New Year’s resolutions: the academic year edition

A group of colored pencils, viewed from their cross sections

For those of us who live by the academic calendar, it is New Year’s. My Facebook feed has been filled with pictures of grinning kids in their back-to-school ensembles and reports of fall syllabi being completed (or not). Lots of folks have already started school. In New England we traditionally start after US Labor Day, which is the first Monday in September. My first day of work is Tuesday, and my first class meeting is next Thursday.

A black-and-white image of a cartoonish cat, saying

A black-and-white image of a cartoonish cat, saying “Ack!”

I have tons of work still to do (as usual): I’m teaching a new Science and Values course for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students, and also revising my intro to logic course. And I’m behind on other tasks (as usual).

But what’s really exciting to me about the academic New Year is what Tracy wrote about this week: the possibilities found within routine, either in a return to old favorites, or the promise of new and improved life patterns.

Summertime is wondrous. There’s sun and warmth and long days and fresh produce and license to laze and loll, cavort and frolic. Part of its brilliance is in its departure from the standard routine: hey, let’s grill in the backyard! Wanna go for a swim/bike ride/beach walk/canoe trip? Yesssss!

However, as Tracy pointed out, some things get lost in the heat and hysteria of summer pleasures. In her post this week, she quoted one of her 2013 posts, which sums it up perfectly for me:

What I like so much about a regular routine is that it establishes a rhythm to my day and my life. I don’t need to think, I can just fall into the beat of that rhythm. A routine at its best is a series of good habits, exercised effortlessly, with little thinking through.

But it’s hard to establish that rhythm in the absence of some structure, at least it was and is for me. It’s like flailing around in the dark or taking the very first arbitrary stab at a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle.

When I’ve got something solid to work around, things can start to fall into place.

Rhythm– we all want this in our lives. For Tracy, it’s a return to some of the patterns she’s established and loves. For me, it’s a combo: resuming habits that went by the wayside in my happy summer haze; and aspiring to fix or stave off habits that I’m constantly battling.

Every September, even in the midst of mourning the end of summer, I’m at the same time anticipating a fresh start with a routine that supports me physically and emotionally.

Herewith my New (academic) Year’s Resolutions:

  • I shall turn off my bedroom light by 11pm;
  • I shall turn off social media or internet-sourced info/entertainment by 10pm;
  • I shall do one off-road bike ride a week;
  • I shall do one training road ride (tempo or threshold) a week;
  • I shall go to yoga twice a week;
  • I shall cook food for the week on the previous weekend.

These are all basic self-care resolutions. They are, in some ways, modest. I ride more than listed above, BUT I want to go on record (mainly with myself) stating what I really want (and need, for self-satisfaction and fitness-according-to-me) to do each week.

The sleeping and cooking resolutions are a little harder. I am by nature a night owl, so it’s easy for my bedtime to creep up towards 1am. Summertime tends to wreak havoc on my sleep schedule; I stay up later and then sleep later. This cuts into my productivity and also my feeling of being moderately in control of my life. So, I’m going to turn off the light at 11. I did it last night (yay!). So far, so good.

Cooking is something I’ve been doing haphazardly this summer, mainly because I’ve been in and out of town a lot. I’ve been loving the fresh produce, and it’s been easy just to throw together meals. But come fall, I want to be able to rely on having good-to-me food ready to eat when I get home from school. This requires cooking.

By the way, I just subscribed to the New York Times cooking newsletter. If you have a subscription, you can sign up. Some of these recipes can be accessed on a limited basis, and they are worth checking out. I’ve already bought ingredients for this pasta dish with black kale, shiitake mushrooms and sausage (this can be made vegetarian by changing out the sausage for some other protein, and vegan by omitting the cheese). Doesn’t this look yummy?

Spaghetti with black kale, shiitake mushrooms and diced sausage with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, on a brown plate with fork.

Spaghetti with black kale, shiitake mushrooms and diced sausage with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, on a brown plate with fork.

I’ll report back in a month on how I’m doing with these resolutions. Accountability is tricky for me (I both want it and fear it), but this is a forum in which we can share our successes, failures, needs and wants. So here are mine.

Does the impending fall give you the feeling of a fresh start? Do you shift your patterns in an intentional way come September? What do you do? We’d love to hear from you.

About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

6 thoughts on “New Year’s resolutions: the academic year edition

  1. judypelham says:

    Every point you make Catherine applies to me as well. And I have made some of your resolutions already. Sleep, especially! Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Julia Ringma says:

    I agree on the need for structure around which to build routine. I have uprooted my whole life and established myself in a foreign country to work on a PhD for the next 5 years. Plus I had huge changes that occurred before the move, so any semblance of structure was gone. I am seeing that I need to establish structure here but I am choosing to take my time about it. I still haven’t unpacked everything and I am following my intuitions on what needs to be done and what can wait. Right now, my structure is my class schedule and my TA duties and personal maintenance and, mowing the lawn. It has to be done every week and I love mowing the lawn and I bought a new electric battery operated mower. So once a week, I have meditative time mowing the lawn. I will gradually get my kitchen organized and my work space and by the end of the first semester, I expect I will be well settled into a routine. Thanks for the tip about cooking for the week coming up. In fact, I was going to bike over to the Kroger’s today and get the fixings for my famous vegan chili so I could make a big crockpot full and freeze it in batches. But it has turned warm again here, so I may wait on that and make your pasta suggestion instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • catherine w says:

      Hi Julia– congratulations on getting on the road to a PhD. It’s a long one, so self-care and structure are a big help. I love your comments on the meditative power of lawn mowing. I get it— we can find well-being and inner structure in ordinary tasks. Good luck to both of us on the cooking!

      Like

  3. Sam B says:

    Sleep! 9 hours last night, 8 the night before and hoping for 7+ the rest of the week. We’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tracy I says:

    I like this a lot because it helped me see that i too use the occasion of a fresh academic year not just to re-establish routine but also to commit to things: enough sleep, a more purposeful training schedule where running is concerned, personal training on schedule again, and a more strict adherence to my vegan principles (which sometimes slide in the summer with travel and socializing withnon-vegans– I’m okay with that but enough’s enough). Thanks for a great post.

    Like

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