We had a great, and much needed, weekend. Thanks to everyone who helped to make my birthday awesome. Emily and I took it easy all day Saturday. It was good because I actually feel pretty well-rested and ready to go. The next couple weeks are going to get crazy around here. As most of you know I’ve been working on a seminar on Alasdair MacIntyre, with Nancey Murphy and 14 other brave souls, I also have two lectures in the next two weeks so that’s keeping me busy as well.
In our MacIntyre class, We’ve read through “After Virtue,” “Against the Self-Image of the Ages,” and we’re now right smack dab in the middle of “Whose Justice, Which Rationality.” I’ll be reading that momentarily.
Ive been enjoying the life of a full-time student again, but its been difficult learning how to balance everything. I certainly know its possible, but it seems like there are so few who are able to do it successfully.
I havent been completely successful in staying on top of everything either but I am slowly getting the hang of it. Here are a couple things Ive been doing to keep up with it all (I’d be interested in things that have helped you as well).
Located a places to hide:
Ive discovered a little spot in the Library, in a dingy old corner, where I am able to hide from just about everything and plow through reading. I make sure Ive reserved it, and I make sure to kick people out if they try and take it over. Its my space at Fuller, and its been very help in keeping me focused on my studies.
Create some regular patterns:
I am not by nature a person of pattern, but being married to Emily (who loves patterns) Ive found that I actually really like them myself. So I have a little calendar I write my to-dos in and keep a pretty neat schedule for my week. I get up at 6am with Emily so I can see her off to work, do my morning routines, and try to leave the house by 7:30 and bike to school.
Sunday through Wednesday I almost exclusively focus on MacIntyre (our class meets Wednesday night). Thursday I do work for Ryans class. Friday I read an extra text, something that I need to read but isnt assigned, or use that day to catch up on something else. Saturday I do my grading. Of course, it gets more complicated by the day, but I wont spell out what I do each hour.
By most nights I try to stop work between 8 or 8:30.
Blend what you like with what you need to do:
Heres where I have the most fun. I love going to coffee shops and reading. I love coffee and so I try to schedule enough coffee shop time in my week that I dont begin to feel like I am having no fun whatsoever. Of course, I have friends who like to go to pubs and read, some watch TV while they do their stuff and others have their own ways of keeping things interesting. But for me the coffee shop is the place I get the most done. Often times, Emily and I will go to Peets together to do work, this is one of my favorite ways to spend time, Its a great blending of my favorite things.
Get some earplugs:
Ive got headphones that close out the world. You know the isolating kind, they’re great! I plug in my ipod, and depending what I am working on, I select some appropriate music. However, MacIntyre is only for silent reading only. He requires every single fiber of concentration I can muster. So for that I have some old fashion foam earplugs. Its amazing how much those little things can help concentration, especially when youre at the coffee shop.
Make sure to get some face time with friends:
Ive been making sure to have some time with friends. I do breakfast with some of them once a week. I live with some of my friends (really, five plus my wife), I go to church with a bunch, and I work with others. They tell you all the time when youre starting your program that its a lonely job. Ive been trying to avoid that by making set times when I meet with people and just chat. But it’s really hard to make time for people outside these set parameters, and this is something I am trying to learn how to deal with.
Take some time off:
Taking time off is something Emily and I continue to try and figure out. Its not easy to take time off in our culture. Everything around us tells us we need to be working harder, faster, better, so that we can accomplish all we have before us. But Emily and I have been trying to make time for each other. This is one reason why I try to stop by 8-8:30 every night. This gives us some time to hang out (we also make and eat dinner together), read to one another or just talk.
But we also keep a list of fun and interesting things wed like to do. Some of the things are things weve never done, or places weve never gone, some things are the good old standbys, like going to Peets. But we try very hard to take time off. It helps that there are two of us holding each other to our commitment, but its really needed. We can always tell when we dont take time for each other.
Stay involved in your church:
Our faith and our meeting with other Christians can often take a back seat to everything else, but this is one of those things that needs to be the last to get cut. I know for me that I need time to center down. To focus on the Lord and pray. I will often pray the Lord’s Prayer. Everything I do focuses on me, or seems to, and without these moments of gathering it wouldnt be hard to become completely absorbed in ourselves (I may be anyways). Meeting with others in prayer and in the name of Christ can keep us other-oriented.
Theres a lot to learn about learning (and learning well), and how to survive school in a healthy way. I intend to find those ways that will keep me healthy, my marriage alive, and my faith vibrant. If these things cant happen then this would be worthy nothing.
In the ipod:
Palimpsest from the album “A River Ain’t Too Much to Love” by Smog