Midterm Blues: Staying Afloat

Oops, the semester is getting away from me…

Around the second month in a semester is the time where you realize there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to be done. This snowballs into the third month where all you can do is try to keep your head just above the water. And you sink into a desperate loop where you are too anxious and rushed to produce your best work and too exhausted to think clearly and logically any longer. Its a strange juggling act to begin with, but all the while you are also telling your colleagues and professors that everything is under control while in reality the $h*t has already hit the fan. This may or may not be me right now – I’m showing several of the signs – My Vulcan sense of logic has been replaced by a Romulan state of overly-emotional chaos.

Highlights From the Archaeology Department from Last Month:

  • Paxton Thurgood Ford was born to Ben Ford and Hillary Creely – everyone involved is happy, healthy, and beautiful.


Paxton Thurgood Ford!


  • I have subsequently inherited a wonderful James Brown statue that sings ‘I Feel Good’ and no longer dances – but is still amusing. It graces my office in McElhaney G4 and produces spontaneous dance parties often.  Thank you, Dr. Ford. My cat, James Brown would hate this statue, but the folks I share my office with… well they kind of hate it too…. I love it.


  • Archaeology Day for the department was a hit! Many more folks visited this year than last year – and I got to gross out the public in the zooarchaeology lab this year because Dr. Sarah Neusius’ zooarchaeology class is processing skeletons ! That means lots of rotting carcasses to enjoy, and just in time for Halloween. For more info on Archaeology Day in Pennsylvania check out: http://www.archaeological.org/archaeologyday

achaeoday archaeoday1 archaeoday2 archaeoday3 archaeoday4DuckRot

  • Several students from the Applied Archaeology program defended their theses:





I polled some folks in the Archaeology Department – students and faculty – for some helpful hints on staying afloat mid-semester. I asked them to:

Name one organizational thing you do to stay afloat

Name one stress relief thing you do to cope

And as part of my ‘Munsell Everything’ section, I asked folks to:

Munsell something from your daily life

Here were the results:

Organizational: Keep a detailed calendar to stay on top of deadlines

Stress Relief: Trashy TV – White Collar

Munsell: My Dog 10YR 2/1 Black

Organizational: Create obsessive lists by month, crossing off successfully completed tasks, use many index cards

Stress Relief: Baths, long drives, puppy time

Munsell: Coffee this morning 10YR 3/3 Dark Brown


Organizational: $1 planner – enter all tasks, check off finished stuff

Stress Relief: I drink.

Munsell: Fried chicken lunch 10YR 7/8  Yellow


Organizational: [Gargling noises]

Stress Relief: Hikes.

Munsell: Lunch 5YR 5/8  Yellowish Brown


Organizational: Organize all syllabi together and cross off days as I go

Stress Relief: Music, housework/ decorating, hiking, gym

Munsell: Emergen C drink 5R 5/6  Red


Organizational: I haven’t stayed afloat. I’m not afloat.

Stress Relief: [Nervous laughter]… I eat.

Munsell: What I’m eating right now 10YR 7/8  Yellow


Organizational: I stagger my work – allot for time for all subjects and take breaks in between

Stress Relief: Yoga

Munsell: Core/ paper weight in office 5R 7/1 Pinkish Gray


Organizational: Sticky notes. A lot of sticky notes. Also I start early on big projects by writing outlines for papers or gathering sources/ making annotated bibliographies

Stress Relief: Indian food, Star Trek, baths.

Munsell: Dreamboat Dr. Julian Bashir’s bad turtleneck from Deep Space Nine Gley 2 – 4/10BG Dark Greenish Gray


One comment to Midterm Blues: Staying Afloat

  1. Ben Ford says:

    Normally I’d say a little panic is a good thing. Panic is motivating. Panic gives you clarity of focus. Panic helps you decide what to worry about and what to let go. I’ve spent the last decade is a state of mild panic and it’s helped me be productive. The few moments I didn’t feel the panic were the times I had forgotten about something important.

    That said, the wheel-spinning panic is no good. Spinning your wheels – being so overwhelmed that you can’t get traction so you jump from task to task or stare at a job and can’t even conceive of where to begin – is not healthy or helpful. At times like that you need a break. If you can, switch to a more manageable task (maybe a reading for class on Thursday), or just clean your apartment. Sometimes you need a day away. We used to drink cosmos and watch Emperor’s New Groove and Domino. Other folks find a good hike to be therapeutic. Whatever it takes to break the panic cycle – to slow your engine enough that the wheels can get purchase. Sometimes you just need sleep. Though sleep can be hard to come by when you are panicking. I’m not condoning drinking, but in my younger years I would sometimes have a few bourbons an hour or more before bed (usually while doing readings for class) so that my mind was partially off come bedtime.

    One last thought – organization. I used this in grad school and still try to use it today (though you folks wondering into my office make it much more difficult to manage). I had a daily and semester schedule. On a day to day basis there was time for different tasks and the times were allotted based on the task. Things that took my complete attention (writing, for example) got the good slots; things that I could do with less mind power got the tired slots (maybe making graphs or graphics or powerpoint slides). I also plotted out the weeks, getting tasks started early so that they wouldn’t be overwhelming later. A few hours a week on a project means that when it comes to putting it all together the week before it is due, there is less to do. Seriously, there is a reason why we put the assignments in the syllabus. It’s not a trap.

    None of this is rocket science, but I thought it might be helpful to know that you aren’t the only ones that struggle with stress and panic.

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