Tag Archives: Grad Grrl

rules for the work day, or how to work productively from home

Since I work from home, it’s hard to stay focused some days. There are a multitude of distractions that come into play when your office is attached to your home, even when you live alone. As an academic I’ve spent a lot of time working from home before, but I’ve always had days when I had to go to my office on campus. Now that I have no campus office to go to (and sadly not even a coffee shop to use as my office given that I am frequently unable to drive), it’s more and more difficult to work the way that I would if I had a separation between work and home. So, from previous experience, a multitude of blogs and books written by people who work from home, and the little bit of common sense that I can muster, I’ve come up with a set of rules for myself to follow on weekdays. I’m posting them here as a method of holding myself accountable:

  1. By 9 am pajamas are off and “you might be seen in public” clothes are on. No pajama-like clothing allowed between 9 am and 6 pm. (Exception to the rule: lamb skin lined bedroom slippers. Comfy and warm shoes always trump common sense.)
  2. Work will be done in office at desktop computer and not in living room comfy chair with laptop. (Must resist the lure of comfy fireplace.)
  3. No tv as “background noise.” Pandora is acceptable as is other music and NPR, since I did this in my office on campus.
  4. Checking out what’s new on Uncommon Goods and ThinkGeek does not constitute working. Don’t visit these or other sites.
  5. Use David Seah‘s Printable CEO forms to track work time and projects. [Note: these are particularly good for freelance work as they make billing simpler. I’ve also found that they’re useful in keeping track of how much time you spend on academic projects and teaching tasks (e.g., grading, answering student emails, lesson planning, etc.).]

I’m sure that there will be more parts to this post as I come up with new rules and guidelines. Oh, and BTW– blogging is part of my work, so this counts. Sort of.

An Articulation of Trauma

The framework for understanding trauma that I am using in my dissertation defines trauma as the emotional/psychological impact to a person’s psyche as the result of an event, experience or set of experiences that overwhelm those individuals who experience it. This results in an inability to integrate the experience into their narrative memory, and it is this inability to integrate the traumatic experience(s) that results in a psychological state of being that impairs the trauma victim’s ability to live completely within the world of the present.  Instead of current actions and feelings, the trauma victim lives with both the horrific memories of the past and the fear that they engender.  Because traumatic memory is not integrated into the narrative memory, it cannot be controlled and recalled at will; rather, it is often elicited without the individual having a conscious choice and unlike memories subject to recall and control, these feel as though they are temporally present.  In addition to the ability of these memories to intrude upon the present, they are also responsible for the state of fear and hyper-vigilance that characterizes the life of the traumatized.  Thus, the memories themselves not only interfere with the ability of the traumatized to live in a current reality by intruding upon that reality; they also impair the individual’s ability to negotiate within the world around them because of the state of fear that they have engendered, both a fear of the traumatic event and a fear of the memory’s ability to surface and disrupt beyond their ability to control it.  Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the clinical term encompassing the development of these traits “following exposure to an extreme traumatic stressor” (DSM-IV 424).

To further clarify, when we use the term “memory,” we are usually referring to either “working memory” or “narrative memory.”  Working memory “holds short term information for the purposes of performing a current process” (Field 326).  On the other hand, narrative memory is a form of long-term memory in which past experiences have been integrated and are available for conscious recall and reflection.  Since trauma occurs “[u]nder extreme conditions, existing meaning schemes may be entirely unable to accommodate frightening experiences, which causes the memory of these experiences to be stored differently and not available for retrieval under ordinary conditions” (van der Kolk 160)*. This loss of meaning schema makes trauma narratives disjointed and fragmented.

*van der Kolk, B. (1996). Trauma and memory. In B. A. van der Kolk, A. C. McFarlane,
& L. Weisuth (Eds.) Traumatic stress : the effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. New York: Guilford Press.