Thursday, July 10, 2014

Renewal and Reading

Wow x 2. It's been 24 hours, and I'm still affected by finding this blog yesterday. Not only was it long-forgotten, but it reappeared at the perfect time for me. I start my first independent academic position in August, which means that I have opportunities for new first impressions. It also means that, for the first time, I get to make my own decisions about my professional identity. My decisions will be informed by experience (see the previous post) and input from trusted colleagues, of course. But I'll get to make the final calls.

In light of this imminent transition, my newest hobby obsession is reading about becoming a productive and successful academic. I've gone through nearly the entire archives at Get a Life, Ph.D. and The Professor is In; I'm exploring related blogs about writing (e.g., Patter, Explorations of Style) and ProfHacker is on my to-do list. I also just finished New Faculty: A Practical Guide for Academic Beginners. This book has a wonderful mix of concrete suggestions (for teaching, scholarship, service, and navigating the environment), as well as thoughtful integration with abstract topics (deciding what success means to you, figuring out what you need to know about the environment). Thanks to the authors of these sources for their invaluable advice.

I've been saying for weeks that I seem to be procrastinating on actually being a productive and successful academic by reading about how others do it. I have two courses to prep and papers to write (as well as a house to pack), but I'm reading as voraciously as ever. I'm reading these sources the way I read novels, when I have the time to do so - spending hours thoroughly immersed. It's been a while since I've read "for work" in this way, which has bothered me for a while now. 

During the past few years, I have been pulled in so many different directions for projects that I haven't spent much time staying current in any one area. I look up what I need when I need it. This works in the very short-term, but it not a sustainable long-term strategy. I took the first step toward rectifying this problem yesterday, by blocking out time in my schedule to read a review article on social-psychological theories of body dissatisfaction in college women. I discovered something surprising - writing in 2011, the author calls for a specific next step in a research area. I answered that call in 2013, but didn't realize I was doing so! Although the manuscript was published, my arguments would have been even stronger if I had integrated this review. Another lesson learned!

Moving into an independent position affords greater control over my schedule and priorities, so I've already identified time for writing and reading in my weekly schedule. And I just established a writing accountability partnership with one of my best friends and collaborators - I'm excited to get started! Renewing this blog also has instilled accountability for reflecting on my own development. Sounds like I need to schedule time for blogging, as well....

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