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Back in the Saddle

From the Archives

Back in the Saddle

Sarah Rovang

The semester of four conferences is finally over and I'm finally getting back in the groove of daily writing. I am even developing that which I have coveted for the past several months: a writing routine. It's still being tweaked and refined, but the general plan is as follows:

8:30 - 9 AM - Arrive at the library. The key to long stints at the library, I've discovered, is preparation. For the past two days, I've rolled in with a 32 oz. thermos of black tea, lunch, a cardigan. Here's a picture of my setup:


9-10:30 AM - Once I'm settled in, I jump in with 3 pomodoros of writing on a non-dissertation project. I'm a big fan of the pomodoro system. It's a silly name for something that has helped me become a much more effective and efficient worker. Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes and work without interruption for that length, take a 3-5 break, and then lather, rinse, repeat. I use the app BreakTime which forcibly locks you out of your computer at the 25 minute mark. I use my breaks to get up, wander around the library, pull other physical sources, or have a snack. I find that my first work during the day is my best, so for the past few days I've been using that time to work on an article I'm drafting. Once this article has been submitted, these prime hours will be all dissertation all the time.

10:30 AM - 12:30 PM - Next, I move on to dissertation writing. I can usually bank on getting another 3-4 pomodoros in before lunch. Generally, I find that if I'm really focusing hard and writing fast, I'm only good for 2-3 hours of writing a day. Research is a different game, but honest-to-god writing fries me pretty fast. 

12:30 - 1 PM - Then I take a lunch break, usually only 20 minutes or so. I've found that the longer I linger over lunch, the harder it is to get back my work flow afterwards. 

1 - 3 PM - I wrap up in the early afternoon with 2 to 2.5 hours of research or reading. Currently, I'm putting together this big, ugly timeline based on a lot of archival sources in order to figure out when architectural decisions were made, why, and by whom. This involves trawling through the hundreds of pdfs I've scanned over the past two years and organizing them in a way that I can track what was happening when. I'm currently dumping all of this in Evernote. It looks like this: 

Screen Shot 2015-06-16 at 8.48.51 PM.png

AFTERNOON and EVENING - After I've gotten enough to mull over during my next writing session the following day, I pack up and head home around 3 pm. Then I work out, shower, and take care of any home-related tasks. Remaining work time during the day can be used for professional development, website updates, emails, low-key research, photo-editing etc. 

I'll be back next week with updates on whether this system sticks or if I end up modifying it!