It’s the fifth week of the semester and back in Oxford it would be time for people to start talking about “fifth week blues” and how we might deal with them. I’m experiencing some blues this week, although it’s the fifth of around 14 weeks rather than the fifth of eight. I’m having difficulties because I’m finding my study skills not to be up to scratch. I’m not sure that they have ever been up the level that they now need to be, but they’re definitely down below the level they were at (parts of) my time as an undergraduate at Oxford.

Here is how I think the problem goes. I feel that I am incapable of being right on top of the philosophical ball for as many hours a day as I seem to need to be. I’ve got to start by accepting that this stuff is hard and you can’t do it for more than around six hours a day (you can, of course, do a few more hours of stuff that’s not at your personal cutting edge, such as teaching duties). But then I’ve got to figure out which six hours of the day are high-energy hours, and how to capitalise on those. If I try to work hard at the times of day not suited to my bodily constitution or I fail to use the energy at those times effectively by having good study skills, I’ll end up trying to be high-energy for more than the six hours. Then it’s like trying to recharge a battery that’s already pretty close to empty by just plugging in for a few minutes a time when you get the chance, and then struggling on very little energy for all the rest of the time. What I think this shows up is a need for high awareness and careful management of personal energy levels.

Today I abandoned a reading group meeting and took some time out to analyse some areas of my study where I think I can try some new things in order to develop my skills, and I wrote this blog post. As ever, the issue is that I feel a need to fix everything at once and so end up not fixing anything. I’d like to get better at taking time out just to relax but also to make decisions to work on particular small things; in the midst of the working day I can’t trust myself to make that kind of decision to not worry about a particular skillset.