I count 110 days until I’m taking qualifying exams. Over the past 24
days, I have read and annotated 19 units–books and articles combined. I’m not
making any distinction between books and articles for now, even though I know
that I need an hour for an article and ~6 for a book. My notes for each are
roughly equivalent coming out at around 1-2 pp. The first 19 units fit in while
teaching two online courses together enrolling ~50 students (my fall will not be
so engorged…with teaching, but, of course, the fall will be babyful, so the
formulas are all amiss). Because I’ll lose my mind if I work constantly, I took
fifteen minutes to monkey around with my lists as a bar graph. When I paste the
sets into a spreadsheet, Excel tells me there are 169 items in my three lists

I think of it like a fundraising chart:

Holy smokes. Bleak friggin’ outlook for being exam-ready by November.
Unless! I glanced through the remaining 150 items (remember, 110 days or 2,640
hours, however you want to break it down) and I have read 56 of them. I
56 out of the 150 remaining. I simply need to dash out a few
reliable notes. Remainder: 94 units in 110 days. If one-third are
articles and two-thirds are books, then I’m amping up for 403 hours of
grindstone. Tack on another 50 hours for annotating the familiar 56 units
and it comes to 459 hours. Just over five hours per day, not
counting weekends. Or, more my style, eleven hours one day followed by a day on
the couch reading fiction and watching television…and again and again. Well,
and I have some expendables built in, so I could drop ten units without
offending anyone or read super-selectively, etc. But given that I haven’t had
what I would characterize as a remarkable working month (even take it to six
weeks), I guess that it still seems possible to be exam-proof in the fall.


  1. Okay, but you recognize that it’s completely all right if you don’t get to all of them. Or do all of them the justice you may feel they deserve. And that everything’s going to be just wonderful, regardless.

    Signed, the woman who often forgets these things

  2. Yeah, I’ll grant that this is mostly self-parody, even if I haven’t done enough to be explicit about it as such. If I blog about it from time to time, I’m more likely to come close and to leave a trail of the pleasurable absurdity in reading so intensely for the official purpose of a scant few hours of writing (when the value ultimately lies in the exam process’s deeper rhythms and structure).

  3. Now I’m thinking I want a fundraising thermometer graph for all my work. Like, amount of cleaning to do, or papers left to grade…

Comments are closed.