a new year resolution and the state of resolutions past

I am not one for new year resolutions, for two reasons.  First, I’m really really bad about keeping them.  Looking back over my time on this planet, I think there is one actual resolution I’ve kept to any significant extent, which is to take stairs rather than elevators.  But even on so simple a resolution, I find myself faltering at times, often for no good reason, and I find myself constructing tales to tell myself about why this time, taking the elevator is a reasonable thing.

Second, and yes this second reason is a bit tongue in cheek, but which year?  I am primarily bound culturally to follow the Gregorian calendar whose new year 2017 begins in a few days.  But there are many many other years and calendrical systems, and if I were go to a-digging in my family tree, I suspect that I would find direct ancestral attachment to several of them, and I know I have weak cultural attachments to others.  For instance, I like having been born in the year of the dragon, because dragons are cool, but I tend not to make resolutions attached to the Chinese New Year.

But this year, I’m going to make and then make every effort to keep a resolution.  This resolution involves the separation of work and non-work.  I don’t want to call it work versus life, because my life is heavily influenced by my work.  I like what I do, a lot, and so the different aspects of my work, the teaching and the doing of mathematics and even yes the administrative side of things, are all part of the big rock of Work that sits in my jar.  (And if you don’t get the reference, I’ll be writing about rocks and gravel and sand at some point soon, so stay tuned.)

I know though that I am not good at keeping Work in all its various incarnations from seeping into the rest of life, and this is my resolution for the new year, and it’s a complicated resolution.  Part of it will be ensuring that the different aspects of Work each get their due attention, which I will admit I haven’t been good at in recent years.  But more than that, I will keep Work from seeping into all parts and times of life.  That is the main focus of this resolution.

Time is the important word here.  We are not our jobs, however much we might like our jobs.  But I haven’t been good at maintaining the time and the space for me to do much beyond Work.  So I will write more and read more in the coming year, and spend more time with family and friends, just being and just doing the things we do.

But I will also be more respectful of my colleagues divisions between work and non-work.  I have developed a bad habit over time, of emailing my colleagues in the evenings, sometimes in response to their queries and sometimes with queries and requests of my own, and this is not an entirely healthy thing to do.  What started me thinking seriously about this was when a colleague commented that when he gets ‘one of those’ emails from me, he starts to panic, and panic is the last thing that I want communications from me to engender in anyone. 

There is a game that I am not particularly good at, the game of ‘out of my inbox and into yours end of the day office email ping pong’, and one reason I’m not good at it is that I don’t like to lose.  I like to return those late afternoon serves into my inbox as soon as I can, and this is the thing I’m going to change.  Another of my colleagues doesn’t do email in the evenings or on weekends, because he needs to have time away, and I can see the attraction in this, and I’m happy to work towards this even if it is a Zeno-like working towards. 

It will take me some time before I get to that point, but I do hereby resolve to refrain from causing the hearts of my colleagues to sink when they arrive to work in the morning, because there is a pile of stuff from me that I sent out late in the evening when I should have been doing something else.  I will moderate myself.  I’m aware that this cannot be an absolute thing, as there will from time to time be something that needs a response before the next day, but I will try and keep those as few and as far between as I possibly can.

I know this is going to be difficult for me.  No one will be in the office until the middle of next week, and many people won’t be in the office even then, but the temptation to respond to the things sitting in my inbox is proving very difficult to resist indeed.  And so, it’s time for a bit more coffee and perhaps a bit of reading, and I’ll deal with the inbox later.   And a happy Gregorian new year to all.

~ by Jim Anderson on 29 December 2016.

One Response to “a new year resolution and the state of resolutions past”

  1. HNY to you, too, Jim. That all sounds splendid. Though I’m self-employed and therefore don’t scare colleagues with emails sent late at night, I do often work into the early hours of the morning. Those friends who know me know well that an email timed at 6.00 a.m. is not a sign that I’ve risen early, but most likely a sign that I haven’t gone to bed yet. I’m not good at NY resolutions either, but I’d like to line up my sleeping habits with the rest of the world if I can. Good luck with yours. Fingers crossed for mine.

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