What I do all day

In a continuance of the semi-boring posts of late, I thought I’d address one question I get fairly frequently:  what do I do all day?

When I was in Johannesburg, one of the things I discussed with the other Fulbrighters was self-regulation.  While two of them are taking classes, one is doing independent research, like me.  We talked about the difficulties of getting motivated when no one is watching, and the siren song of the New York Times website.

Last night, I met with some friends after work.  They all got snacks, but I wasn’t hungry because, I explained, I had lunch at about 3 PM.  Why?  I was actually making progress on my Fulbright article.  “Oh, you’re so dedicated,” one friend said, “I could never do what you’re doing.  I’d sleep in late and not do any work.”  I explained that it’s not so much my dedication as that I KNEW, if I stopped working at lunchtime, I wouldn’t be able to sit down and finish what I was working on.  So, in the interest of self-monitoring, I kept working until I was done with that particular section.

While I suspect my friends overestimate my diligence, I do have several strategies for keeping myself on track.  First, I try to maintain a regular “working” schedule, from 8:30 or so until 5 each day.  Second, I keep multiple to-do lists – a master to-do list, a Fulbright to-do list, and a daily to-do list.  Finally, I try not to feel too guilty if things don’t go according to plan – that’s why I have 10 months to do a project that, in the States, would have taken far less time.

My activities during “work” vary by the day; today, I’ve spent most of my day in front of the computer working on an acticle.  Tomorrow, I have a few meetings at different government ministries in the morning, will run some errands, and then will likely be back in front of the computer for the afternoon.  My computer work involves an array of activities: reading articles, online research, data set manipulation, email correspondence, and actually writing articles or reports.  And, while working on the Fulbright project, I usually let myself explore other ideas as well, sometimes to a fault:  I spent a few hours yesterday reading articles on French sociological theory.  Similarly, since the goal of the Fulbright is supposed to be cultural exchange, “work” does not entail solely working on my project – I also volunteer and visit other projects during “working hours,” like my visit to Mchingi with the UCLA project a few weeks ago.

Of course, despite my efforts to keep a schedule, I do work other hours, and my 8:30 to 5 is regularly thwarted by power outages, internet outages,  errands that must be conducted during business hours (like going to the mechanic), and loud Zambian pop parties next door (today’s started at 3 PM).  I am often distracted from the work at hand; I started this blog post while waiting for a 3.42 MB annual report to download.  (And, twenty minutes later, it’s still downloading.)  I devote an hour or so each day to the job search – sometimes during “working hours,” sometimes outside of them.  And, as you g-chatters know, I’m usually willing to be distracted by talk from home.  I usually feel a little guilty about this, like I’m not doing “real” work, but then, I regularly visited my email and Allrecipes.com at my last “real” job, too.  So that, in a nutshell, is what I do all day.

I was planning to answer another FAQ in today’s post:  how is The Dude?  My photos, however, won’t upload, so check back tomorrow for photos of the growing puppy!


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