Monday, June 11, 2007

Summer plans

It's finally feeling like summer is on its way, with a warm stickiness that provides just a taste of the hot sweatiness to come. I went for a walk on Saturday and was quite pleased to discover that in a mere 30 minutes I can be at the counter of the Gibeau Orange Julep, ordering a tasty julep to fuel the walk home. (It tasted like summer.)

I've come up with a wacky plan for this summer: work during the week, and take the weekends off. It's so crazy that it just might work. The next step in my degree is the comprehensive exam, which I hope to complete by December; it involves reading 40 books and then writing about them (basically). To stay on schedule, I have to finish the reading by the very beginning of October. This seemed reasonable until I calculated that I'm going to have to read 2.5 books a week for the next 16 weeks. I'm a slow reader, so this is definitely going to be a full-time job. If I don't take at least one day off a week, I'll burn out by July.

I tried it this weekend -- I did no school-related work on Saturday or Sunday. It was a little unsettling, actually, but once I stopped feeling guilty and anxious it was awesome. I stayed out late on Friday night and slept late on Saturday. I finished my cherry-corduroy dress (photos soon) and cut out the pieces for a sleeveless shirt (using the pattern from Sew U). (I then proceeded to press my hot iron onto the wrong side of the collar interfacing. Yep.) I went for a long walk with my iPod. (The new Feist album is good.) I started reading How Sassy Changed My Life (because it did). I wasted two perfectly good hours watching The Black Dahlia. I beat Bill in a best-two-out-of-three crib match out on our back porch. I could get used to this weekend thing.

One more summer plan involves something that seems to have become an annual-ish tradition. Some of you might be able to guess. It's a return to the Crotch! Bill and I are going on a week-long fishing trip in July, to lovelier-than-it-sounds Crotch Lake, Ontario. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll recall that we went last summer, and you may even remember that we went there in 2003. So that will be a week off -- if I do any reading in the boat, it'll be People, not Harold Innis.

Do you have any special summer plans, whether for travel or for productivity? Do tell... (Or, of course, if you've been through comps and you have any tips for processing 2.5 books a week, feel free to share!)

25 comments:

Veronique said...

Well, I suddenly realized how burned out I was, after one year at a great job where I did not take a single day of vacation. So I decided to take one week off! I'm not going anywhere, I'm just *relaxing*.
Have fun with your weekends!

~~ said...

Sounds like you had a productive relaxing weekend! ;) Happy to hear the new Feist album is good, I just may splurge on it after all. :)

~Jo~ said...

Sounds like you had a productive relaxing weekend! ;) Happy to hear the new Feist album is good, I just may splurge on it after all. :)

Knitting Mama said...

Good luck with all that book reading! I've been nursing the same book since March of this year! I need more time to read!

Hope to see you soon!

Jo Stockton said...

When I had a pile of reading to do for classes during my undergrad I used to either a) do the reading in a public place, like a cafe or park or b) do the reading in a bathtub. Either way, there were fewer distractions than if I just tried to do it at home where I would inevitabley wash dishes, tidy room, watch movies etc.

Let me know how you feel about the Sassy book. I'm still on the fence about it.

J.

Rachael said...

Loving the Feist album myself.... Can't wait to see your sewing!

normanack said...

My comps were oral, based on a list of books that was, I think, in the range of 150 (?) so it wasn't quite the same.

I tended to lose myself in the detail, and had to keep getting back to larger themes and questions -- the oral exam was canted in that direction (which is probably different from your written exam).

I still remember my adviser tricking me with one question, though: What did Anne Bradstreet think about losing her books in the house fire she wrote about? (Answer: she doesn't mention books in that poem.)

amanda said...

Ah, weekends off, what a treat! I'm on four weeks of research leave at the moment and as lovely as that sounds, I don't really have a plan and that's scaring me a bit. Piles and piles of articles, 10 books, lots to cover, and no plan. Yikes.

Which is to say nothing at all other than good luck with the 2.5 books a week! If you come up with a plan for yourself, do share! Other people's plans are always inspiring!

Mia said...

Trust me, you will learn to enjoy your weekends off. And good luck reading all of the books.

chez shoes said...

Whee, summer plans! Yours sound better than mine: study for the GRE, take the GRE, apply to four or so Ph.D. programs, and hunt down professors from my past to beg letters of recommendation. Ah, summer.

Anonymous said...

One of the best things about being Jewish is Shabbat. I hold it as sacred time, meaning NO WORK. No laundry, no housework, no checkbook balancing, no nothing. Sometimes it can get a little stressful when there's a lot that needs doing and only one day for chores in a weekend, but once it's a pattern in my life it feels wrong to work on Shabbat. My partner respects my choices, although the minute the sun is down on Saturday he will pounce-- now will you help me fold the laundry?? Give it a try. Hold one day as sacred for yourself. You're worth it.
Cheers,
Lee

Katie M. said...

I've been through a comprehensive exam (well, two really since my department insists on two exams ... a semester apart) and I ended up spending most of my reading time freaking out. I do not recommend this approach. Neither does my commitee. Good luck with your schedule!

Cari said...

woot! I'll break out my mug in honor of your trip.

Kat said...

5/7 sounds like a good plan. In my case, it helped a lot keeping an hour's list for the working day, so you get to tick off each hour you work. It kept the days productive, and crossing them off is so satisfying! Good luck!

Nicola said...

Hmmm, I have to finish my Master's thesis by the end of September so I guess that'll keep me pretty busy. A week off in Croatia at the end of June will leave me rejuvenated and ready for the writing onslaught I hope. I am planning to pack no schoolwork and plenty of knitting for my hols and truly relax for the week. Can't wait for that bit at least :)

djb said...

Summer for me will entail a trip to Hanoi to visit my Mum, then a family Christmas somewhere in Bali. Only six months to go! Yay!

Erin said...

Your plan is exactly right -- you'll work better during the week, and you'll loooovvvve your weekends. It'll all go to hell at the very end when you're studying like a crazed hamster, but that's okay: the adrenaline will have kicked in and you'll be rested up from your sensible summer. I kept a "comps diary" the summer that I was studying (the beowulf-to-virginia-woolf reading list) and I would write a little bit about what I was reading, connections between texts, periodic deep feelings of unease. Plus I tracked my time on a blank calendar so that I could see at the end of the week how many hours I'd logged. Finally, remember that your department really really wants you to pass -- it's a bit like giving a wedding toast. Everyone's rooting for you, even if it seems extremely scary. Have a great summer!

Thinks too much said...

We're ging to exotic Prince George for a week at the end of the month, with a side trip to Barkerville!! We'll be there on July 1, so old-fashioned family games, a picnic, all sorts of fun. W-hoo.

Noah was SO thrilled to see his name on your blog.

shannon said...

our plans include selling our house and buying a new one.

i agree, love the feist album!!! also, glad someone else still calls them albums. :)

Michelle said...

One word: skim! Seriously. I don't know your academic self, but I'm willing to bet that at this point you know enough about reading to know when you're getting to an important point in someone's work. My reading list was 100 books and the only thing I remember reading word by word was something of Spivak's because, hello, incomprehensible. Other than that, I trained myself to productively skim and take notes so that I could find connections between books (Author X's perspective is different than Author Y's, because...).

Also, choose 1 book you dread and 1 book you know you'll like to read per week. Use the book you like as reward for getting through the book you don't.

Jodi said...

Sounds like an awesome weekend! I'm struggling with preparing for my last prelim exam right now, and I've found that setting out a schedule for the week really helps.

With time I'm learning to read more efficiently and take better notes. Wayne Booth et al. have some good advice for efficient reading in The Craft of Research. Basically you first go through and look at the preface (do not skip this!!!) and conclusion, then look at the beginning and end of each chapter to figure out what the main points are in advance. This helps you evaluate the evidence in the long-winded sections, figure out how it relates to the main points, and makes note-taking easier.

Hope this helps!

Stacey said...

That sounds like a wonderful plan - actual time off! I plan on trying to do the same - I only take one real vacation a year during the sujmmer and I can't wait!

Anonymous said...

I just got back from a few days of camping...the first vacation I have had in years. I don't need to tell you it was fabulous, do I?

New Feist? It *is* good, huh? Let us know how the Sassy book is, because I've been eyeing it for a bit now too.

-Stacey at toomanyscarves

AmyP said...

I plan on listening to the cricket, watching some tennis on TV and trying to get my mum out of the house (she's agoraphobic). Oh, and knitting!

Harper said...

The best decision I made at the beginning of law school was to do all my studying at school. Then when I came home (admittedly very late some nights), no guilt about not studying. I sometimes had to study one day of the weekend but often I had both days off and I think I got through my first year relatively stress-free. So I agree with the above comment that finding a place without the day-to-day distractions (i.e., cafe or bath -- never thought of the bath, what a great idea especially in the summer) to do the reading you have (realistically) determined you can do in the allotted time. I know you can do it but good luck anyway!