I’ve come to realize that in addition to the shower, I do my thinking (not just best, but most thinking) with my eyes closed. I don’t reflect well staring out a window or gazing at a wall. I don’t contemplate while eating my oatmeal.
I usually read or watch TV while I eat (a habit I started in college. My roommate and I had a rule that no matter what we wouldn’t work while eating. We found that it is not actually productive).
I’ve tried to reflect while eating or drinking my tea, but if I’m not reading, watching TV, answering emails, or something else, I start to get restless. I get up and start the laundry, tidy something, or clean up the sink. I have trouble sitting still.
However, I have no trouble lying still with my eyes closed. I’m used to laying with my eyes closed trying to sleep.
But I’ve also learned through this experience, that I get a lot of good thinking done if I purposely close my eyes and allow myself to reflect.
I don’t get distracted, I don’t feel pressured.
And yes, sometimes I do fall asleep accidentally.
But often I can get some good thinking time in before that happens. I feel relaxed and peaceful. There are no distractions.
Many of my blog posts started as thoughts I had while I lay on the couch or my bed with my eyes closed.
Sometimes I feel embarrassed that it looks like I’m sleeping or otherwise not being productive.
It doesn’t look like thinking work the way many people envision it, especially in movies or TV, in which people sit at a desk and stare at the blank page or the blank word document.
But I can’t do that. My way works for me. And that’s what becoming an adult is all about, I suppose, learning what works best for you, not what works for others. Anyone else think while lying down or with eyes closed? Do you have a different way of thinking or focusing?
Three Other Ways I Do Things Differently
1) I don’t work well at a desk.
We know sitting all day is not healthy for anyone, but it’s murder on my back. I can’t focus on anything over the pain. Instead I lay on the couch and write on my laptop.
In college I worked on my bed and used my desk as a large shelf. In fact, when I lived in a two-room dorm with two roommates, we put my bed in the room with my roommates desks. I was working just like them, just differently.
Getting older means I don’t have to work on my bed, but can set up a workspace around a couch. No more pushing books and notebooks off my bed to go to bed! Does anyone else have an alternate work setup to fit their physical needs?
2) I am not a morning person.
Therefore, I try to schedule my days so that I don’t have to get up early to work, but can work later in the day.
I schedule meetings in the afternoons. I also had my office hours for my students in the afternoons. I save my mornings for emergencies—which is great if I need a last minute doctor’s appointment.
I read and write in the evenings. I work when many people are relaxing and unwinding after work. I’d rather relax and rest in the morning. It works for me, much better than when I tried to force myself to fit other people’s schedules.
I have fallen asleep reading for class way too many times trying to read in the mornings. I am impossibly sleepy even with a full night’s sleep. Anyone else feel the same?
3) Starting a Social Sciences Graduate Program (and Leaving it)
A lot of people thought that there was no reasonable reason to do a social sciences MA or PhD. What would I do with it? What career would it help me with? What was the point? Would it be worth the time or money (luckily I was able to get funding for both, but the questions persisted)? Couldn’t I do something else? Make more money? Learn something practical?
Some thought it was really risky or brave, but they all thought it was not something they would choose.
After defending and explaining my decisions for years, I felt nervous announcing that my PhD program was no longer the right thing for me. Instead I will leave with my MA.
Now that I’ve been in the program for three years, people want to know why I would leave in the middle. Why wouldn’t I keep going? What would I do with two social sciences MAs? What will I do instead of work in academia? Why would I leave when I wanted to go into academia so much?
But I know to live the life I want, I need to leave and find a career that better fits my lifestyle needs and career goals. So I am doing something different from my peers again. And it works for me.