December. The end of the semester. The end of the year. A time for reflection on what I have accomplished and a time to plan for the next year. On a personal note, I get to take a break, travel to a fun place, catch up with friends and family, and generally decompress after the end of a long semester.
OK, who am I kidding? Given the confluence of multiple grant deadlines in January, end-of-semester madness, a January conference, and preparing for teaching next semester, I find myself frantically moving from grading final exams and papers, to preparing proposal #1 due in January, to proposal #2 also due in January, to working on my conference presentation, and then back again in one vicious cycle. To some extent, having a lot of work is normal and no big deal these days- I’ve adjusted to the multiple demands on my time. But for those submitting grants to funding agencies with preproposal deadlines in January (like me), December is now a time of added stress and work. And yes, I know that the deadlines are the same every year and I could have been working on the proposal through the fall semester. And I have been. But there are always things that come up along the way: collaborator constraints that change the schedule, new ideas that move the project in new directions, and always the last push to finalize everything, made more tricky with institutional office closures over the holidays.
I would really like to spend the holidays fully engaging with my family and not sneaking back to my room to check email, run analyses, or draft up a grant budget. Even as I dash off this blog post, part of my mind is calculating the tradeoff between spending time with friends tonight or pushing through with work so I can more fully take time off next week when I’m with my family. Do I prioritize going to see The Hobbit with friends today over a free day with my family next week, or is that a false tradeoff because work will always take whatever free time I give it? Rationally, I know that the latter is true, but it’s so hard to convince myself of that right now.
I know that many of you are stuck with a similar dilemma. So what tricks or tips do you have for me and other readers? How do you balance the added stress of the impending January deadlines with the holidays?