Thursday, May 15, 2008

Go where you go and do what you do

I can't work on philosophy for more than 2-3 hours in one place. I get antsy. I need to move. To be productive, I've adopted a strategy of meandering from coffee shop to coffee shop throughout the day. What can I say? Bite size units of time, bite size progress, but work throughout the day.

In an idealistic moment, fast forward to next year when everything's turned out for the better. I have a job... My friends have a job... Everything is right with the world... Can I still coffee shop hop as a professor? The Onion has already pointed out the humor of "T.A. Spotted at Bar" and "Professor Hangs at Coffeehaus" seems dangerously similar.

Worrying about the distant future? Sure, but if all I had to do was figure out how to explain the importance of my dissertation in a few sentences I'd go nuts.

-- Second Suitor


Anonymous said...

I'm the same as Second Suitor. 3 hours of research work in a single location would be an unusual triumph of perseverance for me. I'm not all that good at working at home, either, so that leaves me with the office or coffee shops. But I'm a year and a half out of grad school now, starting the tenure track, and just turned 30, to boot. There are serious questions about how long this practice will be acceptable, and I certainly avoid places around the university during the semester. Now that summer has started, I can probably expand the range of acceptable locations.

But look, society may frown on my work habits, but I'm single, I live alone, and research in philosophy is non-collaborative and isolating enough as it is. Can you blame me for wanting to be around people?

Sisyphus said...

Me too; I usually get about 2 hours in per location. Then I use the travel time to the library or the next coffee shop as a way to burn off some of the overcaffeination jitters.

But when I finally get my fancy job with an office and everything, I'll be able to go coffeeshop- office-library-coffeeshop, which should help spread things out a bit. And you know I'm putting in a couch or comfy chair for post-lunch naps.

What items are requirements for the properly-outfitted philosopher's office?

Anonymous said...

Not to be overly critical without knowing more about you good 3-hour-stretch folks, but you should look into fixing that habit pronto. Most productive philosophers spend at least 8-10 hours a day doing work (research heavy work), so unless you are constantly moving about during your day, it sounds like you perhaps aren't getting that much work done.

tenured philosophy girl said...

I'm totally curious about and confused by this post and by 2:13's follow up. In what possible way do you think 'society would frown' on this? I'm - ahem - substantially older than 2:13, and -ahem- rather farther into my tenure-track career and OF COURSE I do lots of my work in coffee shops! I thought that was part of the point of choosing an academic career. I genuinely don't get the insinuation that I'm supposed to feel inappropriate about doing this. Why bother avoiding jobs in small towns in the midwest if we're not even allowed to use the coffee shops in the nice coastal urban centers we manage to end up in?

Frankly you guys sound a bit like my first-grade son's friends who think the teachers live at the school.

Anonymous said...

I'm 40 and a few years past tenure, and I work in coffee shops all the time. I suppose it helps that I live far from campus, but I work in the coffee shops around campus too. I'm more likely to see my students working behind the counter than I am as customers, for some reason--but neither one bothers me that much.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:46 PM,

Not to be overly critical, but you obviously can't read. Re-read the original post and the first comment. It's about working at ONE PLACE in a three hour stretch. Moving about and working at multiple locations was exactly the point being made. Anyway, do those 8-10 hour/day researchers have any grading, teaching prep, and administrative work to do? Our department chair is inundated with administrative tasks all through the day. I thought once that having my own office w/o three or four other TAs meeting with student in one office would allow me to get work done. Not if you've got all those drop in administrative tasks.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if I see the problem either. Professor hangs out a coffeehouse is a bit like "T.A. Spotted at Bar", but unless you thought that Bars were off limits when you were in grad school, that shouldn't be a problem.

Anonymous said...

I can't really work in coffee shops much because I tend to run into people I used to know in AA when I go there... Coffee shops are really big AA hangouts. At least in my urban setting. I run the risk of getting the third degree and/or having morally righteous stares if I see them and don't want that.

Anonymous said...

"Most productive philosophers spend at least 8-10 hours a day doing work (research heavy work)"


Ahhh hahahahahahahaha.

Listen, in all seriousness, trying to work for that long is a good way not to get anything done. Do 2-3 hours of good work (you can spend that whole time being productive, if you know it's only going to be a couple hours!), maybe spend some time on administrative and reading tasks, take the rest of the day off.

(And then you'll have energy left to kick it into high gear when you need to, like when the job market hits.)

Anonymous said...

"Most productive philosophers spend at least 8-10 hours a day doing work (research heavy work)"

That's absolutely hilarious.

Do we start by asking what the poster means by "most"? Or "productive"? Or "philosophers"? Or "doing"? Or "research"? Or "heavy"? Or "work"?

Because just about every word is up for grabs.

Anonymous said...

i, uh, have been known to work in bars. i met my partner when i was sitting in a bar reading adorno. anywhere can be a legit work location.

now that i'm on the tt, i've found that i can't get serious work done at the office, b/c people keep coming in to ask me something, or to chat, etc.

Anonymous said...

How quickly we all forget the example of Socrates wandering through the streets of Athens, or Kierkegaard sitting on a park bench occupied with sedentary pursuits whilst at the Fredericksberg Garden puffing away at his cigar, idling and thinking, or thinking and idling. Or Descartes who would lay comfortably amongst his pillows thinking and seldom rising before noon, or even of Giordano Bruno who was kicked out of nearly every academy in Europe for his anti-Aristotelian stance, condemned to a life of wandering the continent (and thus NEVER had an office of his own). And have we entirely forgotten about the cafe culture of the 18th century Enlightenment? Or about Joseph Addison's Spectator essays which were penned in taverns and cafes, or based upon the conversations he either had or overheard in those places. . .?

If you're any philosopher worth his salt, why should you care what the Others think? Forget the They-self (as Heidegger, Emerson, Nietzsche and Kierkegaard would suggest). If you're too busy worrying about what the Others do--working 8 hours in their office without a break--or what Others think of you--why is that guy sitting in the bar drinking Boston lager again!--then you leave yourself little time for real intellectual thought being too concerned with superficial perception and not substantial and profound thought.

It's not about how others perceive you getting the work done; it's about what it takes for you to bring about quality work. And remember that an hours' worth of concentrated thought is worth more than three weeks of scattered and distracted thinking.

Anonymous said...

In line with tenured philosophy girl and anonymous 7:23, you all might notice that the TA in "TA spotted at bar" is not at all made the object of fun. The joke is on the fools who think there's something strange about their TA going to a bar, not the TA for going to a bar.