My Academic Diary: Mark Carrigan

Image: Charisse Kenion

Saturday 15th September, 2018

5:45am: Wake up refreshed with the sun rising outside. It’s just a little bit too early though, as much as I need a long day of work. I pick up the Road, which I fell asleep before finishing last night, completing it before falling back to sleep for a bit.

8:15am: Wake up again, confusingly less refreshed than I was two and a half hours ago but nonetheless with plenty of energy. Pre-breakfast becomes a long conversation about the Road (I hated the ending, my partner didn’t) and what this reveals about the capacity of humans to imagine the end of civilisation.

9:30am: I’m at my computer earlier than I would usually be because I have loads to catch up on after spending most of last week away. I went up to Manchester to visit family, to Keele University to look at the Foundations of British Sociology archive there, to York to interview someone before going on to Leeds to see more family. The second edition of my book is due in imminently so I spend the first part of the day on my daily deadline of 750 words.

11:00am: Now on to the thing I’m supposed to be doing. Or at least the thing I’m actually paid to do. Unfortunately, I almost immediately find I’m locked out of the content management system. A few e-mails and I discover that others are as well. For some reason writing this long planned academic diary entry seems like a nice way of diverting my mounting anxiety at the website being down. I make some promotional graphics as well, catch up on e-mail, do some proof reading and plan the blogging schedule for the next few weeks. The things I’m putting off are a report and a proposal, both of which are more complex than I expected them to be.

11:20am: I go to make a big jug of matcha to see if this helps. I stopped drinking coffee a couple of weeks ago, having become aware of quite how much I was drinking in a day. It’s felt good and I feel noticeably less jittery than I used to. But the speed with which matcha has replaced it makes me wonder if I’ve just swapped one caffeine infusion mechanism for another, without any real change in my lifestyle.

11:50am: I’m now inventorying podcasts for editing and scheduling a Twitter feed. Very much work, just not the work I’m supposed to be doing and which feels increasingly urgent.

12:45pm: I’m not making much progress with the more difficult tasks, slightly resenting my being locked inside on what feels like one of the last days of the summer. So I head outside with a notebook, sitting in an orchard to sketch out the rest of the aforementioned proposal while feeling vaguely uncomfortable with how Cambridge-ish I’ve become in a relatively short space of time. Apart from the occasional train, I can hear nothing but apples dropping from trees. Bliss. Cliché.

1:45pm: Time to switch roles and go for a meeting with the new communications manager at the Faculty of Education to talk about a publicity strategy for our upcoming programme of research on the platform university. One of the things I like about having multiple jobs is the diversity. I get bored easily and this constant shifting from one topic to another keeps my attention. It can sometimes get tiring though and with an impending book deadline, there’s part of me that wishes I could just shut off my e-mail.

4:00pm: But if I just shut off my e-mail and wrote, I’d have far less of the conversations which contribute so much to my writing. Not only do I now have a really clear plan for how we can promote our research agenda, an extended discussion of what exactly ‘promotion’ means in higher education has given me more ideas for writing.

4:15pm: I want to write but instead I’m finishing the proposal, increasingly anxious about the fact the website is not online.

4:30pm: Should I have some more matcha?

4:45pm: I’ve finished the proposal and almost finished this diary. Definitely time for some more matcha.

5:15pm: The website still isn’t back online but the combination of matcha and avoidance has left me running through other stuff at a tremendous pace. Given I can’t resolve the overarching problem at the moment, I’m contemplating finishing for the day. But there’s a classic Spike Lee film I want to see at 8:45pm and if I head home, I’m unlikely to go back out. The temptation to keep working till then is immense, not least of all because I’ve felt I’ve had a backlog of work for weeks and the end is in sight.

5:36pm: Should I actually submit this diary?

6:48pm: I’m still in the office but the website is now online! Suddenly the instinct to write a diary has subsided and I want to go home. The idea of this entry was prompted by a few recent conversations about what it’s like to do two extremely different jobs at the same time. I’d intended this to be a record of how my jobs tend to flow into each other in a relatively organic way, but the website crisis means one of them has consumed my day to the exclusion of the other. But it would be too self-indulgent to write a third academic diary……

Mark Carrigan is Digital Engagement Fellow at The Sociological Review Foundation. He tweets at @mark_carrigan.

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