Tag Archives: tenure track

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!”

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Collected Advice & A Plug for Evernote

15 Aug

For the last few years I’ve used the fantastic memory app Evernote for saving useful information (and recipes, so many recipes). Every time I get a useful bunch of info in an email– lists of documentaries, classroom activity ideas, book publishing advice, writing tips, course readings etc.– it goes into Evernote. Whenever I find an interesting blog post or newspaper article related to research, surviving academia, or teaching, I clip it to Evernote. Even if the original link to the article or post goes down, I have the text and images saved. If I need an article for classroom activity, I can quickly search Evernote for something useful, print it out, and head to class. I was using an app on my ipad for saving meeting and conference notes, but now I am transferring those over to Evernote as well. In short, Evernote is my brain. I’ve built up 900+ notes over 3 years (ok, some of those are recipes), and haven’t hit the limit of the free version yet. It’s an app I’d gladly pay monthly for, though, and that’s not something I typically do, so that’s saying a lot.

I’ve collected a bunch of tenure track advice over the years, and tonight I’m rereading and organizing what I have. Here are some highlights:

Advice for New Assistant Professors by Older Woman, Scatterplot

I particularly like tips #2 and #5. I want to make sure I integrate myself with the faculty and administration (and this is a much larger school than my last one), while also staying open and accessible to students. I have two workshops in the next couple weeks (one on writing and one on diversity in the classroom) that will help with the former. And making scheduled writing and research time is a priority, while I work on finding out more about the preferred balance of teaching/research/service is at the school.

I’m not sure about #8. I’ve never hated a job, and can’t imagine hating this one. Yes, it is good (as I learned during my visiting position) to keep myself mobile and not too attached to the institution if I want to go someplace else. But, I’m the sort the sort that stubbornly makes the best of everything. And I’m truly excited for this job.

Five Steps to Creating a Five-Year Plan to Achieve Tenure by Tanya Golash-Boza, Get a Life, PhD

I’ll need to adapt this for four years, but overall the advice is excellent, even if the goals seem rather large and daunting at the moment. I like the semester version of Tanya’s goal setting, as well, and plan to do that this semester as it worked well for me last last year.

How to Figure Out the Publication Expectations for Tenure by Tanya Golash-Boza, Get a Life, PhD.

Another fantastic post from Tanya. I especially the idea of checking out the CVs of those recently promoted at my institution, and making sure to share research and publishing plans with senior colleagues and mentors.

First Tips for Faculty by Mary McKinney, Successful Academic

This is a great collection of tips, even if it is slightly geared to those freshly out of grad school. I’m already more than familiar with the feeling of juggling waaaay too many balls in the air. Actually, I’m looking forward to that this semester (I’m crazy, right?). The tips that stand out here are: to find a support system (and hopefully writing group) of other junior faculty on campus (and at nearby institutions), finding mentors on campus, and avoiding potentially controversial committees and committees that meet frequently (no matter how interesting they sound). Also, this sounds all too familiar:

For many academics I’ve worked with, it is easier to get caught up in smaller projects with firm external deadlines – such as sending off abstracts for conference deadlines – than it is to work on papers that you wish to send to prestigious journals. Beware of getting wrapped up in projects that are relatively unimportant. Don’t be seduced by short-term commitments that are less anxiety provoking than your biggest chores.

Starting a Tenure Box by Anastasia Salter, ProfHacker

Perfect, practical advice! I’ll start a tenure Evernote file and secure folder in Dropbox (and I’ll back it up on an external HD because I’m nuts like that). I don’t need a document scanner, because I have my iPhone and JotNot Pro for that.

The Sunday Meeting by Kerry Ann Rockquemore, Inside Higher Ed

I really like the idea of sitting down weekly to plan the week out and write out goals. Whenever I do this, my week goes much better, and doing it regularly would be fantastic!

Collegiality: The Tenure Track’s Pandora’s Box by Mary McKinney, Successful Academic via Tomorrow’s Professor

There’s some really good advice here like “The rules of collegiality are similar to the rules of dating. A conversation has gone well when the other person has done most of the talking,” and “Find a likeable side of everyone,” and of course, “Don’t get angry, get tenure.”

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All that advice just makes me more excited for the year to begin! If you have any sage advice of your own (or a link to something else), please feel free to share it in the comments!

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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