On the road again…

New York City skylineDuring the last few weeks my route has triangulated the United States from the Everglades to Anchorage and now to New York City.  This is one of those weeks where reading, never mind really studying, seems to be out of the question. I am traveling for business again, and marvel once more at my colleagues who are consistent business travelers. Not studying this week is not an option. Even though there is a time pinch and a full schedule, let me see how squeezing study into five days of meetings might be practical.

It is the beginning of the year, and very happily, most of my primary reading is done for my courses. When my mind is really distracted by other responsibilities reading primary texts is actually more difficult for me. It used to be that reading in times of stress or when feeling mentally tired was a refreshing diversion. Now I would rather have my freshest eyes and perspective for primary texts. It is important to notice things in the narrative that are easy to overlook when not focused on points of narrative technique.

When my time is limited or the days are packed with other activities that demand my full engagement it is most helpful to work on things like defining specific terms or doing some limited research. Managing small bits of information is just about right for the intellectually taxed and fatigued.  Knowing what this week would be like, and how I respond to these kinds of stressors, helped me pack a manageable study satchel.  I decided to focus on one course. It really is not practical to try to carry materials for four courses. It would be wishful thinking to imagine that I will have more than thirty minutes to an hour at any time to study.

It is not just the impact of travel or different routines. Our meeting environment is very stimulating, with a lot of really focused questions to answer and issues to address. I am the writer for our organization, which means quite a bit of information comes in from all directions, often quite spontaneously! We have a house full of talented, creative, high performing people with great ideas and insights. It is really exciting to get all of that on paper, and produce the story of our organization. And very interesting to see how the writing process helps shape the conversation we engage in two times each year.  Everything I ever learned about writing an essay plan and framing an argument while studying is in use this week!

Last Tuesday I packed my bags with some secondary reading for my Modern American Literature course. That is the course I feel needs the most attention. Instead of fretting over how my study time is eroded this week feel very happy to focus on this one course.  Framing the week like this gives me a super productive and focused feeling instead of a feeling of being behind, or like I am not meeting my goals.  Setting a good pace, knowing what can be reasonably accomplished in the time available, then matching the time to what will have the greatest positive impact on my outcomes is a liberating strategy.  The big take away from the experience is that it is just as important to manage my outlook and set reasonable expectations for goals, results, and productivity when other responsibilities call me away from my study desk.

Caowrites is studying the BA English by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes.

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