Deadlines which leave you dead

Deadlines are looming large. Some have come and gone, and I have given up trying to keep up. I have a vacation coming up. Vacations are supposed to be stress-busters. But even the thought of packing my bags gives me the jitters as there is so much to do before I leave. Stress levels are at an all-time high.

Everytime I sit down to work, someone forwards me some gyaan on how to beat procrastination. I feel like beating them instead for disrupting my thought process with the constant beeps. I wonder where the world finds time to keep up with Whatsapp forwards each moment when I have difficulty in sticking to two items in my schedule for the day.

Just when you think you have a whole day to concentrate on this task which requires you to focus, the University sends you a completely inane circular asking you to upload data urgently. It is the same stuff which you had uploaded three years ago. But this new dictat is simply because they decided to add another two cells to the list of publications called ‘name and address of journal publisher’ and ‘exact date of publication in ddmmyy format’ (how does that even matter!!!). Worse, you cannot modify what you have entered earlier. But you have to delete each article and upload it individually. Every silly document from your Aadhar card to your joining report needs to be linked there. Didn’t we do that already? But no. Some weirdo thinks up another criteria. So you have to enter each conference you have attended as faculty, organizer or delegate, along with your ‘conference registration number’! What nonsense! You shove that aside and decide to wait for another reminder before you tackle that mess.

Back to the task you have been struggling to complete. Nothing reminds you of your advancing age more acutely than that inability to concentrate. Work moves at a snail’s pace, with frequent interruptions from the phone, email, Whatsapp and colleagues who want to gossip. You decide you will now concentrate after lunch as it is 12.10 already. Post-lunch, you slog again. Unsuccessfully. At 4.30 p.m. you decide you will spend the evening at home doing this and definitely complete this before bedtime. At home, after you struggle between deciding the menu for dinner, cooking and prepping for the next morning’s meals, you realize your brain is too exhausted to make sense of this task.

Mornings! Yes, undisturbed mornings are the best to concentrate. But this task needs at least four undisturbed hours to finish. So I set my alarm at 3 a.m. And not trusting myself, I set alarms for each hour after that.

The 3 a.m. alarm rings. I grumble, shut it and snuggle deeper into my duvet. It is too cold to step on the bedroom floor. At 4 a.m. the second alarm rings, and I decide to scroll through social media this time before ‘getting up’. The hubby opens one eye and mumbles good morning. Facebook serves me a long spiel on how the world’s most successful people start their day at 4 a.m. Just the right dose of guilt to start my morning, I think. I scroll down and find JK Rowling’s tweet:

That was magical coming from JK Rowling! I grin and slip under the duvet again. Guilt flies out of the bedroom window!

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