Friday, June 23, 2017

Where On Earth Did Year 3 Go? And Other Mysteries

It's been almost a year since I wrote a blog post. I bet you can guess what happened! The short version is that I thoroughly enjoyed my summer (while still being productive) and then was quickly swept away in what often seems like a complete blur of a year. Oh I remember every agonizing moment (and some positive moments), but it went by FAST, and there was always something pressing that needed attention. That should have been my first clue - an entire year with no lulls in the pace of work? Bad news. And bad planning. I admit that I emerged as a person I don't want to be: irritable, negative, overtired. Generally not my best self, and I committed to addressing that as soon as grades were submitted.

What did I learn from this unpleasant experience? Probably nothing that I didn't know already, but apparently I needed a harsh reminder. First, it's not as easy as "learn to say no." That's excellent advice and academics should follow it. But I said no, often. I turned down manuscript review and guest lecture invitations and I let students know that the lab couldn't support anyone new. I passed on some opportunities to participate in professional society and university committee activities and was relieved when someone else was selected for a particularly time-consuming position. Despite multiple requests, I said no to a large set of responsibilities that required summer work. In fact, I might have said no more than I said yes, but the pace was worse than ever. And it wasn't as though the opportunities I said yes to were just the wrong ones to choose. 

Me, giving the keynote address
at my university's Wellness Day
for faculty and staff.
I'm not certain about what went wrong. My hypothesis is that the balance was off - that there were too many recurring, long-term, or ongoing commitments (e.g., regular meetings, being available/not writing during RAs' work hours, organizing and promoting upcoming events) and not enough one-off/short-term tasks, or too many of the latter interspersed with the former. Definitely too many commitments that required me to corral other people; great service if you do it one at a time, but more than one at any given time is a recipe for frustration. And definitely not enough scheduled, protected writing time.

Why was the lack of writing time particularly harmful? Probably not for the reason(s) you'd guess. Sure, not sitting down and "slapping my mitts" against a keyboard (as Paul Silvia would say) made me a bit anxious about my productivity level, and the anxiety was warranted; I submitted fewer manuscripts this year than last, and thus, have fewer acceptances to date. But the difference really isn't that big, and the manuscripts I did produce had some important consequences for me. (For example, one of them got me a consultant position with a fantastic research institute.) Plus, I gave lots of talks (at professional conferences and invited talks on campus/in the community), got highly involved with my primary professional society (which has been great fun and has introduced me to wonderful people), and did A LOT of service. All of this is expected and needs to get done, and I still managed to get a few papers out. 

The problem wasn't just that I wasn't as productive as I wanted to be. It was that I genuinely missed writing. I have to work hard at it to generate high-quality products, as most of us do, and of course, that process isn't always enjoyable. Neither is the review process, most of the time. But the process of sitting down with a cup of coffee, putting ideas to paper, finding new published research that informs what I'm writing/finding ways to integrate it, and coming up with new, exciting hypotheses as I go - I really, really missed it. I didn't realize how important that is to me, or how happy it makes me, until I came back to it at the start of the summer. The difference was startling.

I have lots of ideas about how to address this problem, and I've already put some of them into action. First, absolutely no email or other work-related activities on weekends or after 5:00pm on weekdays (except for true emergencies, which are rare). I'm increasingly intolerant of the expectation that I'll respond during these times, even during active semesters, but especially in the summer. Second, I committed to a personal goal of completing my 7th marathon in the fall, and I'm training correctly by taking extra time to cross-train, build muscle, eat well, and keep a log. (Much more on this later.) Third, I make space for "quiet time" every day - reading, logging, and/or just thinking about the things I enjoy. The latter can include work, if I choose, but it doesn't have to. 

Finally, keeping up with this blog. I don't pretend to have sage advice or answers to life's most pressing problems. But writing these posts keeps me organized and accountable, and it fits well with item #3 above. As a preview, here are some topics you can expect to read about this summer:
- Summer lab management at an undergraduate institution
- My faculty summer writing retreats
- Running and research, Parts 2-X (see here for Part 1)
- Organizing the personal (in a healthy way)
- Reading as downtime

Stay tuned!

This is your life moment of the year: "Whatever we pay attention to is what we become." - Alanna Kaivalya. For me, this means paying more attention to aspects of my life other than work, and being fully present during these times. And when working, giving it my full awareness. Otherwise, I become that person I really don't want to be.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Taking a Real Summer "Break"

Happy SummerIf you've ready any previous posts on this blog, then you're likely familiar with my perpetual goal of taking a real break/vacation at some nonspecific point in the future. After the Spring semester I had (i.e., gave myself), I need a break more than ever. I spent last summer managing and analyzing data, writing a solo-authored manuscript, and drafting a related grant application. I also traveled for events that did not allow much relaxation time; two weddings, a project trip, and two weeks in Brooklyn for a training program. I'm guessing that I worked at 85-90% of academic year effort, which is not a break. As this summer approached - my second summer on the tenure track - my mantra was DO NOT REPEAT.

Unlike my work goals, though, my break goal is the definition of vague. What? When? Where? How will I know whether I did what I set out to do? What is it that I'm trying to achieve, exactly? Even when it comes to not-working, clarity is helpful.


My kiddie pool in the backyard.
Getting it right. My first priority for the summer is to rest. Easier said than done, as many of us know, and what does that really look like? For me, rest means taking evenings and weekends completely off, and spending that time either lying in the sun with reading material or binge watching Netflix/HBO. (Also sleeping at least eight hours per night.) I started on this path as soon as Spring grades were submitted. I slept; I watched all available episodes of Marvel's Daredevil and quickly moved on to True Blood. (Neither is typical for me, but I loved both. Which is cool in its own right.) I'm now on season four of Veep AND season two of True Detective. And I bought a kiddie pool to stay cool outside.

But the relaxation was broken up by nagging guilt about not-working. I should be writing X paper or drafting Y section of my upcoming grant submission! Think of everything I could get done if I worked just a little more! I was on the path to self-sabotage already, and beating myself up for it wasn't helping. So step #2 was clarifying what needs to get done this summer, what I'd like to get done this summer, and ongoing work that likely will not get done this summer. This also meant planning around some deadlines and travel and coordinating with summer RAs to maximize work time. 

Seeing this plan helped me realize how much I'll be able to do even as I work less than usual. Having a major deadline early in the summer also helped, and I used extra time off as a reward for meeting that deadline. (I submitted days in advance, actually, and I didn't experience the stress frenzy that usually comes toward the end. Planning works even better than I anticipated.)

Step #3 involved creating an intervention for those times when guilt still nags at me. We can't stop ourselves from having negative thoughts, but we can redirect them to more balanced, accurate thoughts. As a clinical health psychologist, I know very well that taking breaks improves efficiency and leads to higher quality work than does running yourself into the ground. This is something I help others realize and implement, but find difficult to do for myself. 

For example, recently I took a three-day weekend, just because. I worked hard during the week and I was ready to relax. As I sat on the couch or on the deck, relaxing, I found myself thinking you're being really lazy - you're really not going to accomplish ANYTHING this weekend? Sounds terrible when I say it like that. But then I called to mind my Spring-semester self: exhausted, irritable, and not incredibly productive. My current less-exhausted, cheerier, productive self then shifted to this is good for me (and the people I care about), and I was free from negativity for a good while. Breaks work wonders.

Also, non-work goals. If you've read previous posts on this blog, you also might remember that my "hobby" is running. I've run a bunch of half-marathons, six marathons, and an ultra-marathon (31+ miles). I'm slow, but speed isn't the point. I decided to run my first marathon in graduate school, simply because I needed a goal that was personal; not related to professional achievement and just for me. It was an incredible experience and I kept it up for years. 

But since I started my tenure-track job, I haven't been able to make the mental commitment to training. (That alone should tell me something.) I did a half-marathon in my third week on the job, which was fun but not great; it was a gorgeous day on a gorgeous trail and I finished in a respectable time, but I wasn't well trained due to recent illness. I wrestled with the idea of a fall marathon this year - as you have to plan months in advance - but I still couldn't pull the registration trigger. I kept up my usual running and strength training schedule, but it was more out of habit and fear of losing fitness than out of love or excitement. I renewed my subscription to a running magazine just to have some sort of running cue in my house. I needed a goal.

Having that running magazine around recently allowed me to pick up an issue when I felt particularly despondent. Reading about gear, trails, races, and other runners' enthusiasm brought me back up, and I committed to a fall event: a running "hat trick," or three races in two days. It's a back-to-back 5K and 10K on a Saturday, then a half-marathon (13.1 miles) on Sunday. It's a new challenge for me, and it really helped - I've enjoyed running more since I registered than I have in over a year. Together with rest, sun, and continuing to work on projects I care about, running is lifting the Spring-semester cloud.

This is your life moment of the week: Overall, I'm happy to report that this summer is going well on all fronts. I had to plan for this and commit to it, and I've been able to strike the right balance for me. So if you're struggling, try focusing on these for the second half of the summer, identify relaxation/hobby goals. Put those academic skills to work for non-work!

Share how your summer is going and how you're taking a break this year!

Monday, May 23, 2016

It's MAY?? Spring Semester, Conference Season, and Keeping Up

Wow. This was both the shortest and longest semester in the past 10 years, and it taught me a lot about my professional habits. Not just about a tendency to take on more than a human can manage (as many of us do), but how it happens, how I handle it, and what happens to me as a result. The short version is BAD - as in, I've already made many public commitments to avoid ever putting myself in this situation again. A good deal of reflection has led to some useful conclusions, including the meaningful rewards of all that hard work.

Conclusion #1: When presented with an opportunity to begin a new project, I focus solely on the potential scientific benefits (including "that sounds so cool!"). Unfortunately, I don't attend to the details of how the project will be carried out - whether anyone has generated a list of all relevant tasks, who is in charge of which tasks, how long each one will take, and what the standard is for completion. Which is strange, because I'm a planner! I schedule my activities carefully and I've rarely had difficulty keeping up with ongoing tasks. But without soliciting all of the relevant information above and/or making key decisions ahead of time, my plans get blown up regularly, and I lose hours on tasks that I thought would take 30 minutes. That means something else just isn't going to get attention. 

Poster #8 of the Semester
Similarly, when it's time to prepare for my favorite conferences (or for our internal student research day), it sounds like a great idea to submit 7-8 abstracts at a time. It's only when preparing posters and presentation slides (or making multiple rounds of edits to student posters) that I remember "I didn't have to do ALL of this." Tired much, academic in this photo? ---->

As many academics suggest, it would be useful to have a clearer long-term plan and concrete targets to hit. Then I can reference the plan when new opportunities are presented: does this fit, and does it help me meet my target? If it will put me beyond the target, is it enough to justify the time and effort of the project?

Conclusion #2: I'm a perfectionist/control freak. This is a tough one for me to admit. I have high standards and there is a right way to do much of what I do, so I tend to insist that it be done this way. It's easy to see the problems that such tendencies create, such as making more work (and possibly, friction) for myself than is absolutely necessary. And of course, it's just generally uncomfortable to doubt that you're a good collaborator.

At the same time, there are good reasons to insist that work be done in a particular way. Junior investigators, in particular, have to be aware of how we're building our reputations and whose standards we use to evaluate our work - especially if we work on multidisciplinary teams, as norms differ across fields. This feeds back to #1, in that potential difficulties can be avoided with thorough conversations up front. 

I'm still in the process of deciding whether to focus on changing this tendency or accepting it and adapting to it (e.g., with early conversations and the attitude that not everything is worth doing). I suspect that there is a happy medium.

Conclusion #3: I hit my limits before I expect to. I can tough it out through busy, stressful times - I have a lot of practice and I hate to be a complaint factory. So I expected to be okay for the first few months of the semester, and to feel the effects in the last few weeks. In truth, I was burnt out two weeks before spring break (i.e., five weeks in). I had little energy for socializing, which usually invigorates me, and my work didn't quite meet those high standards of mine. 

I didn't realize how spent I was until I traveled for a conference and friends inquired about my well-being. They didn't think I was on the verge of a meltdown, but they could tell that something was off. Then it hit me pretty hard. In response, I took the opportunity to rest and see the sights more than I originally planned. It helped a lot, and probably saved me some sanity down the road. As a result, I'll be more careful to take breaks (always a downfall), check in with myself, and communicate realistic time frames for completed work.

Conclusion #4: Staying mindful of positivity and the power to change can get me through. Throughout this crazy semester, I prefaced (or added the caveat to) any complaining with the acknowledgements that (1) everything on my plate was good, and (2) I made my own bed. I'm fortunate to have the opportunities I have (people want to work with me, yay!), and I have some ability to modify my schedule and commitments as I see fit (flexibility, also yay). As a clinical psychologist, I know that most people can handle difficulty if they know that it's temporary. Hope and optimism are pretty powerful; it's the lack of confidence that circumstances will improve that really gets us. My little reminders - which were accurate - kept me from getting lost in negativity. So I'll keep up those mantras whenever staying afloat seems more difficult than it should be.

Clinical Health Psychology Lab
Conclusion #5: It's all worth it. Really. I had some important successes this semester. I had a first-authored paper accepted in a great journal and my first NIH grant received a decent score. Another grant was reviewed very favorably by a mock study section. I made some critical connections at conferences. I gave many guest lectures. And I finally recovered from surgery and got back to my normal exercise routine.

Most important of all, though, were my students' successes. One was accepted at a prestigious medical school and one at an ideal masters program for her. I supervised three undergraduate Honors theses, which were my first; one of them received an Honorable Mention for our Library Research Prize and that student won two awards from our department. I mentored five additional students to posters at our research day (See photographic evidence, and #1....) 

Our Lab at Senior Awards Night
Seeing my students do well was hugely rewarding. It was the first time that I got to feel true pride in someone else's accomplishments (rather than just happiness for them), as I knew the role I played in each. And, unsurprisingly, it shifted my perspective on the long hours, sleep deprivation, and decreased socializing. I love the work for its own sake, and I'm so grateful that I get to share this with students. (Stay tuned for more commentary on this process.)

This is your life lessons of the semester: Know thyself, ask questions, and keep your eyes on the horizon.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Year, New Outlook?

Three weeks in. Though we've had almost three weeks to get used to writing "2016," I'll admit that I still have one foot in my 2015 mindset - the one that served me well as a trainee, but now shows diminishing returns. Namely, a mindset that pushes me to take on as much as humanly possible in order to squeeze out as much useful information as I can. There's just so much to be learned about the topics that I care about. But so far this year, I'm paying attention to the costs.

For example, I know that it's perfectly acceptable (and possibly desirable) to attend a conference without submitting to present at it. But when conference season rolls around, I don't even consider this option. Partly because I'm in the habit of gearing my projects toward conference deadlines, but partly because.... why the hell not? Conferences are such a great way to get the word out about my work! 

Me, presenting at a
conference last year.
But it's always the same. I start with one or two main submissions; as I prep abstracts, I get ideas for other submissions; I want students to present, of course, so there's a few more. Before you know it, I'm presenting a talk and five posters, plus three posters that I'll co-author (across two conferences). And just for fun, these conferences are within two weeks of each other this year! That's a lot of conference prep. On top of teaching, supervising honors theses, service, and running a four-month intervention study. (At least two of these activities also could go in the "probably not necessary" bin.)

WHY?? This product-focused mindset was not born merely of ambition, CV building, or the desire for tenure. I love what I do, and I want to discuss it with my clever peers (some of whom I only see at conferences). But this mindset has drawbacks: I spend little time on leisure activities,* I don't read for pleasure very often anymore, I don't travel much,** my house could be a lot cleaner. And I could be healthier. Healthy is the one that gets me these days.

As a clinical health psychologist, I'm well aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and I do pretty well. I practice a lot of what I preach; I run, I watch what I eat,. But I don't always attend to problems in a timely fashion, which can make the problems worse. Case in point: I've had a chronic, low-grade health problem for years, and in August, I finally went to have it checked out. After a five-month whirlwind of doctors and tests, I recently underwent a (minor) surgical procedure to fix the problem. My first surgery, in fact, so I wasn't sure what to expect. The short version is TIRED. VERY TIRED, NEED TO LIE DOWN, CAN'T GO FAST (physically or mentally). I've had to admit to myself that I cannot, and should not, push myself like I usually do.

What am I doing instead? I leave work by 4:00 and I nap a lot, which still is difficult to believe. I walk on the treadmill, rather than run. And I read. How glorious it is to have time for reading again! Honestly, I forgot how much I love to read. And I joined a reading group - my first one! For the group, which is meeting next week, I already tore through Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist and started Rebecca Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me. Gay's set of essays was particularly familiar, as it articulated something I've long felt but couldn't put words to (a subject for another post). I'm also doing preparatory reading for courses, including texts on gender and illness, neuroscience, and psychotherapy supervision. 

This is your life moment of the new year: Forced relaxation serves as a great reminder to make time for LIFE during the semester.*** One of these days, that message will stick. Let's hope it's in 2016!



*Other than watching Netflix, of course.
**By "much" I mean "at all," unless you count overnights to Philly for work (2 hours away).
***To be fair, all of this (including the surgery) is possible because spring semester hasn't started yet.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The 2015 Wrap-Up

It's that time. The very end of a calendar year, when 95% of people you know will look back on the year and set goals for the next. I look forward to reading all of the academic blog posts about 2015 progress.* I've charted my productivity once or twice per month this  year, so I don't intend for this to be a simple re-hash. As many have observed, blogging has the advantage of allowing for true reflection - as you put your thoughts about previous events on screen, we see patterns or points that we don't see in the moments that events occur. So here is my 2015 reflection.

Productivity Highlight
Due to the variability in publication timelines, I had eight articles published this year. Thus, looking at my CV, 2015 has been my most productive year by far.** But behind the positive outcome, there are several years of frustration; as I look back, I feel the echo of these experiences. These papers written and revised between 2011 and 2015, and were accepted between 2013 and 2015. So they reflect three different affiliations and phases of my career (internship, postdoc, and tenure-track positions). I received, and continue to receive, excellent training mentorship in all of the skills relevant to my job. This is evident from the ability I now have to design, conduct, and publish an intervention study in one calendar year. 

But as we know, getting to that point can be difficult. There is a steep learning curve on scientific writing and publishing, and limited opportunities until you get a firm handle on collecting your own data. As a trainee, the transition from one institution to another presents a range of challenges, even for the most motivated researcher. New mentors and labmates (some of whom are now quite junior, which is novel), and new responsibilities. Importantly, many of these responsibilities have nothing to do with getting your own publications out. Although this is your highest and most pressing priority (for securing a permanent job as quickly as possible), this can seem like an afterthought to supervisors. Many of us understand the intense frustration of this situation. You also may be dealing with completely unfamiliar data sets, some of which come with very little institutional memory for procedural details (due to trainee graduation/turnover). The freedom of a tenure-track position offers sweet relief, and the space to reconnect with genuine love for the work itself.

When I look back at 2015, I see the fruits of my internal labor - the culmination of my struggle to accept a lack of independence and make the best of a difficult situation for me. As noted, I received fantastic training, which I can now fully appreciate and put to use. In addition to the papers that came out this year, I also had several papers and book chapters accepted,*** submitted several more, and made my first foray into the world of federal grant pursuit. Of note, work in each of these areas has involved collaboration with former supervisors. It's wonderful to see so much time and effort finally pay off.

Other Highlights
This year included many other positives:
  • I have an amazing group of students who have enjoyed their own achievements this year - acceptance to several medical schools, their own data collection, poster presentations, and internal grant applications, and the development of new and exciting skills. 
  • I did my first two radio interviews about my research: Super Human Radio and RadioMD.
  • I've begun to collaborate with faculty in other departments and at other institutions, and there are many exciting opportunities on the horizon. 
  • I completed the first half of an NIH-sponsored training program in cardiovascular medicine. Though this program, I learned a ton and met an incredible group of young faculty from all over the country. (I also got a two-week, all-expenses-paid Brooklyn experience. And I get another one in June!)
  • I reviewed grants for the Northeastern Pennsylvania Komen cancer affiliate, and I'll do this again in January.
  • I was invited to join a faculty writing accountability group at my institution, and I've enjoyed many benefits of this experience. 
  • Both #AcWriMo and #AcWriAdv reminded me that I love to write, and that writing is better with a community. (And I was featured on one of my favorite blogs, Stylish Academic!)
This is your life moment of the year: It was a great one. Now let's make 2016 great.


*Even though the end of the regular year is only the midpoint of the academic's year, so we have a different type of calendar-year reflection.
**Not that this Google list is correct in terms of dates. Dates here are when the articles were first available online; "published" = out in print version of journal.
***And some rejected, of course. I actually don't know how many of each.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

#AcWriMo Wrap-Up

Sadly, AcWriMo 2015 is overDelighted to report that it was another successful and supportive month, through some setbacks. As noted, I set both product and process goals; the latter was particularly helpful this time (i.e., scheduling writing for two hours per day on three days per week, one of these days at a coffee shop). My main product goal was to make progress on two manuscripts with undergraduate students, as those can get lost in the shuffle. 

Using the 2x3x(1/coffeeshop) method, I found myself more enthusiastic about these projects. I even snuck in some unscheduled writing on these, which I posted on using #unexpectedacwri. One stalled due to data analysis problems (as I want the student to lead that component), but I ended AcWriMo with a complete, nearly-polished draft of the other. My goal is to submit that one before Christmas. I also edited a paper/sent it to coauthors, applied for and received an internal grant for Intersession (January), and made a good deal of progress on an external grant application. And I reread Paul Silva's excellent How to Write a Lot, which doubled by resolve. I connected with some great people along the way, including @meganehatch, @llmunroe, and @EllieMackin. The mutual support of the community members really is what makes this event work so well. Thank you to everyone who participated, and to PhD2Published for hosting!

Admittedly, I did not truly tackle my huge revise-and-resubmit invitation, due in late January. I sat down to plan the revisions and realized that it's going to take more deep thinking than I anticipated (plus some additional analyses). So that one is on deck for the next few weeks.

Luckily, AcWriAdv is here! Via Twitter, I learned that a group of academics picked up on November 29th and will continue until December 24th (in "celebration" of Advent). The group is much smaller than the AcWriMo group, but following the hashtag is just as beneficial. This week, I made tables for the nearly-there manuscript, added to grant content, and got some much-needed feedback on a grant aims page. Goals for this coming week (finals week) are to finalize the manuscript and revise the aims, in the midst of grading. And I'll meet with my student to plan next steps for the second manuscript.

What's next? My institution has all of January off for Intersession.... perhaps I'll keep the ball rolling with #AcWriInt?


Sunday, November 22, 2015

#AcWriMo and Writing Accountability - Nearly There!

A little more than halfway there! It's Day 22 of Academic Writing Month. As I've shared, I'm tracking progress for the blog Stylish Academic and updating on Twitter. I'm also participating in a faculty writing accountability group at my institution. With all of this external accountability, its about time for some deeper-than-140-characters reflection on progress thus far.

As someone who has been moderately productive to date, my interest in external accountability sources is more for the camaraderie than for the kick in the pants. (Though the kick definitely does help!) Specific to AcWriMo, breaking down my goals into concrete product and process steps has been particularly helpful. I teach three courses per semester and each course three days per week, so writing tends to happen in fits and starts, rather than regularly. And it's much too easy for me to prioritize my own work over collaborative work for which I'm not the PI. Probably not that unusual, but it holds up progress on multiple projects - particularly projects that involve undergraduate student co-authors. (Because those do exist.)

This year, I was in a good position to move these projects to the forefront. I submitted an NIH grant and major revisions to a manuscript in October, so I had cleared the way for the more careful thought needed toward the beginning of a manuscript. And I committed - to myself, my writing group, and the AcWriMo community - that I would make progress on two student co-authored manuscripts (in addition to my higher-priority work). Here is where we stand.

The bad news. This month started out well. I set aside time for writing both during the week and on the weekend, and I made it to a coffee shop during the first week. Then I was out of town for a conference; worked a bit while I was there, but picked up some awful throat-based plague from the airplane.* Came home to a raging throat/head cold that resulted in losing my voice for almost a week. In the middle of that week, I had longer-term medical issues to handle. (All VERY unusual for me - I'm pretty healthy!) So my process goal (two hours of writing per day on three days per week, at a coffee shop one day per week) was heavily disrupted during one of only two full weeks during the month. In addition, one of my student co-authors was supposed to make progress on our manuscript while I was gone. He ran into some roadblocks and ended up with no forward movement. That's life - we can't stop the unexpected. Fortunately, I learned a long time ago that flexibility wins the day.

The good news. On the bright side, I submitted an internal grant proposal and an IRB application this month, and my revision was accepted. Moreover, I've accomplished something that I've long struggled to make work for me. Many of us like (and are most productive when we have) large chunks of time to write. Makes sense, as this allows us to become immersed in the project and focused on its needs. With shorter time frames, we barely get our heads back into the project before we have to move on. But as my graduate mentor always told me, the most productive scholars are those who find ways to maximize 15-30 minute blocks for writing. I believed him, though I never saw myself as capable of achieving this zen-like writing flow.


Excited about 45 minutes of
unplanned writing.
In the past two weeks, however, I've done this several times; 30 minutes here, 45 minutes there, 15 minutes on data analysis if need be. I find that this actually minimizes the amount of time necessary to get my head back into the project. The more familiarity I have with the material, the less time it takes to orient myself, and the more I can get done in small chunks. Importantly, I'm also more enthusiastic about the project than I was when I procrastinated on it. This approach has allowed me to come close to finishing the first draft of a student co-authored manuscript, despite interruptions in my schedule. 

Finally, I had the opportunity to give a research presentation to the faculty at my institution yesterday. Preparing for, delivering, and answering questions during this event pulled some threads of my research program into sharper focus. And it seemed to go very well, which got me even more excited about finishing the semester strong.

Toward the AcWriMo finish line. My goals are to continue with my 2/2/2h + 2-at-a-coffee-shop approach for the final week of AcWriMo, focused on finishing that manuscript draft and progressing on a grant application. The second manuscript might have to move back down the priority list if the student isn't able to make progress; I'll help him avoid this as much as I can. Looking forward to the final update in just over a week.

Happy writing!

*Not surprising. Any time you fly to Orlando, you end up on a plane with sick children going to Disney World.