Thursday, December 4, 2008

Whackamole and Wild Dogs

I was talking with an acquaintance today about a mutual project. She said she wanted to tackle it "just as soon as things calm down" for her. I was reminded how often I say the same thing. Problem is, things never calm down, do they? Sometimes I feel like my life is an ongoing whackamole game. Just as soon as I pound down one head with the mallet, another pops up. In a previous life, when going through a divorce, I spent a lot of time at ChuckECheeze with my daughter since it was safe, cheap, and fun for her. That's when I started my love/hate relationship with whackamole. Yes, I did pretend the popup heads were my ex's noggin. It gave me a bit of satisfaction to smack them down, and I got pretty darn good at the game. Just now I went looking around for information on whackamole (or whack-a-mole) and discovered that lots of people make this same comparison of the game to a busy schedule. Here is a business blog with some tips about dealing with this problem that are relevant for anybody:

In the spirit of do-as-I-say-not-do-as-I-do, I have actually given presentations on the topic of time management, and here is a link to one of these:

Lately I fear my stress has been ratcheted up, caussing a more dire mental image to haunt my thoughts. Ever since I took my latest job, I have had the feeling that I am being pursued by a pack of wild dogs. These are very big bad snarling dogs with slathering muzzles and sharp pointed fangs, and they are after me as I run down a dirt road. Sometimes they fade back into the woods a bit and I gain some distance on them, but other times they are literally nipping at my heels. These dogs are my unfinished (unstarted?) projects and obligations. I have even given them names. One is named Belltones, after a column that I love to write but whose deadlines I seem to crowd more and more. Another is named 591, the number of a class I teach. Other dogs have names such as: Grant (I am administrator of an IMLS grant), Cohort (I am working on starting up some cohort groups), TCEA (presentation coming up), TLA (another prez), and those that hound me every day such as Email, Budget, Travel Study, TExES (I help students review for this standardized test) and Blog (yes, this blog is one of those wild dogs). Blog dog always runs back in the pack. I cannot even pay attention to him unless I have dealt with some of the others, much as I would like to. Today was a good day. I subdued Belltones by finishing a column, so he will not come to the front of the pack for up to six weeks. I also pacified email and TExES. Thus I was able to give Blog a bit of attention. No, I am NOT caught up everywhere but I did make some progress.

Postscript: Here is the one thing that I find most useful in keeping the worry dogs at bay: Tadalist. This free online service allows me to keep to-do lists that are essential for reminding me what I need to do, when deadlines are set, etc. The URL is:
This plus Google Calendar are my online saviors. The other reminder and assistant I cannot live without is my department secretary. Thanks Rebecca for all you do!


  1. Hi Mary Ann,

    I've found the only way to get rid of stress is to find someone else to pass it on to! Delegate.

    All the best,


  2. I enjoyed this post, Dr. Bell. I have often felt like I was playing the game at Chuck E. Cheese where you whack the heads, but I never knew it was called "whack-a-mole"!