I work at a university, and we just finished the first week of class.

The first week of class is rough.

Over the summer, things are predictable. There’s plenty to do, but there are few surprises. It’s all long-term projects and big blocks of time.

Reality comes rushing back during the first week of the fall semester. Emergencies abound (both real and imagined). We academic advisors have students beating down our doors, hoping to drop a class, change majors, or figure out what they’re going to do with their lives. There’s scarcely a moment’s peace.

Contrasted with the calm, predictable summer, it’s like a zoo without cages. It’s utter mayhem, but the hardest part is adjusting my expectations accordingly.

Sometimes, Less Productivity is Inevitable

This week, I’ve eaten a wheelbarrow full of fast food, barely exercised, slept poorly, drunk too much beer, and shirked my writing and music practice.

Every year this happens. Every year I’m surprised.

It’s taken me four years of working in higher ed to realize that this is just how the first week of class is. No matter what I do, my productivity is going to dip. I can get better at dealing with it, but it’s just a tough week.

We highly motivated types tend to forget this. We don’t want to let ourselves off the hook and establish a precedent of making excuses, so we double down. “I don’t care how stressed you are,” we tell ourselves. “Onward! Attack that to-do list! Show no mercy, for you shall receive none!”

Sometimes, though, we just need to cut ourselves some slack.