Monthly Archives: July 2015

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

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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.

NO.

HELL NO.

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}

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

SUMMER IS HALF OVER

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.

SO I CUT A THIRD OF IT.

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.

I LIKE IT NOW!

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:

WHAT I WOULDN’T DO OR TOLERATE

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}

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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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