Monthly Archives: November 2012

Turning Off the Turmoil

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I have a friend who is recently single. Her husband woke her up on a Saturday morning to let her know he was unhappy and he moved out. Their break up has been done over social media, email, texts, and rarely ever in person. My friend proclaimed to me a few days ago that she “f*^g hated facebook and her phone.” I told her to shut that crap down. Immediately. I recommended that she not respond to her soon-to-be-ex unless he wants to man up and she needed to woman up and confront the situation in order to end it.

As professionals and human beings, we NEED to separate ourselves from the devices we’ve become accustom to having. A friend and I ran a 5k this fall. I run intervals and she said she would try to run a little bit. She ended up checking her phone the whole time. I had jogged ahead of her and turned around to check on her only to see her looking at her phone. I was pissed. I screamed, “get off your god damned phone and live the life that’s right in front of you!!!! i’m right here, look at all these people running with us, whatever is in that phone can wait 45 minutes.” She didn’t get off her phone, I ran the course and waited another 30 min. for her to finish. Miraculously she crossed the finish line without her phone in her hand but in her pocket.

Social media, email, and everything technology related can be hard to stomach. The spoken word is so powerful and the range of other non-verbal cues that come with it are far more important than the message itself sometimes. As someone who researches facial cues and non-verbal behaviors, I can say with some amount of certainty that these cues drive us. A flat facebook message or email does not get across any of the truly important aspects related to the communication: the human connection. Email is great for business, for seeing how the kids are, for confirming flights, and scheduling meetings but rarely is it a great medium for someone’s joy, laughter, tears, heartache, or range of motions in between. Facebook is wonderful for sharing photos, puppies, babies, more babies, and your latest life experience but the only true way to connect is to communicate. Emoticons help but are less than two dimensional.

As our semester winds down and we begin to feel the emotional onslaught that comes with the end of a term, I urge you to check in with yourself and turn off your devices. Take a two hour break during the middle of the day. Stop working before the sun goes down and get some vitamin D. Stop pushing your emails, facebook notifications, and everything in between. Turn off the turmoil in your life and turn on the relationships you have with the people sitting in front of you. Your heart will thank you. Besides, you can always check out everyone’s Thanksgiving feasts later and black friday deals next week.

Your online addiction may be adversely affecting your life more than you think. I enjoyed the tidbits this article provided and have made my own steps to calm down my technology use to balance home time and work time. I do enjoy reading books on my iPad and playing Angry Birds, but have learned to turn off notifications and sounds when I’m busy, even if busy is watching TV or when I’m with friends, enjoying what I’m doing, and avoiding my digital life. After reading the HBR article about online addictions, I took my own stock and reflected on what I did and didn’t do. Here’s what I do:

  • I turn off my ringer in the mornings when I work. I work best during this time and do not want to be disturbed by texts or calls.
  • I continue to carry a good notebook with me for meetings. If my mind wanders and my laptop or iPad is open, I’ll stop paying attention to the meeting.
  • I break up my days with exercise when I can. Working out in the middle of the day helps re-energize me for the long afternoons. It doesn’t happen every day but I take advantage of it when it does.

This is what I can always work on:

  • Impulsively checking. Ugh. Sometimes I catch myself doing it and then I think, “stop it, it’s the weekend/night/not email time.”
  • Setting aside time to check in with myself and write. My writing/research writing efforts need to be amped up. I can’t help but admit that technology hinders that productivity and focus.
  • Stop letting Pavlovian pull suck me in. Must. Stop.

I’ll keep working on it if you will. As a new faculty, it can be tough to balance all of your job responsibilities and your real life.

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Annie, Get Your Clothes ON!

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It’s a holiday week! In honor of a short work week and hopefully some much needed down time or family time, I’d like to discuss something that keeps popping up on my campus: clothes with no one in them. What is going on undergrads??? Is this why the cost of a college education keeps rising-hidden costs when you just can’t keep track of your personal possessions?  This fall, I’ve started noticing something that I had not noticed the previous years spent on this campus: your clothes!! Your personal things. Your parking tickets that you wish to ignore even though they will ultimately come back and haunt you like eating garlic for dinner. Come on. Get your clothes on!

It started one Friday morning. I was walking in from the parking lots and I found someone’s hair extensions strewn about all over the sidewalk. Hey sister, did you know half your hair fell out?  I did not touch it or take a photo but you’re going to have to take my word: long, black, messy at that point. Must have been one wild night with a manic hair pulling/cat fight/dance party on the sidewalk.

The following week: pants. Pants? Not any old pants, black pants with a red trim line going up the leg. FANCY pants! 🙂 These also appeared to be stepped out of and flung aside for some wild Thursday night action. See evidence below:

A few weeks later: a shoe. A men’s Sperry to be exact. Where was its’ mate? Was it lonely?  How does one lose a shoe and not realize (no matter how much booze) that it’s missing because based on the weather here lately, ones foot would get cold sooner than later. The photo below doesn’t do it justice. When I came out of that building, the car was gone but the poor sperry remained. Lonely sperry…

Recently: parking ticket. I’ve only learned a handful of things on this campus that are set in stone and here is one. No pay, no NOTHING. If you don’t pay your tickets, the university cripples you. No scanning of student ID, no eating, no meal plan of any sort, no gym, no bus, no movement….they may even lock you out of your dorm just to force you to pay up. They are dead serious about that stuff around here. This student who randomly tossed his/her parking ticket aside will soon understand the ferocity of the university system. This parking ticket had been looked at, crumpled up, and discarded on the ground. I’m no psychic, but I foresee a day of frustration in this persons’ future….

I hope that with a few days of rest you’ll regain your footing, get some clean laundry, some family time, and maybe….just maybe….come back to campus rested and ready to tackle the rest of the semester!

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Boys vs. Girls

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I am fortunate enough to have a great group of researchers under my wing this year. With the collaborative effort of my PI and I, we are herding like them jello on a hot day–it’s actually going a-ok for the moment and I’m pretty happy with how things are going. These researchers all happen to be females and so am I. The PI they work for is male. They get regular face time with me each week for several hours as we collect data, work in schools, and generally travel around. They get one hour a week with the PI for a weekly research meeting where it’s all business. As it should be.

The interesting part working with a group of females is that sometimes I feel like the male counterpart doesn’t quite know how to hang with us. It’s not weird or inappropriate, but minus the amount of facetime, he sticks to business. While I see the value in that, these undergraduates want to talk to someone. They want to be mentored. They want the human connection. Call it a generational thing if you want, but they thrive on interacting now that they’re comfortable. I stumbled across this article from HBR and it resonated and validated my thoughts. It’s not that the PI is a bad guy, he’s just not into the emotional stuff, he’s into research. And shouldn’t he be?

A few weeks ago during our weekly meeting, the PI was caught in another meeting that back logged his schedule. Instead of wasting the time or canceling, I sat down with the research team to check in, see how everyone was, and where the research was heading. After completing business, the students began to chat for a few minutes. I figured they would leave shortly as we were done, but they stayed with me for almost an hour. I was surprised by this initially, but once we started conversing, I was surprised by how fast the time went. Empathy and awareness of others is a quality that I don’t always associate myself with. I have learned to be better about empathizing with people as I’ve grown older, but it’s not my strong point. My PI is even less empathetic by nature, making me look like a sainted academic in some cases.

As we chatted, we started talking about future plans, careers, and other ‘girl talk’ which was pretty harmless. After the hour, one of my researchers looked at me and thanked me. I asked her why she was thanking me. Her reply was simple, “you took the time that no one else will right now. my family is overseas (military) and they’re not always available for these kinds of chats. you make me feel less crazy about graduating and not always knowing what I should do next.” I told her I was happy to listen and the team left.

The following week we were all crammed in a van heading out to collect data and one of my students said, “I have two questions, one related to research and one not related at all.”  I said, “ok, ask me the non-related one first.”  She asked me how I’d become such a good cook. She had made a couple recipes off of my other blog and said they were really good. Was she pandering? Brown nosing? Being genuine?  I was honest and said, “practice.” I then shared a bunch of stories about a temperamental oven I had once where I kept burning cakes. I took the time to share my failures before my accomplishments in the kitchen on purpose. By showing and telling these young ladies (and gentlemen in the van) that I had failed and burned things hundreds of times before I ever thought about blogging the very ‘best’ of my culinary work, I tried to tune into the fact that cooking could be like life or research. Not always perfect. By being authentic instead of flashing my bravado around about my latest kitchen creation, I hope that it displayed the fact that I am human. I then shared the fact that my ‘kitchen aid fund’ had been depleted because I needed some new tires on my car. Priorities people.

I enjoyed this paragraph quite a bit: “From an early age, men often overvalue their strengths, while women too frequently underrate theirs. In reality, we all struggle to feel a stable sense of value and self-worth. Men often defend against their doubts by moving to grandiosity and inflation, while women more frequently move to insecurity and deferral. Men seek more often to win, women to connect. So long as the path to power is connected to proving you’re bigger and badder, it’s no surprise that men have mostly prevailed.”

I see this time and time again. In myself, in my peers, and in my students in middle schools. They have the tools yet they undervalue their worth as an individual. When did this happen? Should I stop seeking to connect and move into the category where winning become paramount? As a new faculty, it can be extremely difficult to navigate power issues, politics, and stakeholders in your new professional circle.  Can it be as simple as boys vs. girls? Armed with this new knowledge, how do new faculty bridge the gap of gender and identity to create their own space in academia?  This is a tough set of questions for me and my brain.

How do you connect with students? Do you skip building relationships and move into productivity? How do you manage the expectations from all the parties who are invested in you?

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