Updated: Mar 15, 2022
Any worthwhile pursuit places unique demands on one's time and energy. For me, grad school and teaching are among such pursuits, and committing to these activities as a newcomer to academia has led me to reflect on my daily habits with newfound discernment. This has involved more careful examination of how I distribute my various obligations across a limited schedule, and I am pleased with the development I have seen in the quantity and quality of my work.
That said, an efficient schedule alone does not good work make A schedule is only effective insofar as it holistically responds to my myriad needs and desires as a complex human creature. Further, I am but one node in a complex socio-ecological system; my schedule is one of many tools that I use in pursuit of some semblance of local equilibrium in my ecosystem. I do not use this term as a metaphor.
Moreover, I see the structural forces of settler-colonialism and neoliberalism as key drivers in this ecosystem that steer equilibrium toward exploitation, so my version of local equilibrium necessarily tends to go against the grain, but this is an ongoing negotiation. Those who more stridently reject education's "cult of efficiency" (Callahan, 1962) may balk at my preoccupation with scheduling and productivity, and I take seriously the social critique made by folks whose lifestyles resist the demands of life under capitalism.
Still, I think I have meaningful contributions to make in the academy, and it feels like the right path for now -- as long as I'm not entirely disillusioned by institutionalized scholarship, at least. The capacity to meaningfully organize one's time and energy seems like a valuable skill in any worthwhile pursuit. I suppose the most challenging part is determining what exactly is worthwhile among the demands that I encounter? How can I distinguish the inevitable challenge that liberation entails from the structural demands on my labor that this system was built around?
A schedule for your day is about as helpful as relationship advice from a friend. If it's informed by the complex and sometimes paradoxical nature of the situation, it can be valuable, empowering even. But excessive reliance on it will eventually distract you from that inner voice of intuitive authority that puts you in right relationship with my world. I suppose this is what Freire (2018) meant as he wrote about consciousness that is conscious of itself. The critical factor is whether you have a healthy relationship with your advice-giving friend; is it a static, paternalistic relationship, or is it authentically dialogical? When that's the case, your friend's advice is not a prescription; it's just one part of an ongoing, mutual conversation. It's an invitation and offering to your own voice of intuitive authority that you already had.
Under capitalism, the schedule is an institutionalized segmentation of your time that keeps you in lockstep with the clockwork of the machine. There is no conversation, only determination. I suppose a part of my struggle is the real alienation that has come from uncritical abidance to schedules in the past. By Callan & Arena's (2009) definition of indoctrination as the inculcation of close-minded belief, I would probably diagnose my relationship with time as a product indoctrination. Further, they identify the viral quality of indoctrination; the educators inculcating close-minded beliefs are likely victims of indoctrination themselves, which complicates the moral ascription of indoctrination on the individual.
To be clear, I am not opposed to making commitments or systematizing collective processes. Our natural world is abundant with dedication and cooperation. As winter melts into spring, the natural world shows me collective commitments upon which I dearly rely. As the days grow longer, as the frost lifts, as new growth cautiously peers out into our world, I have profound gratitude for this land and the Coast Salish peoples of this land who remain deeply devoted to and in step with the rhythms of these lands and waters. As I see it, the schedules of lands and waters are dynamically evolving and emergent over long, long periods of time. These are ongoing, reciprocal dialogues: relational rhythms.
So I definitely see value in a schedule, but I am invested in decolonizing my schedule, and this calls my attention to the relational rhythms around me. I have found that these rhythms begin with my relationship with rest. Morning and bedtime routines, in particular, have become indispensable anchors to my day and are cherished times to be with myself. There seems to be a sacred solitude available in liminal space between waking and rest when my conscious mind is greeted and sent off by my body.
Transitions in general are crucial junctures in my conversations with my schedule. My mind, heart, and body do not exist at the neat pace of hourlong meetings, 50-minute lectures and 10-minute passing periods. It takes time and work to transition from one focus to the next, and this understanding is essential as I forecast my days. There seems to be an art to fully shifting gears and designing days with adequate time to do so.
To be honest though, I am still developing a healthy relationship with these rhythms. Though my current routines have stabilized me, I have come to feel somewhat stagnated by them. This morning, as I sat down to my computer, I found an inner struggle as I tried to get to work. The routinized part of me felt beholden to my work. I had built these routines to support my productivity, and my schedule-loyal self felt determined to abide by the plan. Another part of me just felt burnt out and uninspired. I have been investing so much time and energy into this work, even in my rest, yet what was there for me to gain from this investment? Something felt lacking. As I wrestled with this feeling, I wrote this poem:
There's an exquisite stillness
that pulses quietly, vitally.
I found an urge there, today,
to pack up and escape.
The whisper of waves called,
crashing upon some distant shore,
tempting me in their explosions,
just barely audible.
Their calls were dulled by distance,
and dampened by restraint,
but it seems the tides are shifting.
I'll pack up and escape, then.
I'll run headfirst into the waves,
and the ocean will unfurl me,
and chill me to the core
with the rough, ecstatic call
of unbridled existence.
Stretch me out like sea foam along the shore.
Whisk me up into vapor
that stains the air
and stings the eyes
and burns the lungs.
When I was a child, I ran faster than I could, and
my heart pulsed life into each capillary of an expanding world.
What I would give to wiggle my teeth and scrape my knees.
I'll run laps around this block till dark.
Don't worry -- movement keeps me warm.
Callan, E., & Arena, D. (2009). Indoctrination. Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195312881.003.0007
Callahan. (1962). Education and the cult of efficiency; a study of the social forces that have shaped the administration of the public schools. University of Chicago Press.
Freire, P., Macedo, D. P., & Shor, I. (2018). Pedagogy of the oppressed (M. B. Ramos, Trans.; 50th anniversary edition). Bloomsbury Academic.