my own tiara.And hi Bridget and welcome. One thing you have going for you is that you still have time to form good habits! Or get a tiara! 🙂

  6. >OMG, you mean my whole problem with dissertation writing is that no one gave me a tiara to wear while I do it?!!!!?!? Damn, and the kids have tiaras all over the friggin’ house. I’ll have to try it.

  7. >I just bought a kimono-style wrap in the Nordstrom’s lingerie department the other week with the excuse that it was going to be part of my “dust-jacket outfit” (y’know, like the kind of thing the funkier author/profs wear in those at-home-in-the-writing-studio-with-the-cat/dog/parrot portraits on the back flap). And I promised myself that I’d buy it so I could wear it while I was writing at home and feel motivated.So far, I only think I’ve managed to do that twice. Maybe I need a tiara, too.

  8. >The tiara is a great idea. Lots of writers suggest some form of ritual. I think the story may be apocryphal, but the whole Hemingway-sharpening-pencils thing. Steinbeck admitted that he sharpened pencils. I tend to drink a lot of coffee before I start in the morning. To be honest, I don’t really have this problem unless my schedule is swirling. I always give myself 20 minutes before class to practice Ellen Langer’s “mindfullness” stuff, which just means you slow down and think about what you want to say. When class is done, I make some tea and begin reading the writing from the day before–editing gets me in the mood to writing–and off I go.

  9. >Yeah, we know Lisa the prolific doesn’t have this problem. I want to see Whiskerino in his tiara.I often recommend creating rituals in my dissertation skills workshops.Also – one research day a week makes it harder. Boice suggests small near-daily episodes of focusing on research.

  10. >Oh, I do bits of research on other days, too, but only Friday is free from teaching obligations or prep. That’s why it was so frustrating to still be thinking about it! Ack!Anyway, Coach and Lisa, thanks for the advice. And Coach — I know I owe you an e-mail. I haven’t forgotten! I hope to think about it this weekend and get back to you!

  11. >I want a tiara too! Damn!I’ve never thought that I have this problem – either I need to be prepping class or not, and if not, then I don’t think about it so much? maybe? I don’t know. Now, I don’t always rush over to my research, but I never thought of it as my head being stuck in teaching. (Usually it’s more that my head is stuck in TV. Like it is now!)

  12. >New Kid — yeah, well, I’m a little obsessive when I think things haven’t gone well or could go better. But also, I think maybe because in literature the way we think about texts as both scholars and teachers overlaps more and so it’s harder to compartmentalize — maybe???

  13. >The tiara is a brilliant idea! :)Here’s a strategy that often works for me: The day before a heavy-duty research day, after my teaching is done and right before I go home or to the gym, I sit down with my research notebook and think about what I’d like to accomplish the next day. I make lists, I draw diagrams, or sometimes I just free-write for a few minutes, coming up with a specific problem I’d like to solve or an issue I’d like to address, and a rough idea of how I’d like to approach it (or, if I can’t even get that far, I just write “think about this tomorrow”). The next day, I can just look at my notes from the day before and hit the ground running. And sometimes, the simple act of writing things down right before I go home gets me to start thinking about research in the background, so I’m even more prepared to give it my full attention the next day.When you find a strategy that works for you, please share it! I find it really interesting to hear about how other people get work done.

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