Unplugged

It’s almost 5:00 pm and still light out, but I’m nevertheless feeling the sundowning fatigue that has become so familiar this pandemic year. In the morning, I’m energized and optimistic, looking forward to a productive day; by evening, though, I’m tapped and tired, and my to-do list still looms.

Before the pandemic, I would have soldiered through, milking as much work as possible out of every waking minute, then staying up late (or getting up early) to tackle the rest. But I can no longer do this: I’m too old to pull all-nighters, and worse yet, I’m no longer foolish enough to try. I’ve learned from long experience–52 years inhabiting this body, and nearly 30 years teaching college–that the shortcut of long hours leads to little progress in the long run.

When I deprive myself of sleep, I get sick–and when I get sick, I stay sick for weeks, even a simple cold triggering an avalanche of asthmatic complications. During this COVID year, I can’t afford to get sick. From the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve realized my top priority isn’t my job or my students or my to-do list; it’s my health. In the pit of my stomach, I know that if I get COVID, it won’t end well, so I must avoid infection at all costs.

Since late-afternoon-into-evening is when my energy, productivity, and morale lag, I’ve learned this past year how important it is to stop working when my body says “no more.” Because hybrid teaching forces me to spend more time than usual at my computer as I prep classes, check discussion forums, and Zoom with students, I’ve come to cherish the time I spend unplugged, reading print books, writing snail-mail letters, or writing by hand in my journal.

My laptop and Internet connection have been my tether to the outside world this past year, but my books, notebooks, stationery, and stamps have been my lifeline.

Bearded

Years ago, my former brother-in-law repeated a mantra he learned in the Marines that has stayed with me ever since. He called it the 6 Ps: “Prior planning prevents piss-poor performance.”

Modica way

Wikipedia lists other permutations of this adage, including the so-called 7 Ps of “Proper Planning and Preparation Prevent Piss Poor Performance,” but the six-word version is what I learned. Every Sunday, I spend a good part of the day preparing for the coming week, packing lunches and setting out not just one but five outfits, each coordinated down to the jewelry. On any given morning, I don’t have time to stand in front of my closet wondering what to wear, so it makes the day go more smoothly if I can simply jump in the shower, knowing that day’s outfit is at the top of the pile.

Tagged

Following the 6 Ps isn’t the most exciting way to spend a Sunday, but if a little preparation makes a hectic week go more smoothly, I’m all for it. When my Monday morning alarm goes off, it’s a relief to know I don’t have to think about packing a lunch, gathering my books, or doing anything else that requires an awake attention to detail. Instead, my teaching bag is ready to go, and all I have to do is show up for another whirlwind week.