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Embracing the Cult of Done

3 Feb

The Cult of Done Manifesto: I have this hanging above my desk now.I have a new motto for my tenure track journey:

DONE.

Just get it freakin’ DONE.

I’m just at a point in my academic career where I feel a strong sense of urgency. I completed my dissertation 3+ years ago. I spent 2 years in a visiting position, and I’ve been in my current tenure track job 1.5 years– long enough to learn the ropes and feel settled. Long enough to have a system for prepping and teaching, and long enough to have some committee commitments that (shouldn’t) take too much of my time.

So I could keep working through (hitting my head against) details like perfectionism, when to write, where to write, feeling confident enough to write, what counts as finished, etc. etc. OR I could just write. For the sake of getting the crap in progress finished already. I don’t know what clicked for me in the past month, but I’m at the point of just wanting to get stuff done.

“Whatever you mean to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” — Doris Lessing (1919-2013)

Here’s the thing: I love my job. I feel incredibly fortunate to not just have landed a tenure track job in the market, but to have wound up at a public institution where my commitment to social justice is needed and welcomed. I feel supported. I have room to develop my own research plans and to grow as a teacher and scholar.

This is all fantastic (I truly feel like I landed my dream job) BUT my career is also my own. Yes, there are things I want to do at this university in terms of teaching and service, and it excites me to get to work toward these plans. But, my own career as a scholar has to stand on it’s own. I have my own plans for what I want to spend my career researching and learning. Acting on those plans is not just key for getting tenure, but makes me happy and makes me feel whole as a scholar.

One wonderful part of finally having a tenure track job is having to plan future research projects. For example, we have to apply for teaching release time a year ahead of when we’ll get it. When I sat down to work on my research proposal (admittedly at the last minute), I was still thinking very much like a graduate student. What would my dissertation committee advise me to do? What did little graduate student me, way back then, think might be the next direction for my research after the dissertation? I forced myself to write something up. It was just eh.

Then I realized that I didn’t really want to do that! Not only that– I actually didn’t HAVE TO do it! No one was holding me to any research plans I might have written about in job applications! My dissertation committee (a brilliant bunch whose advice I value tremendously) wasn’t evaluating me any more! My colleagues and dean would be happy with whatever research I was productively doing. In fact, I could do any research I wanted! I have a PhD! I’m the one in the driver’s seat!

So, I scrapped what I wrote and cranked out a proposal for the research project I want to do next. And I was excited about my research and scholarship for the first time in a long time. That’s motivating for me. And it’s propelled me into this semester with a new sense of purpose.

Now going forward with new research means finishing up publishing the old project. So, thus the Cult of Done.

It doesn’t matter when or where I write. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect. It only matters that I sit down and do it a little bit every day, and that I get it done.

“The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done!”

Happy 2014: Woman Working Edition

31 Dec

It’s hard to believe 2013 is nearly over. It’s been a busy year and it’s gone by incredibly fast. For once I didn’t make any major moves and didn’t start a new job. Instead this was my first full year spent settling into my tenure track job. I have some more detailed posts planned about my academic goals and scheduling/juggling techniques, but for now I’ll just take a bit of stock of the last year, and where I’d like to go in 2014.

2013 in Review:

  • After the dust settled from my first semester at my new school, I realized how much I really, truly love my job. I love the school where I work. I love my colleagues. I love that I have the room and support to take charge of my research and decide what I want to do next. Something like only 13% of people like going to work— I’m among those lucky 13%. I get to teach what I want and research what I want. What more could I ask for?
  • I’ve become much more comfortable in the classroom. I’m better with the students who try to pull one over on me– I have a better radar for them. And I am better at recognizing the students who are truly working hard and encouraging their growth. I remember that first class I taught by myself at the school where I had my VAP (I didn’t come out of grad school with much teaching experience) and I can’t believe how fresh-faced and visibly nervous I must have been! How far I’ve come since then!
  • I’m honing in more and more on my own teaching style. I do more assignments and activities that empower students to learn on their own. I do less lecturing. I’m honest in the classroom about what they need to learn, and why, and what standpoint I come from. I listen to my students more and try to incorporate what they know into the classroom. After spending some time getting to know my students (first generation, poor, mostly non-white students), I know that they know a heck of a lot more in a practical sense about what I’m teaching (racism, inequality, poverty) and I work to draw out that knowledge. I’m a work in progress, but I feel that I am making some headway.
  • I’ve become more liberal, more progressive, more radical (if that was even possible), and more passionate about addressing injustice. As a result, I’ve become less tolerant of beliefs that people hold out of ignorance that actually cause harm to others. Someone wants to vote conservative? Sure, go for it, but I won’t respect the fact that they’re voting for candidates who support policies that perpetuate inequality and  that literally cost people their lives. Yes, I am still committed to a dialogue and believe that people can change, but I’m no longer tolerating crap like “love the sinner, hate the sin” or “people should just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”

cc8c9b8952a333a65c6b062fdc19f8e72014 Goals:

  • Since I love my work so much, this coming year I want to focus on accomplishing even more. I want to throw myself into my career. How much of a luxury is that? I’ll go into more specifics in other posts, but I want to start working on a book, and launch an exciting new research project. In short, I want to focus on doing what I need to do for tenure, AND what I want to do as a scholar. I want to work towards what I want my career to look like.
  • To do this, I want to put new habits in place to better help me reach my goals. No more triaging during the semester– constantly running behind and trying to figure out which ignored emails and tasks need to be addressed during whatever short amount of time I have on hand.
  • I want to assign fewer written assignments, make them more focused on specific learning goals, and due much earlier in the semester. I want to spend less time grading, especially at the end of the semester, and make the grading I do worth more in terms of improving students’ work.
  • Continue my goal of “less is more” in the classroom. I want to make sure I assign only what is important to read, and avoid information overload in class. Specific, learning-focused tasks, communicated well with students, go a longer way for learning than assigning tons of reading and cramming a lot into a class.
  • Read more fiction. I don’t think I’ve regular read fiction since grad school and this makes me sad. My brain misses it. I have stacks of books to read next to my bed, but I fall asleep as soon as I get into it at night. I need to make fiction reading a priority.

A List of Summer Goals That Does Not Include Packing, Moving, or Applying for Jobs

10 Jun

I might have bit off more than I can chew this summer in terms of work load. But, hey, it’s my first tenure track summer! I’m not moving! I’m not applying for jobs! Thanks to my retention package, I have a research plan laid out. And I got summer funding to conduct research! So all systems are GO for a productive summer!

Here’s what’s on my plate:

  • Teaching 2 1 online classes. This one isn’t hard, and since we don’t get paid over the summer, it’s a necessity. But I always forget how much time the grading takes. But, the classes are prepped and I can teach it in my PJs. 1 down, 1 more to go!
  • Finishing Article 1 and sending it out. Thanks to my writing group, I got great feedback on this piece and I’ve been giving it a theory-overall. I’ve been reading tons of new lit for it, and I’m very excited. I think it just needs a solid day or two of work and then I can send it for some feedback before getting it out the door.
  • Human Subjects Application for summer research. Done!
  • Conducting interviews. I got some summer grant money to conduct more interviews! This is very exciting as my dissertation hasn’t really had *new* data since, well, ok, a really long time. These interviews will give a chance to write another article delving into a new area of my research, and will give me a well-rounded set of data for the book proposal I’m going to work on in the fall.
  • Introduction syllabus. I’m redoing my Intro syllabus in a sort of experimental sans-textbook way. I’m excited to teach two sections of Intro in the Fall– one entirely to first years!
  • Civic engagement course proposal. I am working on the university application to revamp a course I’ve taught before into a class that meets the civic engagement requirement. It’s for a course I’m going to teach pretty regularly in years to come, so it’s exciting to think about how to get the students out in the community in a way that satisfies all the learning outcomes.
  • Leading an independent study for a student that corresponds with my own research (so helps me out).
  • National conferences: In August we have national conferences and I have all sorts of commitments for those. I’m helping to organize a few activities, going to lots of meetings, and serving as a discussant on a panel.
  • Move into my new office! With a window! So I can cross one of my first TT goals off the list!

In terms of getting stuff done, I seem to be doing really well at home. My partner is also busy with her own writing projects, so we’re working a lot together. At the dining room table, in the living room, or sometimes on the porch. Once I move into my new space (with light!) at school, I’ll work there 1-2 days a week. A couple gadgets have been helping me productivity-wise:

  1. My Little Pomodoro (not available anymore, for some strange reason. You could try another free one in the App Store like Timey). I’ve always been a timer fan. I finished my dissertation in literally 15 minute chunks with a physical kitchen timer. I even like the timer ticking to remind me to stay on task.
  2. Focusbar. I just found this nice little app, and I’m a fan. Basically, if you’re working (in Word), and you move to another window (browser, email etc.), a window pops up and reminds you of what you should be working on.
  3. Any.Do. This is maybe the 427th “to do” app I’ve tried out, and I think we have a winner. More on this in another post.

I’m always fighting that computer-based internet-related OMG-I-have-to-read-all-the-blogs-and-news attention deficit disorder. Some people have success with more drastic apps that actually lock them out of certain websites and specific times, but these two seem to be enough right now.

So here’s to a summer of productivity (without the job market and without moving)!

Current Goal: To Be Deliberate, and Afraid of Nothing.

12 Jan

31243791135917738_KrKqVNZ1Right now I don’t even feel like I know what my research is about. God forbid someone ask me. Well, not really. I mean sure, I do know what my research is about. But sometimes I don’t feel like I have a reign on it– I over think it, or I spend some days away from it trying to get prepped for the semester that begins Monday. Monday? Yikes! Since I’ve worked every single day (other than Christmas and New Year’s) since the break started, I’m not even going to count this as a break.

Anyway, here’s what do I need to do to “take back” my research agenda:

  • Get back to writing every day. The “break”, visits from friends and family (which was so wonderful and needed), prepping for new classes etc. has gotten me out of the habit.
  • Ease into that by finishing up a blog post related to my research.
  • Order some books from the library related to my current research and devour them. There’s nothing like a stack of books and a bunch of notes to get me all excited (yes, I’m a dork) and remind me of why I do what I do.
  • Review my job application material, and finish my retention essay on my research agenda.

I love starting a new semester. Even if I’m not buying new school supplies anymore, there’s so much newness— new students, new classes, fresh starts, new goals. So far my semester goals are:

  1. Finish up my retention package and hand that in next week.
  2. Review new literature and finish a draft of Article #1. I’m trying to fit it into a slightly newish sub-field for me, so I have to figure out what kind of contribution it’s going to make to that sub-field.
  3. Work on Article #2. Decide which journal it is best suited for. Bring in new data that I started analyzing last semester.
  4. Write a short piece for the highly accessible magazine-like journal in my field.
  5. Import my data into Dedoose and learn how to use it. I don’t anticipate much of a learning curve, though. I’m official giving up on NVivo. Good riddance.

And I have a few general teaching goals:

  1. No paper. I’ve set up my courses in Schoology and will stop accepting paper assignments.
  2. Not to let grading get the best of me.
  3. To actually stay a week ahead of my students in terms of readings. Posting discussion questions for each reading will force me to do this.
  4. To give my students (and myself) a daily sense of where we are in the class, what’s next, and how things fit into the larger picture. Last semester I felt like I was flying by the seat of my pants (maybe because I was?), and I don’t like that feeling.

All in all, I think those are reasonable goals. My very astute partner just pointed out that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about the time it takes me to adapt. We’ve done 2 very large moves in 2 years, and I’ve had to adjust to two different jobs, schools, colleagues, students, commutes, grocery stores, etc. And adjusting takes time and energy.

This semester my one goal is that I am going to be deliberate. And afraid of nothing.

No matter how it appears, these are not New Year’s Resolutions

1 Jan

I made no resolutions for the New Year.  The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me.  ~Anaïs Nin

I used to make long lists of New Year’s resolutions, carefully thinking of what I want to start fresh with in the New Year. I stopped making them a few years ago. From what I’ve read, most New Year’s resolutions (weight loss, exercise, etc.) are doomed even before the new year begins. Nowadays, I find myself making more “semester resolutions” than New Year’s ones, making plans and adjustments to how I work from semester to semester. I still appreciate the passage of time into a new calendar year, though, and the possibilities and potential for the new year ahead. And since this year was one of such transition for us (moving, new job) I’m looking forward to what will hopefully be a bit of a stable, settled year.

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking of a few “resolutions.” Maybe they’re for the New Year. Maybe they’re just for the upcoming semester, which is bound to be one of less adjustment than last semester, the first at my new TT job. So now that the serious acclimation period is over, I can work on some new habits– to bring in more of what I love into life.

New Year’s Goals:

536236_464644663595931_2024911457_nRead more fiction: I got some fantastic books for Christmas, and I still have digital and physical stacks of assorted fiction (lots of Scandinavian mysteries) to read. I would love to start reading again before bed for at least 20 minutes.

Read more non-fiction: I want to make time to read more literature in my field (not just related to teaching or what I happen to be writing at the moment). And I would love to read more non-fiction more broadly. More biographies and history books.

More running: I run pretty regularly now, but I think it’s time to start pushing myself a little more. Upping my mileage (I don’t really care about speed). Maybe a half marathon in the fall would be a good goal.

Frequent goals and progress reports:  I’d like to start having weekly meetings with myself, going over my schedule, goals and to-do lists. I love Anaïs Nin’s quote about making plans as a daily event. And I might start to post those weekly to-do lists and progress reports here.

That’s it! Nothing major. Now I think I’ll enjoy the rest of the day and get some reading done!

Welcome!

10 Aug

Welcome to my new little blogging home! I’ve just moved for my new TT job, and I’m mostly unpacked and ready to dig into some serious work. After months of moving, I’m ready for a routine again. And after two years in a temporary “only visiting” job, I’m thrilled to start my new “forever” job!

I guess I could start with a to do list. I have some goals that have been kicking around in my brain during and since the move, and I want this to be a place I can post them and then check in about them later on. Here goes!

  • Finish syllabi for 2 fall courses. I began these awhile back, and I already have the books ordered. I want to make sure to leave time for my department chair to review them before the semester begins.
  • Set up my office. For the first time, I’m going to have all my academic books in one place– my office at school. I used to have some at home and some at school, and that didn’t work. I plan to spend a day this week unpacking those boxes and making my (windowless) office a cozy, scholarly, home away from home!
  • Create a list of goals for the semester. As per one of my favorite blogs, I want to lay out my goals and a time frame for those goals for this semester.
  • Create a writing schedule. Well, I don’t do well with a set-time schedule, but I want to have a goal to write an hour a day on teaching days, and to set aside 1 full day a week for writing. To do this, I plan to reread one of my favorite books, Boice’s Advice for New Faculty Members, and to read Boice’s follow up book, Professors as Writers.
  • Review tenure track advice. I have been saving tenure track advice for the last few years in Evernote, and I want to go through and read it, and post some of the best advice here.
  • Create a professional website. My old grad school website still exists for some reason. That needs to go, and I need a new, professional home on the internets.
  • Start a tenure track file. This one seems obvious, but given that I’ve just seen a few friends scramble to put their tenure packages together, I think starting sooner rather than later is a good plan!

That’s it for now!

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