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This past fall I taught three lecture courses back-to-back-to-back on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings. Although I enjoyed it, and felt I did a good job of it, I felt physically exhausted afterwards and usually did not manage to accomplish much those afternoons.

What strategies (yoga? meditation? long walks?) have others used to quickly recover their energy for research or other duties in such situations?

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    A good nap (on an office sofa, or at home, or outdoors if the weather is nice) will always help. Although napping in the middle of a workday seems frowned upon in U.S. culture, I find myself a lot more productive after such a nap and will often subsequently stay up working until well after 2 a.m.
    – Dan Romik
    Dec 5 '15 at 20:07
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    @DanRomik: A comment could be made regarding whether or not one should stay up until well after 2 a.m... ;)
    – tonysdg
    Dec 5 '15 at 20:12
  • Building on the answer from @D.Salo -- try to map out exactly what you're going to do on the target afternoon, ahead of time. For example, that might be a good time to edit a paper rather than attempting something more creative. Or you could choose some specific reading for that afternoon, ahead of time. Regarding walks, yoga and so on -- try them out, see what works well for you. Basically, you need to find a way to transition out of your extroverted self back to your introverted self. Dec 6 '15 at 20:02
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Don't forget to eat and rehydrate. If possible, get out of your building to do so; that adds a change of pace, which also helps. Give yourself permission not to do anything intellectual while you fuel up.

When I have a schedule like that, I intentionally save relatively mindless chores for afterwards. Work gets done so I don't feel like a slacker, but I don't have to break my brain either.

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When I was a graduate student, I was a teaching assistant for several terms for the big introductory artificial intelligence class at our school. There were 300-400 students in the class and 4-5 TAs, each of whom was responsible for leading tutorial sections of ~10 students/section. Because of other constraints, the tutorials all had to be scheduled Monday afternoon or Tuesday, which meant we all had long, long blocks of tutorials all through every Tuesday. At the end of every Tuesday, I would be exhausted, covered with chalk dust, throat sore, and very well versed on the material.

We TAs thus had a tradition of meeting at the lab afterwards to socialize and drink together and generally blow off verbal steam. We'd hang out for about an hour, kibitzing about the class and our experiences, and by the end of that time we'd be sufficiently unwound and recovered to be speak about other things as well.

These days, I don't think I would use alcohol, but would still take a "palette cleanser time" to do something different and give myself time for things to settle out of my head. Half an hour to an hour seems to be able the right amount of time for me. Overall, it's much better for me to do something active (e.g., walking, talking with others) than to do something passive like reading blogs, because the I find the more passive activities to be more about emotionally detaching rather than cleansing, and I am likely to not recover emotionally in the way that I need to. Others, of course, may find that different things work well for them.

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  • My answer would be much the same though I will add that I have also had success using online activities (particularly video games and movie nights - where you chat or Skype while everyone watches the same movie) with other TAs and tutors. The only reason I would add this is that in my case this group did not attend the same school anymore or even live in the same region but met through earlier degrees, organizations, and jobs.
    – LinkBerest
    Dec 6 '15 at 4:58

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