Archive | Research RSS feed for this section

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.

Evernote: A Guide for Academics

30 Sep

Whenever I rave about Evernote (which is quite often) I get a lot of questions about how I use it. A lot of people don’t know where to begin or aren’t sure how to get the most out of the application. Maybe an Evernote Guide specifically tailored to how an academic might use Evernote might help demystify this great appl.

I’ve been using Evernote since 2008– early enough in Evernote’s life that I actually have only my first name as my login. I’m not sure why I was such an early adopter. I probably read about it on Lifehacker, and was probably at the stage in my dissertation that having a place to organize digital material seemed useful. And as part of the Great Dissertation Avoidance Plan (doesn’t everyone have one of those?), having a place to save cooking recipes and knitting patterns was also welcome.

So, what is this Evernote thing, anyway? It’s simply an application (for your computer, phone, ipad) where you can save every bit of text you might ever need again. It’s like a filing cabinet, but because it’s a digital one, you can tag and categorize notes in ways that let’s you cross-reference different ideas. And you can search everything in a second, which you definitely can not do with a filing cabinet.

What I love about Evernote:

  • It’s my brain dump for EVERYTHING I want to remember:
    • Articles (or blog posts) clipped from the web that might use for teaching or research.
    • Lists of documentary/film recommendations, reading lists, classroom activity ideas etc. that come from the collective wisdom of the listservs that I’m on.
    • My tenure notes. I keep a list of what I accomplish (committees, panels, writing etc.) during the year as they happen so that I have it all there when it comes to putting together my retention folder.
    • Meeting notes. Whether I’m at conferences, workshops or committee/department meetings, I take notes in Evernote.
    • Personal stuff: Recipes, gift ideas, knitting patterns, medical info etc.
  • Assigning tags to individual notes means you can sort your data in meaningful ways (and then Bubble Browser which I show below is a fun way to look through it).
  • What I clip is saved forever. Online news sources do not keep articles available forever. Web addresses change. Blogs go down. Posts are deleted. When you need to access something bookmarked again, you’re SOL. Evernote saves the entire article or webpage, so you never have to worry about something (even the included images) disappearing ever again.
  • Searching all content (or a selection of content) is fast. Fast enough for me to find what I want and print it out in minutes before class begins!

What I don’t use Evernote for:

  • PDFs. I still find Evernote clunky with these, even though there is OCR. I save my article PDFs in a folder labelled by the author and year of publication.
  • To do lists: I like the Reminders app on my iphone for a to-do list. I do use Evernote for larger project-related lists, like moving across the country, etc.
  • Pictures: I only use Evernote for pictures when they’re inside an article that I’m clipping. Otherwise, I save images for teaching/research that aren’t part of an article in Pinterest.

Getting Started:

  1. Download the application Evernote. Sign up for an account.
    1. The application is free, but you can pay $45/year for more upload space per month. Honestly, I used the application 4 years, nearly every day, and never ran into their upload limit. I just decided to upgrade to “pro” this year to support the application that I love so much.
  2. Install the webclipper extension. This adds a button to your web browser (Firefox, Chrome or Safari) that gives you a way to clip things from the internet.
  3. Open the application on your computer, and create a couple different notebooks. My notebooks are:
    1. Personal Notebook
    2. Sociology Notebook
    3. Retention & Tenure Notebook
    4. Sociology Department Notebook
    5. General Notes
  4. Start clipping, tagging and organizing!
  5. You might want to start with a binge-clipping of things you’ve been saving in other ways (e.g. links and stuff saved in emails). Clip while you watch TV or something, and you’ll have a little database before you know it!

My Evernote Workflow:

When I see an article or blog post online that I like (usually posted to Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and I think I might want to use it in class, or in my research, I click the Elephant icon on my browser.

CapturFiles_5

Here’s what your Evernote clipper probably looks like. You’ll notice on the top left that Evernote also installs an icon in your menu bar which you can use to save text and other desktop notes.

When I clip the Evernote Elephant, a window comes up that gives me a chance to select how the note will be clipped. I have it defaulted to “Simplified Article” which gives you a nice print-friendly version, but you could select “Full Article” for a shot of the entire webpage.

The sidebar also gives you a place to decide what notebook this article should be clipped to, and allows you to assign tags to the article. What I love about Evernote is that the more you use it to save and tag articles, it starts to predict what tags and notebooks are the most appropriate. It knows to put recipes in the “Personal Notebook” and it determines pretty accurately what articles are related to race, gender, education etc.

CapturFiles_2

This is a must-read article, by the way.

Once you’ve set everything, just click “save.”

What Evernote does next is save the article or webpage to your account. You can access it from your installed Evernote application, from Evernote.com, and from an Evernote app on your phone or ipad.

I rely on the Evernote application for finding and retrieving things I’ve clipped. Here’s what mine looks like.

CapturFiles_3

On the left are shortcuts to my notebooks, recent notes, and then the contents of the selected “Sociology” notebook. As you select a note, it shows up in the window on the right, complete with tags, and a link to the original online.

You can also just open up the Evernote application and use it as a word processor, typing your notes right into it while at a meeting or workshop (I do this a lot on my ipad). Or, you can cut/paste information into it from email or someplace else.

CapturFiles_1

Here’s an example of writing a note directly into Evernote. Notice that Evernote starts to relate notes to one another by suggesting similar notes.

Like I said, the more you use Evernote, the better it knows your information. Not only does it suggest notebooks and tags, it suggests related notes. This is very useful if you’re prepping for a specific class, or working through research information.

There are other applications now that interact with Evernote. Bubble Browser is especially fun, and I would love to see it developed further to show the connections between notes in more of a mind map format. Here’s a snapshot of the tags in my Sociology Notebook. You can click on each bubble to drill down to related tags, and then browse to the specific article.

CapturFiles_4

So, that’s pretty much how I use Evernote. My file cabinet is mostly empty and my Evernote is full of useful stuff I can find instantly.

I would love (I’d actually physically jump up and down) to see Evernote include within-note tagging. It seems like Evernote, with it’s amazing tagging prediction and relation tools, is just one step away from allowing users to highlight chunks of different text within a single note and tag it separately. Like NVivo. But so much better, because it’s not clunky like NVivo. With this functionality, Evernote could be an invaluable research tool for qualitative sociologists. Sociologists who study the internet would have an easy way to save entire webpages for analysis, a process that right now for me is a patchwork of tasks that includes downloading multi levels of html files, converting them to pdf or txt and then uploading to NVivo. Imagine if we could skip all that and just clip! Add in the photographic and note-taking capabilities of the ipad and iphone Evernote apps, and you’d have some very happy ethnographers!

Anyway, that’s how I use Evernote. Hopefully this will help  make it an app that’s useful for you!

2 Weeks In: Reviewing & Adjusting My Schedule

20 Sep

We’re now 2 full weeks into the semester, so it seems like a good time to sit down and take stock of where I’m at with following the schedule I outlined a few weeks back.

What’s worked:

  • Having a schedule. Seriously, just mapping out when I’m going to do what (not just appointments and classes) has helped me feel so much more organized and productive. I hung it up in my office and it keeps me more focused during the week.
  • Coming into school an extra day: My new schedule includes coming into school a 4th day (we’re really only required to be on campus 3 days a week). Not only do I have to come in sometimes anyway for meetings, but thinking of Thursday as a full day of work helps keep me productive. If I stayed home, I might be somewhat productive, but I’d be distracted by stuff I needed to do at home.
  • Scheduled writing time: This has been eaten into the last couple weeks (see why below), but knowing that I have set times where I have to write really helps.
  • Scheduled research/reading time: Knowing that I have Fridays to catch up on some errands, and also focus on reading and research has also been great. I plan to do specific tasks those days, and then don’t feel badly about not doing them other days.

What hasn’t worked: 

  • Events: The beginning of the school year always means extra meetings and events (Meet the New Provost! All College Meeting! etc.). These cut into my writing and prep time during the first two weeks. Hopefully there won’t be many of those coming up.
  • Committee Meetings: Yeah, I knew I’d be on committees this year (we’re only exempt from service our first year), but jeez, I wholly underestimated the amount of work involved. I shouldn’t have– I’ve done administrative work before, but I guess I blocked it out. Not only do I have committee meetings, there is work that goes along with those committees (especially since I’m the chair of one). And because I’m still new, there is time spent finding out from other people what I should being doing as chair on said committees, and learning how everything works. In short: I need to schedule in 2 hours a week for committee work and other admin-related paperwork.
  • Club Advisement: As the Soc Club Advisor, I actually have to go to their weekly meetings! So, I’ll add that to the schedule.
  • Running: I’m happy that despite a head cold, and the spell of 90 degree weather, I’ve gotten out for 3 really good runs over this 2 week period. But, the Monday/Wednesday/Friday running schedule isn’t going to work. Mondays is fine. I teach two classes and generally have enough energy when I get home for a run. Wednesdays is impossible. I teach late on Tuesday night, and then teach early Wednesday morning. That’s not an ideal schedule for me anyway because (a) teaching is exhausting, and (b) I’m just not a morning person, but it is what it is. So I’m tired enough to only relax Wednesday night. Running will have to be moved to Thursday. And then another run Saturday, which works out just fine. Regular running = a happy Jan in the Pan!

So, here’s a new schedule for the rest of the semester (Department meetings and Curriculum Committee meetings aren’t actually weekly, thank the goddess, but they’re on here as a good example of interrupted time). All in all, I like the idea of planning things out. I used to be resistant to how rigid this seems, but I think I see now that this is necessary in order to get done all the many different things I have to get done every day. No more multitasking (which we know is a myth, anyway), instead I’m trying to work on one task at a time, in it’s allotted time slot.

CapturFiles

Ok, I set up a schedule. Can I actually stick to it?

23 Aug

CapturFiles_1

Inspired by one of my favorite blogs, Get A Life PhD, I decided to actually make a schedule for the semester. It’s not that I’ve never had a schedule before– I’ve always blocked out my teaching, meetings, and office hours for the semester. I do this in Apple’s ical, and then it’s accessible on my computer, iphone, and ipad. So what’s different about this schedule? Well, I actually scheduled in chunks of time for writing, reading/research hours. And running, because, hey, a girl needs to do that. And I’m going to make an effort to stick to these hours, barring any meetings that I can’t avoid (like the department meeting above).

This isn’t a complete schedule. My morning routine is to drink coffee and catch up on email and social media. My brain just isn’t good for anything more than that before 9am. I also didn’t factor in my commute, which is 25 minutes each way. I didn’t include lunch, because unless I venture out of the building to have lunch with a colleague, I usually eat a sandwich at my computer while working. I did leave an hour open before my Tuesday evening class so I have time to not only eat, but venture out to get coffee and clear my head if I need to. Grading is obviously not included and that inevitably eats into evenings and weekends.

In addition to 8 hours of  writing time per week, I included a day for research (data collection, interviews etc.) and for reading articles etc. related to research. I’ll work from home on Friday as doing that stuff from home is ideal. Writing I do better at the office. There is no way I can get any writing or research done on my heavy teaching days (Monday and Wednesday), and that’s just going to have to be OK.

I included time for running 3 days a week (chances are that I’ll go on a long run on the weekend too). Running is key to keeping all these activity going in as non-stressful a way and the afternoon is the perfect time for me to run, come home and have reward beer. I haven’t been able to run much this summer due to an injury (and the heat), so getting back into that routine will be fantastic. Ideally, I’d come home around 4pm each day, go for a run (MWF), then cook a nice dinner and eat with my partner. Cooking and relaxing are just so much a part of daily life for me, I need a schedule that let’s me do that. And in the evenings I’m sure I’ll have to do some emailing and grading, but ideally, I’ll be able to actually relax and watch a good old movie.

So what could go wrong? Well, lots of things. First of all, meetings are going to inevitably cut into chunks of time. I’m on more committees this year and have more commitments. I can’t do anything about that, although I can say “no” more, which I did just do for the first time. Tuesday and Thursday are also potential issues. I am good about getting into school for teaching (the professor has to make it to class– no matter how close she cuts it), but in the past I have not been good about getting into school to just work. I’m likely to spend too much time in the morning in my PJs, unaware of the time, and then lazily run errands on my way to school, stop for lunch etc. Notice what I wrote there? “Just work.” Well, writing, we know, is work and isn’t “just” anything. I think if I actually put this time in the same mental category as any other appointment, that will help. And my partner knows about it, so she can prod me to follow my schedule.

Another potential problem is that during those writing times, I’ll get side tracked by emails, the fascinating internets etc. The only way that works for me in terms of focusing, is to use the Pomodoro technique and a timer. I have a timer app on my computer, but I’m not adverse to buying a plain old kitchen timer for my office. Knowing I can work for 15 minutes (with ticking in the background– helps to distract me from my tinnitus) and then quickly check FB really works for me.

If this schedule works, then I’ll be productive, and I’ll have time to relax and have a life.

I need some incentive, though. If I can get through September, following this schedule (minus meetings), then I need to do something as a reward. I can’t think of what that is, though. Maybe a nice meal out and a movie?

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.

%d bloggers like this: