It feels like forever since I gave up disciplining myself. I think the last time I was really dedicated to my work was fall 2004–a time when I was motivated to forgo all other pleasures in favor of reading and preparing for seminar. I used to have a much longer attention span. Now I’m lucky if I can last an hour.

Last week I experimented in extreme self-discipline, turning down all (but one) invitations to play, and setting aside the entire week to do nothing but work on my dissertation. It went relatively well–I discovered that I could work quite steadily from about 9am to 12:30pm. But that’s where my success began and ended. Regardless of what approach I tried, I found it impossible to be productive in the afternoons. Around 6 or 7pm or I could sometimes pick myself up again. Maybe 9 or 10pm. Sometimes 11 or 12am. Yes, it was completely erratic.

The general problem, I’m finding, is that I defer all decisions to my body. I ask my body how it’s feeling, what it wants to do. I consult my head and check how lucid or alert it is. It’s as though I don’t want to suffer a single muscle strain. I give myself up completely to the mood of the day and the condition of my body, and then wonder why I’m not more self-disciplined…