My last post described my brain after an academic year (including last summer) that resulted in burnout. The unfortunate side(?) effect of that burn out has been the tabling of a book that I’m editing – with some 25 chapters and three times as many authors and coauthors.
So I just sent them an email explaining that I was burned out. Will they sympathize or ostracize? Not sure but I need to move on this project. I think I can but let’s see how it goes.
On a completely unrelated note, my students found the first wood thrush nest of the season. Last field season of the project looking at wood thrush reproductive success as a function of context (landscape) and local effects, such as tree cover.
I am burned out (at least I hope so). It’s nothing that I thought it would be. It is not a psychotic break down leaving me a helpless blob. Not even close. It is not a bout of deep depression.
My burn out is an inability to focus on anything meaningful.
I wrote some 300-400 pages of notes last semester and this semester I had biostatistics. I should have written about 100 pages of lab material, questions related to some of the literature, and 200 pages of lecture material to my existing 100-some pages. I barely scratched those goals. So students got minimal me. A shell going through the motions. Didn’t produce any documents related to my study abroad duties (though I worked my butt off on behalf of students).
As for scholarship, I’m behind on two reviews and I haven’t touched anything related to the book (I’m the editor) in months. My research starts tomorrow on nest success of Wood Thrush.
So burn out is subtle, serious, frustrating, and I hope I’m over it.
Last semester was my hardest (psychologically and physically) in the 10 years at my institution – all self-induced. Came up with fourteen new labs for our sophomore-level Population and Evolutionary Biology course. I also did the entire semester of lecture when I normally do ~ 1/3 so I came up with about 150 pages of lecture notes and hopefully we can turn this into a textbook and matching lab manual.
One the downside, I did not exercise at all and did not submit a single manuscript. The other course I had last semester, Archosaurs, was terribly neglected (although we had fun). I’m also study abroad director and I didn’t get to do some of the things I had wanted to. I also wanted to participate more in our DNA barcoding project and our camera trapping project.
But that semester is behind me and today is a snow day. The walk is shoveled and the only thing on my non-work itinerary is to give our woodsy smelling dog a bath. Today’s plans are a part of the semester’s plans: work on a book chapter in the book I am editing. There are seven chapters in and in review and I’m late to my own book. So it goes. There will be 25 chapters so we’re nearly all a bit late. This is the biggest project of my career so I’m excited about it.
I’m “only” teaching our biostatistics course so I have time to work out (4 trips to the Y since the 1st and that’s good for me!). I have time to work on the study abroad website (trying to build a how-to guide for faculty and students). Working on two smaller manuscripts – one on rodent habitat preferences and the other on how urbanization affects predation on model (clay) caterpillars.
This is the time of the year of that I would call the sweet spot. Research is winding down: Wood Thrush are wrapped up or are finishing up clutches, the clay caterpillar project is nearly finished, and there’s nothing left but to write. Like a picnic on a beach.
But soon – very soon I’ll be in a mire but I see this one coming. It’s like a huge tidal wave that happens every semester. I’m teaching two courses, one for the first time solo and both very time consuming, I’ll be working on editing a book as well as working on several papers.
A picnic on a beach in the shadow of a large wave. I’d still say life is good.