I often wish I had some sort of time creation device. I'd take Hermione's time turner if it were available. However until such a device exists, I must create time the old fashioned way: by finding and making it within my schedule. I need time for my new research project on the Articles of Confederation. I started this new project during a two-day research trip I tied in with a speaking engagement in late October. Since then progress on the project has been slow, but I'm making progress.
Over the last year and half, I've found it difficult to find time to work on my historical research. It seems like I'm either working on the podcast or away speaking about podcasts. Still, my questions about history are important to me and they will go unanswered if I don't make time to research them. Plus, I love to research and I miss it. So I've resolved to make what time I can for it.
I know many historians who advocate for the 1-hour-per-day method of research and writing. They note that devoting an hour in the mornings before work or in the evenings after work is not that onerous and over the course of a week you can make 7 hours of progress, which multiplies over the course of a month and year.
I love this notion and after trying to develop this habit, I found it doesn't work for me. I find that by the end of an hour I've only just begun to think about my project in productive ways. I need bigger blocks of time to work and think; I need two 3.5-hour blocks in my schedule.
Right now, I've found that I can set aside time on Sunday mornings. I'm an early riser, my partner and dogs are not, so I can work before they get up and we need to run our errands and go about our day.
The tricky part comes in trying to create the second block of time. Early mornings work once a week, but I use early mornings during the rest of the week to practice yoga and run. Self-care is important and I want to make time that doesn't come at a cost to it.
Evenings and weekends are also tricky for me to make and find time. Ben Franklin's World is a time-intensive project that has yet to fit into a 40-hour work week. My work spills over into nights, weekends, and holidays, just as it does for every historian I know. But where there is a will, there is a way and I need this time so I think my extra block will come on Mondays.
My writing buddy Megan Kate Nelson and I used to get together to write for 4 or 5 hours just about every Monday afternoon. We met consistently for about nine months between 2015 and 2016. Unfortunately, our schedules worked against us for most of 2016 and we got out of the habit of meeting. We've decided to try and make our write-ups regular again starting on January 2, 2017.
I know our work schedules will continue to interrupt us and that other work deadlines will often seem more pressing. Yet, this is where having a writing buddy can be helpful: writing buddies can be accountability buddies too.
Although we haven't been able to meet in person for months, Megan and I have started to send text messages back and forth asking each other about our projects (Megan is writing about the Civil War in the West). We've found these text check-ins useful and motivating. One exchange helped Megan work through a small problem with her workflow and narrative and the idea that Megan would ask about my "morning with Merrill Jensen" (I'm working my way through his Articles of Confederation (1940)) motivated me to get out of bed and get to work this morning even though I stayed up entirely too late last night attending a holiday party (it was fun) and watching the Big Ten Championship football game (Penn State defeated Wisconsin).
These text exchanges are working and I think they are something we can, and will, continue to do throughout most of the week and as we continue to run into Mondays when we can't meet.
I'm not sure whether this latest attempt to make time for my research will work over the long term, but as it has worked for about a month, so I'm hopeful.
How do you make time for your scholarship?