A key component of TGC’s view of gospel-centered ministry is the integration of faith and work. We seek to help Christians work with distinctiveness, excellence, and accountability in their trades and professions. To aid in this effort we’re launching a new series, “How I Work,” in which we ask people to share their shortcuts, tools, and routines that help them do their jobs or fulfill their vocational roles. (The concept and format are borrowed from the excellent Lifehacker series on work.)
For our latest interview in this series I talked to Karen Swallow Prior, a professor of English at Liberty University and author of Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me and Fierce Convictions—The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More: Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist.
What are your current vocational roles?
I am Professor of English at Liberty University. I consider teaching to be my primary calling. I’m also a writer. I very much see that role as flowing out of my teaching.
What is one word that best describes how you work?
What types of social media do you frequently use?
I use both Facebook and Twitter a great deal. I’m prolific in social media. To a fault, perhaps.
What kind of workspace do you have?
When I’m home writing, I move around depending on the weather: the porch in pleasant weather, my front sitting room in more extreme temperatures. My dogs are always nearby.
What would you say your best time-saving shortcut is?
I wish I knew of some.
Do you have an exercise routine?
I run 5-6 days a week, preferably in the morning, from 4 to 8 miles. I do this as much for my mental health as physical health.
What are your work hours?
Because I teach classes, travel and speak, and write in between, my hours are very irregular. I am seldom “off.” Even skimming social media feeds into my writing and teaching. Several times a casual Facebook post has been turned into a writing assignment by my prowling editors.
Do you incorporate any spiritual disciplines into your work day processes?
My church, Thomas Road Baptist Church, has a Bible reading and devotional app that I turn to before I even get out of bed.
How do you manage what you have to do?
Barely. My work life has taken multiple directions in the last couple of years, and my organizational skills are still catching up.
What do you do to recharge?
Caring daily for my animals—horses, dogs, and chickens—keeps me grounded and happy. It also provides a comforting routine that is lacking in my chaotic work life.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
That’s taken a surprising change in the past couple of years. Because I’ve always had barn chores to do since I was a little girl, I’ve been a morning person most of my life. But I find that I write better at night, so I am becoming more of a night owl—but my limit is midnight.
What’s your sleep routine like?
To be honest, sleep is the absolute number one priority in my life. It’s embarrassing, but I have difficulty functioning without 8 to 9 hours of sleep. Every day’s schedule is built around that need.
Do you listen to music when you work?
When I write, I listen to classical or medieval music. I tend to listen to the same few CDs again and again. When I was writing Fierce Convictions, I listened to the same CD for over a year. Again, comfort in the chaos. My students tried to get me up to speed with Spotify, but it didn’t take.
How do you deal with distractions?
When I really need to focus, I use the Pomodoro method.
What’s the best work-related advice you’ve ever received?
Work hard. Play hard. It’s all about balance. And do everything as unto the Lord.
Other interviews in this series: