I suppose I am quite lucky in that my work allows me to fix my schedule for the most part, rather than the other way round. Sure, you’re at the mercy of timetabling for the most part when it comes to teaching, but outside of that, with some minor restrictions, you can schedule your office hours and your meetings in such a way that you are left with at least one day a week free for research.
I have a top-heavy teaching schedule, which means I have the bulk (99%) of my teaching in the autumn term, and pretty much nothing save a guest lecture or two in the spring term. This affords me two days of research instead of the customary one, although I only officially block off one day. I use the other as a spare day if there are some urgent matters that need dealing with (otherwise it’s mine).
The temptation, of course, when it comes to research days, is to not go to work at all – and this is even more so when it is winter. Travelling to work on the bus – I minimise cycling during winter due to untreated cycle paths and general wussiness about cycling in sub-zero temperature – takes about 40 minutes door to door and it’s not something I particularly enjoy (as opposed to when I am cycling in). That’s 80 minutes travel time plus give or take 10 minutes waiting time added on: 90 minutes better spent doing something else if I am working from home. Yes, I’m one calculative bitch.
But for those of us who have ventured down the path of ‘working’ from home – you would know that it isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be. The lack of a office/home divide meshes the day into one unproductive stretch of bites of time half spent trying to get some reading or writing done, or trying to settle a chore. You end up looking at the clock, realising it’s 7pm and on both the chores and research count, you’ve done eff all.
Chores – or rather – things left undone, like dishes, laundry or the vacuuming, severely annoy me. And when I am at home I am pulled into doing things I wouldn’t do otherwise: like instead of just doing the dishes I scrub the kitchen floors; instead of folding the laundry I reorganise the whole cupboard. I would like to say that this is me procrastinating and trying not to get anything done work-wise, but the truth is I find it very difficult to get anything done if there are chores left unattended. And the very nature of chores is that it is repetitive: you cannot do the laundry today and expect there to be no laundry left for another week. Similarly, pots and pans and plates; or cleaning the bathroom. Yes, the rubbish needs taking out but once you do it isn’t very long before another sack accumulates: even more so that we are now a two-person household.
It used to be that the front room was my little ‘batcave’ – where I had my desk, my PC and space to work: but most importantly a door that separated at least that space from the rest of the house. Psychologically, for as long as that door was shut, I would only have to deal with the space in which I was in, and keeping that tidy and clean was a lot easier than the rest of the house where the living went on. Now that room is someone’s bedroom, and my desk, of late, has been the local Starbucks, sitting among college kids debating on whether Bieber or One Direction was the bigger loser.
We lack a space with good natural light and big desks where people can just while away time working away from work here in Colchester.
Of course I could go to the university library but then that would mean going to campus, right? Which completely defeats the purpose of trying to save on the commute time by staying at home. So of course, to get a handle on the issues at hand, I know that the biggest impediment to my having a productive research day is now travel time. And it is that which I need to solve. I need a cheap, convenient, speedy way to get to campus and back which will not have me risking my collarbone every time its icy. And so I have decided: I am taking a motorcycle license.
Watch this (rempit) space.