How I Did It: My Summer Writing Schedule

My Summer Writing Schedule {New Faculty}

Everyone works differently. Everyone plans differently. Everyone’s brain is wired a little differently.

That’s my disclaimer on this post. If you read it and decide it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine.

The handy, dandy picture is the actual word doc I made myself when summer writing group began. I edited it this week to reflect some new deadlines and may have blacked out people’s names or identifiers if working with minors. IRB baby. Gotta keep those nice folks at IRB happy.

You can click on the graphic to get a better idea of how I paced myself and how I managed my time. I’d like to take a TV TIME OUT to note a few things:

1. Prioritizing travel first. If you have conferences coming up or you know there will be a commitment, mark it down at the beginning.

2. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll get “all this work done” while traveling. Seriously. Just tell yourself you’re going to enjoy yourself and anything you can get done is like earning bonus points on that game you love to play.

3. See that lovely word “vacation” in there? SEE IT NOW!!!!! I was very generous and gave myself TWO WHOLE WEEKS OFF this year. A landmark amount of vacation. I’ll be checking in on email but for the most part, I plan to do a whole lot of anything that’s “not work” for those two weeks. I plan to have two more manuscripts drafted and waiting for final edits/read throughs, and formatting for the journals they’ll be going to.

4. I had other things to do besides write. I wanted to streamline it for myself. If it gets too cluttered, it makes my eye twitch. So, I stuck with my writing goals on this document. Data analysis is also on there since it’s moving toward manuscript land.

5. Things to remember: I have not worked a weekend all summer. Let us all just say AMEN! I’ve worked to feel less guilty. It’s a slow process. S L O W……

6. Personal goals are always good reminders. I prioritize things like swimming and doing things I neglect. Seeing them every day is helpful.

7. I added the fourth manuscript only recently since I realized that I’ll have data to begin analyzing. The word “long” next to it means it’s a long term project and a manuscript will NOT be submitted by the time classes begin. That’s unrealistic and not happening, even in academic fantasy land.

Last, but not least, I hope that it can help you map out your own writing goals. The four of us who participated in writing group over the summer each plotted our course differently. Some used Excel, another used pen/paper, I used Word. There’s really no right or wrong way to do this, but holding yourself accountable is the most important thing. I color coded mine with highlighters, making each manuscript a different color to help organize myself. It helped me see which paper I was spending more or less time on.

This will begin to look very different when I work up something for the semester. It will not be this ambitious because I’m teaching two classes. That alone will handicap my writing in more ways than one. I will likely set a goal to finish data analysis and begin writing so I can finish and submit my next manuscript over the long break. It will also be submission season for conferences during fall, so that will consume my time as well.

May the odds be ever in your favor as you map  your goals. I know summer is winding down for us nerds but the new batch of freshman will be on campus before you know it!

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Saving Myself for Summer


I’d like to be clear, getting out manuscripts is hard work. Some days, I wonder why I’m doing it. Someone asked me how I was going to get out 4-5 manuscripts over summer and it was a great question. She also asked me if I got out this many manuscripts every 3-4 months.



I save it for summer. During the academic year, I’m collecting and analyzing, but rarely have a good system for sitting down and writing on manuscripts. I’ll often start piecing them together during the academic year and then table them until the students leave. I then have the gift of time on my side, setting aside days and weeks just to toil over manuscripts. It works right now, but I know I should trickle out manuscripts more evenly.

The other major difference from prior years to this year: I’m first author on all my manuscripts right now. While being first author is a major ego boost, it’s also a major load of extra work. In my prior appointment, I had not been the first author and that was just fine. As a brand new faculty, I was too overwhelmed to do it all and quite frankly: I was glad someone else wanted to do it.

Fast forward to present day and I know that I can be first author and I should be first author on a lot of things. So I am. It’s been a little bit of an overload for me, to put it mildly, and in the future, I’d like to spread the wealth a bit more. I have told grad students and colleagues that I’d like to collaborate, give the grad students experience, but few seem to be chomping at the bit to publish like I am accustomed too. This troubles me, but I also know that everyone has their own life motivation. You can only lead the horse to water.

So, in short: I’m not a manuscript producing machine. My goal for this next academic year, is to be more incremental and intentional about my writing and distribute my submissions more evenly. There’s only one major conference submission deadline for me during the summer, also leaving more time to write whereas the academic year is fraught with conference deadlines. I consider that writing, but on a tenure packet, a manuscript accepted is “worth more” than a conference presentation. Conferences are fun, but they’re not “worth” as much. Networking is invaluable, but it’s expensive and is also “worth” nothing in the short term. Balancing that from my last appointment was easy. I went to one conference during my time with that job because there was enough other faculty on the project but more importantly, our broader impacts were not rooted in conferences and travel, they were rooted in publications with impact factors.

I save it all for summer and I shouldn’t. This summer has been different. Gone are the summer camps and maker camps that I used to plan, the reality is days of writing to disseminate my new work.

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Summer Writing Season is HALF Over??

Mid-Summer Check In {New Faculty}


Glancing at my trusty calendar last week, noting vacation, but then also taking stock of the month of July, I realized one thing:


My writing goals are on track. Seriously. On track. Even I didn’t expect that to happen. My goal of sending out four manuscripts is thankfully, on track. Two are out the door, one is being read/edited by another author and number four is currently about halfway done. My personal goal was to have all four drafted and ready to send before I go on vacation. I’ll return from vacation, read them, edit them one more time, and send them out. Giving them a week or two to marinate will help me pick out anything that’s still weird or hopefully inspire me to make any changes necessary. I have a fifth manuscript slated but a grad student is the first author, meaning it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy for them, they’ll have to take some initiative, I can only push so much.

Which brings me to my main point today.

I had a manuscript that I wrote a year ago. I hated it. Loathed it. Abhorred it. I didn’t like it from the get-go, but had been asked to craft it by someone on the team that I work with. It was too bulky, it was too clunky, and when I sent it to the requestor, they didn’t like it either. They removed it (rather hastily) from the plan of work and we all moved forward. Fast forward 10 months and I opened it again. I wanted to send it out, it was good work, but it wasn’t a true representation of the work I like to do.


With some quick, fierce, and definitive strokes of my mouse, I cut a third of it. I moved some of the contents around. I put in better transitions.


Maybe it needed the 10 month break, maybe I procrastinated on it like a champ, but most of all: it needed to be cut.

Doing and writing what someone else thinks they want might not be the best thing. All things considered, when I did what they asked, they were unhappy. When I did what I knew was best for the research, it came together a lot more cleanly and tidy-like. While this isn’t supposed to be a “hater” post, the people “telling” me what to do aren’t always the best researchers and their poor guidance on this led to poor work. Shame on me for letting them have the upper hand.

I learned my lesson and when they asked me to do some more work this spring, I set the ground rules right out of the gate. I made the expectations clear and told them exactly what I would do but more importantly:


I made clear the data analysis I would and could do. I made clear my methods, even after being questioned by someone who is NOT in research (which just pissed me off mostly), and I backed it up by providing documentation of my process grounded in theory and methods research. I never heard a word from that part of the team after I sent my methods over. They knew better. I was EXTREMELY firm with them, using my trusty “teacher voice,” some very negative body language, and above all: being a better researcher than they are.

Summer is half over and I’m grinding to some deserved vacation time. Don’t harsh on my vibe. I’m game on.

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On Keeping a Detailed Calendar

Keeping a Calendar {New Faculty}


I’ve had to work hard to get into good habits with my calendar. On several occasions, I wanted to end our relationship and update my facebook status to “it’s complicated” but I persisted with a calendar during grad school and then it became a vital necessity once I got on faculty. I went a bit overboard for a while, even putting in “workout” time, but then realized I felt trapped by it. It felt too “full” for me and I got overwhelmed by it, thus returning to my love/hate relationship with it once again. Happy medium folks.


Today, my calendar and I are largely friends. We worked out our issues because I finally made peace with several things. I can chunk out my time more efficiently if I have a guide. After a week at a conference, I made a point to block time for the important tasks by putting them in 1-2 hour blocks. It helped me manage my time without burdening me. I do color code, but let’s face it, I don’t need my six month dentist cleaning to be blue or my academic meetings to be yellow to know that “I’m busy” or that blue means personal, yellow means professional. I’ve accepted that all of my work is generally intertwined at this point and that it’s all important or necessary.

Some other useful tidbits:

1. The office admin schedules my life if I don’t do it. Faculty meetings, grad student meetings, etc… she takes care of those and I’m thankful. If I don’t keep my calendar up to date (appointments or other things) she will assume that block of time is free and she will schedule me if she needs too. I guard my time and realize she’s doing her job, but it’s important for me to keep it up to date for her to help make both of our lives easier.

2. Year end reporting. Our university employs a year-end reporting system that’s “Ok” to use. I try and do the following things to keep my year end reporting as pain-free as possible: keep my CV updated, keep a running Evernote note of activities/service that I participate in AND my calendar. I will often reference my calendar from the prior year and skim through it. I block out conferences and other events in advance so I can always go back and reference it. Did I actually go to XYZ conference? No, but my students presented their research there. It then helps me track my citations, etc… that I need for reporting.

3. Guarding my time. Like a good watch dog, I’m still working on guarding my own time. Since it’s summer, I’m trying to work alone one morning a week at a coffee shop. I like the ambient distraction and I like not being at the office. I can do things like work on edits to manuscripts and go through data to pull what I need to answer my questions without issues or the distractions I get at work. Keeping a calendar will help me plan when I can sneak away without anyone missing me too much. I rarely put where I am since the goal is to steal away.

Keeping a decent calendar has helped me as a young faculty member. There’s balance to all of it, so find what works for you.

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All My Rowdy Friends Go Conferencing With Me

All My Rowdy Friends Go Conferencing With Me {New Faculty}

I knew it! All this time I’d been waiting….attending….observing….being creepy….and now it’s happened. My friends and academia are in a “relationship” and my friends are my conference buddies and vice versa. It was only a matter of time really. The longer you spend in a field, the more people you meet. The more people you meet, the more people you’re bound to run in over and over again until out of sheer force of introvert awkwardness, you start a conversation.

My good friend from undergrad and I took similar yet different paths through life and low and behold, she’s on faculty too. In her first year, her university sent her to the same conference that a lot of my colleagues and I are attending. Instead of riding in the collective van, she and I rode down together to have a fun and networking-laden conference. It was a great time, but let’s not forget, it’s still four solid days of socializing non-stop with each other and all of the folks at the conference. Being the good adults that we are, we made it clear it was ok to be quiet.

Overall, it’s been really  nice seeing and getting to know folks in my profession over the last year. Not only do I have a better handle on what’s going on in our profession, but I have a better idea of some of the players at the table. These things give me a better idea as to what kind of research folks are doing and what kind of research I want to be doing. I haven’t got my mind wrapped around all of the things yet, but as the two major conferences for my field are now wrapped up, it’s time to marinate on some of those things and begin to formulate a plan for my professional road.

Conferences are a great way to connect with old friends, meet new ones, share meals at amazing places you can’t find where you live, and network for days. It’s always cool to run into people from your old alma mater(s) and catch up about what’s happening in and outside of work time. It’s fun for me now to banter with grad students (especially the ones that thing they’re REALLY smart) and you can spot them a mile away, which is sort of adorable in an “aawwww, there’s a baby fawn” kind of way.

One of my undergraduate researchers attended to present her work as well, it was her last hurrah with me and she’s off to grad school in a few weeks. It was really nice to see her, spend some time with her, and stand back and have a “super proud” advising moment as she talked the talk with faculty  about her research. **sniff, sniff**

Conferences can be as good as you make them. The end. Attend the sessions, figure out what interests you, and go forth and conference!

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Summer Habits Worth Keeping

Summer Habits {New Faculty}

It’s officially summer! Well, in my neck of the woods it is. Town has settled into what will be the norm, students are stressing over summer classes on Yik Yak, and there’s enough construction going on to build a whole new campus by Aug. 15th. I discussed my summer schedule last week but wanted to follow up with one more post about how to set up to be more successful over the summer. As I draft this post, it’s about 9:45 a.m. and I’m at the local coffee shop. Having just enjoyed a breakfast sandwich and currently listening to them staff vacuum out the roaster, I cannot help but think about how much I’m enjoying the ambiance of the white noise. (A shop vac is totally white noise and necessary for cleaning a roaster).

I need to have some schedule disruption to keep myself on my toes. Schedule disruption can come in the form of a change of scenery, a change of pace, or a change in the schedule as a whole. Changing up the schedule helps me in numerous ways:

  • I can plan my work and writing. I have a trip next week, guess what I’m doing this week? Getting ready to be out of the office. Having a deadline (or a trip) helps me get ahead by planning more efficiently.
  • I’m choosing different days to swim (or other activities) each week (yes, I realize those choices are limited), but since it’s summer, I can take a little bit longer of a leash and swim when I want or feel like it, not when my calendar dictates me to do so.
  • I head to a coffee shop or somewhere different at least one half day a week. I like certain places, but I also know I need to be disrupted a little bit too.

It sounds a bit silly, but I grew up on a schedule at school and with extra-curricular’s, but I also grew up on a working dairy farm where changing things up was the norm. If the hay was dry, you baled it; if it was going to rain, you made silage. If a cow was calving, you helped her, even if that meant it was the middle of milking time. Schedule disruption has worked for me because it keeps me on my toes cognitively. I was in a rut this spring and it was largely due to the same schedule with no changes whatsoever. My life was over scheduled and I experienced burn out.

On the opposite side of the coin, I like the schedule too. I like writing group and having goals. I’ve already polished, edited, and submitted two manuscripts since classes ended. I’ve coded 2/3 of another data set and have begun piecing together that manuscript and while it’s in its’ infancy, the pages are coming together in my google doc. My goal is to submit that before summer sessions end. I’ve reached out to collaborators to get other projects polished and finished. I’ve set aside time for the tasks and also written in my calendar ‘VACATION’ to make sure I give myself a break. I’m taking an unprecedented amount of vacation this summer (for me) and am looking forward to it all.

As the summer settles in and the long days begin, remember to keep things fresh for yourself. Skip out an hour early to enjoy the day, head in an hour late to enjoy the pristine mornings, and do what works to keep your head in the writing game. Find your own happy-medium with all of it, remember that I’m just telling you what works for me. Being over scheduled killed me this spring, traveling for a month straight does the opposite in a different way. Since I live alone, I can always tell how much I travel based on how much garbage I make. May = 1 bag of garbage. My house is currently enjoying having someone in it for at least half of a month and I’m enjoying a nice 50/50 split between scheduled and unscheduled time.

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Manageable Summer Goals: A Summer Day

A Summer Day {New Faculty}


A full week into summer and I’m still riding with my training wheels. My Monday Morning Motivator email was titled, “You Should Be Writing” and darn it, it was right. I’ve set myself up well. Given myself manageable and realistic expectations. Now, just the hard part: meeting them.

A colleague has organized a summer writing group and I gladly signed up. It begins next week. I’ve been trying to set myself up each day with 1-3 realistic goals. For example, I did some data analysis this morning to help a student get a poster done and sent to the printer. The data had been transcribed and coded and just needed to be more organized to help pull out the major themes. Time spent: ~1.5-2 hours.

I spent a good thirty minutes this morning doing some housekeeping. I still had not submitted receipts from a trip a few weeks ago and wanted to get those off my desk. I had also neglected answering email for a few days (it was the weekend) and took a few minutes to get that done. Time spent: ~30 minutes.

After a lunch swim (yay for summer swim time), I sat down and coded for another two hours. I cannot code for more than a few hours a day. It makes my brain fuzzy, it makes my eyes hurt, and it’s one of those “all consuming” research activities. Instead of setting myself up to fail, I’ve given myself one document (roughly 30 pages) to code at a time. I have to get up and take breaks while coding too. I just can’t sit there and power through like some can. I will say that not every page of every document is “codeable” as some are lists and graphics, but each one will take at least two hours. Time spent: ~2.5-3 hours.

What else did I get done today? Quite a few things. I organized another mess of data into readable, accessible, and easy to find for all the researchers folders in the google drive. I spent some time on that because we’ll reference that for the rest of the summer and spending time on it now means it will hopefully be easier for me (and everyone else) for the next few weeks. It made my organized brain very happy. Time spent: at least another hour.

Does that equal EIGHT? NO. No, it does not. I stopped before 4:30 p.m. since a grad student stuck her head in to say hello and I recall looking at the clock. I said I was at a natural “stop point” for the day and didn’t want to pick anything else up since I knew I had to leave soon. She then “busy contested” me and said how she’s got 60 hours of work every week. You go tender grad student, you go….right out of my office….I don’t play that game.

Why am I sharing my day with you? For a few reasons. It might strike you odd that I’m not counting each minute, that I’m swimming during lunch, and most importantly, I’m making the time I am working QUALITY WORK TIME. No distractions. Minimal “phone time” or “social media time” are involved during these periods. There are still days when I can’t put a sentence together, but these are days when I have a million meetings or I’m fatigued or distracted. I started closing my door as well this week. Why? For uninterrupted time to myself. I feel no shame. People know how to find me.

Summer time is quality time if you can figure out how you like to work. My colleagues are in and out during the summer and we each have our own style of work. Travel and vacation are scheduled in there as well, but each of us is figuring out how to get things done. I hope that all of my summer work days are this fruitful but I know some just won’t be and that’s ok.

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Conference 101: Post Attendance Reflections

Conference Reflections {New Faculty}

I took this pic at the Alamo.

I came, I saw, I conquered. And that was not even counting the conference.

Traveling for conferences can be a mix of fun and headaches all rolled into one delightful ball of travel. Our annual conference was in San Antonio, a city I’d never visited, so I was looking forward to experiencing what the city and the conference had to offer. Our group bonded and spent the night together at DFW with the glamorous cots they provide. The little sleep we all got was made funnier by 3 a.m. and then it was “no holds barred.” We all show our true selves after 3 a.m. folks.

We arrived in San Antonio at breakfast time, showered, and decided that sleep was for quitters. We powered through day one like champs. I was warned before we left home that I would be underwhelmed by the methods and science happening and like good colleagues: they were right. In a STEM multi-state research meeting, a group had done a survey with an N=12. 12? Woof. I had no trouble speaking up. Discussing my research, how it related, and what I could offer to the group as a tangible benefit. It was eye-opening to see and hear the fears and trepidation of my colleagues from across the country and how afraid they were of diving into some research that would require more IRB approval than any of them were used to doing. I have done this type of approval for over 1,000 people so it was a no-brainer. I offered to help immediately and assure them it would be OK. The only way to make the profession better is to help move it forward right?

The vice president of diversity at the local land grant was the guest speaker and she was fantastic. I felt uplifted, optimistic, and then we had to sit through a purely Christian prayer before the next meal. There were clearly NOT christians in the room, at least one woman wearing a hijab, several other monikers of people who were anything but christian. I’m not “bashing” on christianity, but the point is this: if you’re already an organization who is “known” for not being diverse, then don’t make it worse. Think hard about what you do to segregate your potential audience and how you discriminate against people who don’t think or work like you do and offer up alternatives-offering a non-denominational prayer would have been more appropriate. Not everyone loves “Jesus” or “Our Lord” or “Heavenly Father” in every religion.

I sat through a set of research talks where all the presenters brushed around the tough topic of discrimination, prejudice, and racism. Our profession still hasn’t done a great job with these things and they continue to skirt around them. I spoke up. I couldn’t help it. Having those tough conversation is hard, truly uncomfortable, but totally worth it. I’m a minority and I can no longer count the number of times I’ve been discriminated against since moving here. I cannot stand it, but I also cannot ignore it. I have those conversations. I point out to students and peers how their language is inappropriate. I explain why it’s incorrect. I don’t scold or reprimand, I simply say, “do you know how that could be viewed as racist to me?” and go from there. The faculty I listened to are so concerned with international travel, but they fail to provide their students with appropriate tools to cope in those settings because they don’t know how to cope themselves.

I had great exchanges with my colleagues. As a first year faculty in this profession, I felt welcome, I felt safe speaking up and sharing my work and my experiences. I felt as though most folks were receptive to me as a professional. I had a GREAT TIME overall and the city was a great host. I visited the Alamo, I walked the river walk, I ate and drank to my heart’s content, and our flights back were smooth and uneventful. I am so happy I went. I got to know my colleagues, I got to know our grad students, I was happy to network with other faculty and grad students. Most importantly, I got a feel for what kind of research I wanted to do to raise the bar in this field. The kind of work that NEEDS to be done, not the kind that will get accepted.

I share all of this to remind myself and you: we have to cope with the good and the bad. I’m proud of myself. As a faculty member who just finished my first year in this department, I felt confident. I felt good. I felt like the science I was and am doing is solid and I’m not afraid to push that envelope to be better. I don’t complain without offering solutions. Offering to help the other faculty was a small price to pay, being heard about what it’s like to be a minority in a predominantly white professional group isn’t an issue. These things become issues if I didn’t speak up, if I wasn’t brave.

It’s HARD as a new faculty to walk that line. I don’t want to piss anyone off, but I also don’t like the feeling of complacency I got. Having hard conversations is UNCOMFORTABLE, but they’re worth having. I am a minority in science and damnit, I’ve earned my place at the table. I will not be diminished because I’m the wrong ethnicity for the majority of these folks and I refuse to back down. I will behave, I will be diplomatic, but I have a voice and I’m turning into a damn good researcher, even if it doesn’t feel like it every day.

I was just as glad to be home and asleep in my own bed. Unlike the rest of the world, I didn’t make any plans for the long weekend. I slept, I gardened, I took naps, I put food in the fridge and made some delicious meals. Those were things that had not been happening prior to the end of the semester. Tomorrow begins “summer writing schedule” for me and I’m looking forward to some incremental progress on several things.

As a young researcher, it’s important to reflect and keep moving forward. It’s all we can do.

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Setting Up for Summer Writing

Setting Up for Summer Writing {New Faculty}


In no time at all, the last u-haul’s will leave and my sweet, adoring college town will return to the splendor that I LOVE. I love this town emphatically when the students leave. Only a few thousand stick around for summer to work, research, and live the good life and all of the camps don’t start for weeks. Oh. My. GAWDD. I cannot say enough about summer here.

That being said, the first week of summer here, I’ll be gone. And a few weeks after that. And again a few more after that….Hhmmm, summer…elusive and full of travel at present. Summer scholars will come, I’ll be working with them, we host some major events, and damnit, August already?

Summer as a faculty member, and a 12-month faculty member, is an odd thing. It seems like all faculty work a mere 9-month year, but I can assure you, 95% (or more) of us are toiling away all summer. Summer is the coveted time when there’s fewer students running around. With the burgeoning summer income for most universities, we also teach, continue to work with students in more relaxed settings, and above all, try and get caught up on research.

I cannot stress enough the importance of setting yourself up for summer writing. This blissful time is a great stretch to not only enjoy your life a little bit, but also try and push out that last bit of data, add chunks to get manuscripts out the door to reviewers, and set yourself some manageable goals for the upcoming academic year. While I’ve only been doing this for a few years, I’ve never had a summer dedicated to JUST writing. It’s always been filled with STEM summer camps, more camps, some writing, and taking some time off. This will be my first full summer on this job where I can really sit with some data and write some things. Yes, I’m also doing some summer camps, summer scholars, and you know….maybe not working on Sunday’s until late August.

Set yourself up so you’re not filled with regret in August. Regret? Yes, regret. So many times I hear, “I didn’t get enough done.” Trying my darndest, I want to NOT say that in August. Here’s how I’m going to tackle the monster:

Set manageable goals. Managing my own expectations will be the key.

Set deadlines for myself. Working with undergrads has helped me stay accountable. I just had this conversation with a colleague over the weekend (at happy hour) about how we manage that. Knowing that I had undergrad researchers waiting for me to read/edit/contribute helped motivate me to keep the ship moving.

Under those deadlines, map out what needs to be done to get to that deadline. Is it reading? Is it editing? Is it analyzing data or collecting it? Whatever it is, I try to be mindful and record what I need to do to get to the ultimate goal.

Execute my intentions and check in regularly. With myself mostly. I use Evernote to keep a running list of “to-do’s” but also employ google drive to collaborate with other authors. For me, it’s all about accountability to myself and to others.

Be accountable. You may need a writing buddy, you may just need an undergrad staring at you once a week, whatever it is, find a system that helps keep you accountable. Someone to say, “where are we with ____?” can be immensely helpful.

Most importantly: plan in some fun. Make sure you give yourself the respite you deserve. Your brain works hard and your wrists are probably pre-carpal tunnel (like mine), so however you decompress, pencil it in before anything else. It will help you create the remainder of your summer. If you know you need a day before and after a trip, pencil it in your calendar now so you don’t feel guilty later. If you think you might have a weekend event, pencil it in, even if it gets canceled, you’ve given yourself permission to not work and any extra will just be icing on the cake.

Summer can be a great writing win


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When Grad Students Don’t Perform: A Lesson in Patience

Lessons in Patience {New Faculty}

“I’ve got this grad student….”

If this were an academic pick-up line, we’d be on our third date already. We’ve all got at least one grad student who…just doesn’t quite understand how life works, how grad school works, or how ‘adulting’ (as i like to fondly call it) works. At all.

There’s a fine line between my expectations of myself and my expectations of my students. This grad student not-with-standing either. I’m highly motivated most of the time. Producing is like oxygen to me and I like doing things (research things) all day, every day. I also like playing games on my phone, going to yoga, going out with my friends, and rotting on my couch. But, I really, REALLY like working. A LOT.

This grad student….they don’t seem to know how to get their shit together. We’ve gone through all of the paces of “what’s the matter?” and done the dance that goes with it. I’ve been the positive boss, the patient mentor, the listening mentor, the understanding and empathetic human, but you know what? I’ve also been pissed off boss. Miraculously, both times I had to raise my voice to ‘teacher level nine’ I got results for several weeks after. I also seem to get blown off, ignored, and totally void of any kind of work for weeks on end as well. As I begin this post, I haven’t seen work for three weeks until this morning. When I emailed and asked for it. And it’s half-assed work in my opinion.

This student doesn’t blow off their work, they’re also blowing off their thesis. So, they’re equal opportunity with their assistantship and their thesis work. That’s slightly comforting on a morbid level. We invest in grad students and their potential. When we begin to get a negative ROI on that, we begin to get annoyed. Put up or shut up. Grad school isn’t just about finding yourself or extending your youth, it’s about getting your next job.

With a mere two weeks left in this semester, I kind of can’t wait for this student to disappear into the sunset. They’ve shown minimal effort, work ethic, and all of the other “soft skill” buzz words I can think of. I don’t know if they’ll finish their thesis and quite frankly, it’s not my problem. I hope they get a job. Although, I haven’t been asked to be a reference for obvious reasons.

I hate to be all ‘negative nancy’ on you grad students, most of you are just fine, but like apples, there’s always that one….that one we can’t ever seem to find, account them for any kind of work, but they’re always the first ones crying wolf about how awful their lives are. If your life is that awful, maybe you need some counseling, but in many cases, life is fine, you’re just looking for another excuse.

Working with students, especially grad students, is truly a lesson in patience for me and my colleagues. We don’t always get it done perfectly either, but we get it done. We show up, and urge our grad students to do the same.

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