I’ve been stuck these last few weeks.
Not a debilitating, no-work-is-getting-done-at-all sort of stuck, but stuck nonetheless.
In the past few weeks, I’ve slowed down data collection and had fewer trips to my research site, in part because things are running according to schedule and I don’t need to be there as much and in part because I’ve tried to be home as much as I can with the new dog, who is still little enough that she needs frequent trips outdoors. Then she fell ill for a couple of days (and for the first time), which sent me into an (slightly) unnecessary (slight) panic
(I’m pretty sure all the receptionists at the vet’s office have shared a chuckle or two about the new puppy mom who lost her shit this week).
But I can’t blame the dog for my stuckedness. I can only blame myself.
I’m “stuck” because every time I sit down to work on something, I don’t know where to start. Should I:
- transcribe interviews?
- look at the transcriptions I have to identify things I need to follow up on?
- go into my fieldnotes and write some memos?
- work on analyzing survey data (which is a complete mess right now)?
- read up on things?
- figure out / relearn the selection model? the influence model?
- deal with the audio files on my recorder?
- figure out what observations to send to the transcriptionist?
- sit at my desk and cry?
- eat all the junk food in the house?
- go for a run?
- play with the dog?
- deal with one of 800 other household tasks that keep piling up and that I’ve really, really been trying to keep up with but feel like I’m constantly failing?
I’m so overwhelmed by the number of things I need to do (none of which really, REALLY needs to be done right this minute, which isn’t helping) that I don’t know which needs done first so I just stare at all of it, start a task, stop it, start a new one, do a little of this, a little of that. Never really accomplishing anything substantial in a single sitting. Hence, stuck.
And invariably, one of the things at the bottom of that list catches my attention, so now and then I wind up paying attention to something not at all work-related.
What to do about this? Here’s what I’ve tried this week:
- Put something on the calendar. If I have an appointment with a teacher, I’m gonna keep it (this was partially thwarted on Wednesday by sick pup, but usually it works pretty well).
- Have a meeting with a committee member. I did this yesterday. It was fantastic — I got some of my juices flowing because I had to prepare to tell her what I was thinking about and then got to talk to her about it. We had a great conversation about motherhood and family and the role these elements of life play in teachers’ professional decision-making.
- Do something small. When I only have fifteen minutes until I need to leave, I try to knock off one of the small tasks. Download some files from my recorder. Transcribe a tiny bit. Sometimes this is successful, sometimes it’s not. Because unloading the dishwasher also takes 15 minutes.
- Open a file. If I open a data file, like a transcription of a professional development session, and just glance through it real quick, that sometimes gets me thinking about something I hadn’t considered before, so I write down that idea somewhere. I do this periodically throughout the day when I don’t know what else to do.
- Blog about it. This has always been my way of inspiring myself. Now that I have told the world I’m stuck, maybe I’ll do a little more to unstick myself. Or maybe you all, especially if you’ve ever found yourselves similarly stuck, will give me some ideas for how one goes about unsticking oneself.
Updates pending. In the meantime, will continue doing things on this list and searching for the appropriate academic goo-gone.