What work ethic?

January and February are hard months for those of us who live in the northern part of the Northern Hemisphere. The holidays are over, it’s cold, and life just looks a lot less interesting than it did in June. We get crabby, lash out at people who cook us dinner, and begin (or continue) to resent our jobs even though they pay our rent.

I can never focus in January. I start out with a page of references, my intentions are good, I begin to alphabetize and check for house style, but then ten minutes later I am eight minutes into a game of Spider solitaire, or halfway across the internet, researching hate speech.

Sometimes this lack of focus is useful. I’ve applied to graduate school and writing fellowships, and learned enough trivia to keep me in small talk for years when I get like this. This year it’s bad enough that I’ve started repainting my house instead of sitting down and working.

It’s productive, but bad for my career. What to do? Exercise might help. So might medication. There’s always coffee. However, one of the few techniques that works for me in this unfocused state is to work in small chunks. Work without interruption for 30 minutes, surf the internet for 5 minutes, work for 30 more minutes. Get up and walk around. Start all over again.

How do you stay focused when all you want to do is go back to bed?


4 responses to “What work ethic?

  1. I have the same problem. I tell myself, sternly, that I need to work on one particular task until it’s done (such as formatting a reference list, going through author corrections, or editing the first half of an article) before I am allowed to check email or Facebook or any of the other thousand distractions that are vying for my attention. Good luck getting through these winter doldrums!

  2. Thanks, Suzanne! I once read that Louise Erdreich (in the preinternet days) used to loosely tie herself to a chair with her bathrobe belt so she would sit down and write rather than get up and do something else.

  3. it’s surreal reading about how you procrastinate while I’m procrastinating reading your blog. So I guess I must now get back to work!

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