#AdventBotany and Alien Abductions 😉


I've been back on campus pretty much every day since the end of August, when I found a neighbour YorkU professor who was willing to give me a lift. If you read my blog, you'll know that I developed a back injury at the end of April that slowed me, and my field season down, considerably, over the summer. I simply couldn't (and still can't) drive my stick-shift car regularly. I can now sit for up to 2-3 hours -- though any longer, and I get very cranky.

I spent a lot of the summer at home, practicing working at a make-shift standing desk, resting up, and going to physio, and other rehab therapies. These 20 to 35 hour work weeks left me with a lot of time for reflection, which I've lacked during the course of my average 50-55 hour work weeks. By the way, I have observed that this is an average work week for most of my active, productive, tenured academic colleagues across all faculties and disciplines. I do hope that my colleagues with young children are not working this long. I think it's perfectly possible to get everything you need to get done in this time, and I agree with Professor Meghan Duffy's article about the myth of the 80-hour academic work week!

In my view, the real key to productivity is consistency, rather than mad work hours. After all, as Weingardt (1999) wrote,“The World is Run by Those Who Show Up”. So, come September, I was happy to get back up to a 45 hour week, by virtue of being on campus from 9-6 daily, Monday to Friday. Since I stood up most of the day, I got very tired, and went to bed around 8pm most nights through October.

256px-Work_life_balance_rat_raceIn mid-October, things got really hectic, with lots of evening, and weekend university events popping up, and I was suddently back to the usual 50-55 hour work week. In retrospect, from January to April 2015, I was working more like 55-65 hour weeks, with lots of greenhouse time, and additional time stuck in traffic, which likely compounded the back injury that I had unknowingly incurred in a November 2014 collision. By April 2015, I couldn't move, AT ALL. I now know that I was ignoring the symptoms of the impending back injury for months. (rat race guy: By KVDP, Shokunin, Aungkarns (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons)

Saint_Peter_Church_(Upper_Sandusky,_Ohio)_-_stained_glass,_Tempus_Fugit_-_Time_FliesTo my delight, thanks to never-ending pilates, my back is coping well with the 50-55 hour work weeks. My brain is coping less well with this return to regular hours. It seems to have shorted out in terms of its memory. Previously, I'd not worried that I could only recall some events by consulting my diary -- they hadn't really registered in my memory! However, the slow summer pace, with time to dwell on stuff, has created a shocking juxtaposition with my "normal" working hours. After one nine day period in November, with six university and education-related evening events, I found that I couldn't actually remember much of the previous 10 days. I felt like I had been abducted by aliens and then returned to earth with a memory gap! This is NOT good, and may be a symptom of Busy Lifestyle Syndrome -- yes, it exists! So, what to do?

I decided to write some purely fun Advent Botany guest blog posts again this year, for Dr. Alastair Culham and Dr. Jonathan Mitchley of Reading University, UK. Writing these blogs forces me to slow down, reflect, and catch my breath. I plan to do more of this kind of "structural" time management in the future with interventions planned to slow my academic work down, so as to avoid the future feeling of alien abduction, and its concurrent loss of time.

Here are the Advent Botany posts that I've written, and contributed to in the last year. The good news is that I can remember doing all of this work!

Balsam fir
White cedar
Paperwhite bulbs 

Red-osier dogwood