the grid

the grid

Saturday 27 September 2014

Ready to get started?

Thanks to JaneB for getting the new TLQ site up and running, as well as providing the excellent introductory remarks. I'm not sure if it's a short time or a long time until the end of 2014...about 14 weeks.

For this first week, please introduce yourself and set some goals for this block of time as well as the week ahead. Please check JaneB's first post for further guidelines. Looking forward!


  1. Hello, everyone,

    Thank you for organizing another TLQ, JaneB, and thank you for hosting this block, Humming42!

    I study Medieval Europe and teach at a university in a non-English speaking country. My two young children take a considerable part of my time, which sometimes makes me very happy, sometimes makes me frustrated at how much it eats up my research time…

    Overall goals for this block:
    1) An article which will be a part of my book.
    2) A book proposal.
    3) Exercises, healthy eating, learning languages.
    4) 15 minute-writing every day.

    This weeks goals:
    1) Read the important article I have left unread.
    2) Re-read first two chapters of the important book.
    3) Exercises, no midnight snacks, reviewing my French, 3 days.
    4) 15 minute-writing, 5 days.

    This time, I am trying to set a conclete, not too ambitious, manegeable goals each week. I hope this works First two goals are real goals of this block, but last two goals are what I want to make a habit of.

    1. There's great wisdom in having a balance of goals to achieve and habits to develop. Setting off with an awareness of the constraints on your time is important too. It seems like many of us struggle with the difficulty of coming to terms with having set overly ambitious goals, so it's good to start with a manageable approach. Looking forward!

    2. Thank you for your comment, Humming42! Actually I love ambitious goals - and never achieved. This time I am trying to be realistic and save my ambition for later ;)

  2. Hi all. Amstr here.

    Over the summer, I came up with a priority list. Everything I say yes to should help further one of these areas: HEALTH * CREATIVITY * CAREER * HOUSEHOLD * COMMUNITY. Five focus points seems like a lot, so I’m planning to focus on health and career this fall.

    Overall Goals: 1) prep, plan, and start to execute Dissertation to Book transformation; 2) land a teaching gig for winter; 3) health (eat well, sleep well, exercise regularly); 4) make progress on non-academic writing (3 ready-to-edit children’s book drafts; 1 short story).

    Goals for the week: 1) read 2 articles for article revision; 2) read 2 chapters of Dissertation to Book; 3) re-read dissertation intro; 4) exercise 4x.

    I’m taking a Children’s Picture Book Writing class right now, so Big Goal #4 is TRQ at the moment.

    1. I love your focus areas and your committement to "Everything I say yes to should help further one of these areas". That is a solid plan to me.

    2. I've been playing with anagram generators lately (and used to play a lot of Text Twist) and noticed the H and C pattern of your focus areas. Just something neat there.

      One of the things I like about the process you describe is that you have to think before you say yes to anything while deciding whether it fits, and "think before you say yes" is a great bit of advise that I wish I could follow more often.

      Children's picture book writing class: very cool! I've been thinking about how putting creative energies into something very different can bring a fresh perspective to academic writing.

    3. I love your categories, and the forethought before saying yes. I have found that having creative writing projects, even when they have to be relegated to the back burner at times, does inform and deepen my academic writing.

  3. I echo Matilda's thanks to JaneB and Humming42. I have learned so much from my online writing groups, and the TLQ group has been perfect for me.

    I am a tenured faculty member in English at a two-year college in California, where I've been working for about 16 years. I am also a PhD student at a university in the UK, which I attend part-time. I am almost six years into my program, and I would like to finish within about 18 months (OMG, OMG, OMG). Like Matilda, I have too young(isn) children, and it's difficult to get everything finished, especially the PhD thesis.

    Overall goals for this block:
    1) Read key texts on theory that will tie all of the thesis chapters together, put together an outline and bibliography for the introduction.
    2) Revise and develop chapter two of the thesis.
    3) cook from the farm box, walk regularly, and make sure weight goes down, not up.
    4) Make five doctor's appointments for myself because I am way behind on all fronts (dentist, dermatologist, eye doctor, mammogram--you know the rest).
    5) Have at least two one-on-one dates with each child and with my husband.

    This week's goals:
    It's going to be difficult to do much TLQ this week, so I'll keep goals modest.
    1) Read at least 25 pages of text related to theory
    2) Make one appointment
    3) Walk three times with the dog

    1. I do not (hopefully) yet have any children. I love your committement to spend time with each child!

    2. The balance of research and everyday life creates a feeling of wholeness in your goals for the block. Also the goals for taking care of yourself and spending time with children, husband, and dog (combines loving care and exercise!) shows a mindfulness for self and others. Looking forward to your posts!

    3. I love the dates with the husband and each child. My children are in college, but I had one-on-one time with each of them through the years, and I think it deepened our relationship. They were very close in age, so it helped them feel like individuals.

  4. Hello everyone, thanks for taking part again!

    I'm a mid-career academic in a squeezed-middle UK university in the north of England, and I've been on an 80% contract for a few years now for health reasons (although I still have what is pretty much a full-time job, as I've carried an teaching or administrative overload nearly every year I've worked here). I live with an elderly cat who is starting to have medical needs, and just managing our domestic needs is quite enough of a struggle on top of work!

    I've just blogged about why I'm struggling to set goals for this block, on the work side of things at least, so this week I'm just going to set weekly goals. It's the first week when students are back, so NOTHING is normal and there are likely to be a lot of interruptions. Given all of that, this week's goals are:

    1) to set some sensible research goals for the semester 2) to work for 45 minutes each of four days on a) research writing b) teaching prep and c) administrative report (due this week) 3) to keep a log of what I actually do (it's easy to get to the end of the day feeling like you did nothing: I want to collect some data on what I actually DO do) and 4) to spend at least 15 minutes on SOMETHING productive and unrelated to work (other than escaping into a book/show or eating!) each evening: examples include sorting my clothing drawers, working on a scarf I want to knit for my sister for Christmas, chasing up quotes from garden-work-people, taking the cat to the evening vet's clinic for her vaccinations...

    1. Thank you for helping organize all of us and keep us accountable!

      I am curious how you track your actual time. I have tried just keeping a (sepearate electronic) calendar with that information, which is convenient, but I find it a pain to then analyze the data. I've also seen Apps. but have found the one's I've tried too time intensive to set-up to not interfere with actual productive work. Thanks!

    2. Hello JaneB! I too am interested to learn more about how you track your time. I have thought so many times that surely I can make just 15 minutes for exercise/writing/artwork/calling a family member and keep failing to do so.

      Best wishes for a great first day back to school!

  5. Echoing the thanks to JaneB and Humming42.
    I'm a senior faculty member at an R1 university in the US. Because of certain characteristics of my university, I normally carry a fairly heavy admin load, though I do get released time from teaching. This year I am on a 90% sabbatical (i lead a seminar that meets alternate weeks) finishing a book - I'm in the humanities, and my research is based in the UK.

    My general goals for TLQ are 1. Finish the book,
    2. Get the balance back in my life, with decent sleep, healthy eating, and exercise. I'm pretty good at the first two, but exercise has been more of a challenge,
    3. Get rid of paper in my house, and turn my former study, which now functions as "where I put things when I have no better idea" into a den or exercise room that works.

    On my personal life, I live alone with two cats. My mother has moved to my town, so life also includes a certain amount of attention to her needs.

    This week I'm on a research trip to one of my favorite libraries where I will see lots of friends. I have a long list of things to do in the library, so I'll be a busy bee.

    1. Are you going entirely paperless and if so, how are you doing it? I've been considering something like the Neat system to do so, but it has such mixed reviews I'm not sure it is worth it.

    2. Wishing you a wonderful trip, with great research along with great friends. Do you have a self-imposed deadline for finishing the book, or a contractual obligation?

    3. I am not going completely paperless, but trying to scan things like my teaching notes from 30 years ago. As for the book, it *will* be done by the time I finish my leave in June, off to the press. It's a self-imposed, but emotionally important deadline.

    4. I have also been moving to being paperless, mostly because I have had to move so many times for work as an early career researcher. For me it has involved scanning stuff I want to keep, and reducing the number of actual papers, not printing off pdfs unless I REALLY think I want to read it on the bus or similar, and tidying up lots of bits of scrap paper with tiny jottings of info into either the bin, or various workbooks (just sellotaping them in usually- primitive, but much less disorganised!). And, as I publish papers, getting rid of the copious early drafts I keep on my computer as well. aw

  6. Hi everyone
    Thanks for hosting and setting up :) I've learned a lot from previous groups, and I'm very happy this one is going again!

    I'm a tt faculty member in physical science at a tiny undergraduate university. I finished my PhD last year, just started my third year at my university job and have started a few new research programmes in my new area. My primary struggle is to get rid of the papers from my thesis while working on new things, and as with everyone, making time for research while teaching. I have a child who just started school, and a partner and associated two-body issue and a whole lot of stress associated with that.

    General TLQ goals - get rid of all three thesis papers. This term, no later...
    As previous group members may remember from the endless whinging the rate limiting step in paper production is very often the glacial reading pace of ex-supervisor (who I love and is awesome and gives great feedback, it just takes many months too long...) so that is something that will have to end.

    This week: A three day week because of conference travel, and my TLQ goal will be to send paper revisions to supervisor.
    They will go with a polite note saying that I'm submitting the thing before a major grant deadline next month. We'll see how that goes :)

    1. How hard was it, especially with a family, to start your job ABD, if you don't mind me asking?

    2. Don't mind at all :) The first year of the job was pretty rough. I don't think I even remember half of it, it passed in a blur of new teaching and being sick every two weeks dealing with toddler germs from a brand new town/daycare! There were many days of getting up at 4 to write before work, and I didn't do much for fun the whole year, not to even mention exercise or anything like that. I just did absolutely nothing but work and child stuff.
      I do not particularly want to repeat the experience, but of course I would do it all again if the opportunity came up. It was a risk, but worked out well. It definitely delayed the thesis completion (partly time, partly being out of supervisor's radar makes one kind of invisible) but that will not really matter ever. After the defense it was actually mentally harder to do thesis corrections after starting new projects actually because my focus was so split.
      So, not fun, but totally worthwhile in the long run. And now I appreciate every free weekend :)

    3. We definitely have issues that carry from one writing group to another...a sign that some things take longer to complete or resolve than we might anticipate.

      I hope your conference brings all good things!

  7. 29 September 2014

    Hi, Accountability Partners!

    I also want to echo the gratitude to Humming42 and JaneB for organizing and hosting this. Right now, this seems beyond my capabilities to do, so I really appreciate your time and leadership!

    I am a seventh year PhD Candidate in the US studying nutrition-related mechanisms of development in disease. I delayed, once again, my dissertation submission last semester because I did not get it done. I am nervous about saying "this will be it" again, because I have missed my personal deadlines so many times now.

    My goals for this semester are:
    1) Finish my dissertation and submit it to my committee by XXX (I haven't even committed the deadline to memory yet!)
    2) Stick to my health and exercise plan, and mentally not get sidelined by the overwhelming amount of junk that needs to be done before we can sell our house
    3) Defend my dissertation and deposit it by end of semester

    For this week:
    1) Send a revised analysis and discussion of article #1 to co-authors by Friday at 5 PM
    2) Stick to food plan and calendared workouts
    3) Schedule deadlines and send an update to my committee on Friday

    1. In my experience, I was "one year from done" for about three years. Then I was "six months from done" for about 18 months. Then "four months from done" for about a year. (I think that maybe adds up to more time than I spent on it, but you get the idea.) I was always a certain time away from finishing until I wasn't anymore. This may be the time!

      And a wise colleague (finished in 10 years, under the duress of a hard, externally imposed deadline) said he needed about 20 hours of dedicated work time a week to finish.

      You can do it!

    2. We will be here cheering you on...whether you submit this semester or not. I'm thinking about that difficult balance of being kind to yourself while also being firm about pushing yourself to accomplish what you wish for. I'm not sure how we sort that out, but would be interested hear what others think as we move forward.

    3. I, too, set and failed to meet numerous deadlines, which is discouraging. That was partly my fault, and partly the fault of advisors who urged me to set unrealistic deadlines. I'm sure it varies by discipline (and mine is very different), but I found it made sense to set deadlines based on what I'd actually been able to accomplish in a given time under given circumstances in the past, rather than based on my (or anyone else's) idea of what I *should* be able to accomplish. That made for slow progress, but it was less discouraging (and I did finish, finally, in a blur that I don't quite remember). This approach has also worked pretty well for deciding how many papers I can realistically assign (and, more to the point, grade) in a semester: it's fewer than I think it ought to be, but I more or less manage to keep up these days.

  8. EDIT: an additional semester goal:
    4) Write and submit application for teaching certificate

  9. Hi all,
    Great to be part of the new writing group. I am a very interdisciplinary ecologist at a government research institute. I am a parent and a partner as well as being an early to not quite mid career researcher. And busy. And when I get stressed and/or busy, I don’t look after myself.

    Overall Goal: to write and submit a manuscript called pirate, while improving my overall level of health and fitness. But I also have lots of wildly overdue things to do. Hmmm. They might end up here on the margins as well.

    This week’s goals: set a schedule, creating a doable plan for Pirate check a vital Pirate analysis. Sadly this was not my job, but the collaborator who did it originally is now too busy, and confused, and has forgotten how he categorised the data. So we (I) now have to make a massive effort to understand the data, and ensure the method is replicated before we can apply it to the wider dataset.
    3. Decide on the form of three graphs for the paper- what will be informative and why?
    4. Exercise at least four times.
    5. Go to the dentist.
    allan wilson.

    1. I'm especially interested in your comment, "And when I get stressed and/or busy, I don't look after myself." It so important for us to have that self-awareness, because you can't sort that out if you're not conscious of it. At the same time, I'm also interested in how not taking care affects us in so many ways--physical, psychological, spiritual.

      Good discussion topics floating to the surface here too, like the peril of collaboration and the benefit of naming projects & giving them personality.

    2. I find it hard to balance taking care of myself and getting things done in a busy life, as well.

      I love the idea of naming the projects--as Humming said, it gives them a personality.

      I have had experience with the double-edged sword of Daisy's great supervisor who takes forever to look at things--sometimes collaboration falls on that double-edged sword, but I've been lucky so far *knocks wood*.

  10. Just popping in to say that I'll post goals soon, I promise. I'm sick and also facing a couple of deadlines in the next 48 hours; the part of my brain that looks more than a day in advance seems currently to be hiding.

    1. Sorry you are sick, CC. Hope it doesn't last long!

    2. Feel well soon! I'll get to posting in the next day or so too...somehow I managed to forget.

    3. Hope you will get better soon, Contingent Cassandra!

    4. Thanks for the good wishes! I am (finally) feeling better today, and the deadlines were more or less met.

      So -- I'm a mid-career English (mostly comp/writing-in-the-disciplines) professor at a R2 state university in the U.S. with a 4/4/2 (that last 2 is the summer teaching) load and a multi-year but non-tenure-track contract (up for renewal this year, which probably isn't a matter for concern, except of course I can't help being slightly concerned). There's no writing or research required in my job, but I try to get some in nonetheless; this fall, however, I'm planning to continue my summer focus on what I'm calling "infrastructure": basically, overdue attention to household/financial matters and to general health and well-being. I hope that catching up with some stuff that I've let slide will give me a better foundation for getting back to my writing and research with fewer distractions (which are all the more distracting since I live in a one-room studio apartment, which means that undone projects tend to be very much in sight and in mind whether I like it or not).

      Semester Goals (more or less in order of importance/likely tackling): (1) attend to health/wellness: restart exercise program, cook/eat healthy meals, get regular sleep; (2) continue progress on getting financial matters in order; (3) get community garden plot fenced and prepared for winter; (4) work on apartment home-repair/improvement projects. If things go well, there might also be some work on reacquainting myself with my research and/or preparing for next semester, but let's leave it at the core 4 for the moment.

      Goals for this week (which is nearly over): focus on the cooking/eating and sleeping part of wellness, in hopes of vanquishing the last vestiges of my cold, and do a bit of work on the garden plot.

    5. Infrastructure is a great term to describe this project--the variety of projects are brought together under that common heading and common goal. I'm interested to know more about how you prioritize and organize your goals. I find that when I have goals in several different areas, I end up over-investing my time in trying to figure out how to organize to do lists and schedules. Looking forward!

    6. I like the idea of calling it infrastructure too- it really emphasises how important theses things are, that we often ignore. aw

  11. Hello all,
    Good to see all of you here in the new digs. Many thanks to JaneB for setting up the blog, and to Humming42 for hosting as well.

    I am a "getting toward the end of my career" academic librarian, with advanced medieval studies degrees. I’m at a large public research university in New York, where I am in a 12-month administrative position as a Visiting Associate Professor. Because my former institutions (up until three years ago) did not offer tenure for librarians, I am faced with going up in the spring after more than twenty years on the job. Also, while my medieval studies articles are valued, I have to write the fourth of four library science articles this fall to be able to show “continued progress.”

    I am also a partner, mother, part of a pack with a Standard Poodle and a Weimaraner, voracious reader and writer. I find the only way I get anything done is to put myself at risk of embarrassment if I don’t do at least some of the things I said I would, so the accountability of this group is necessary this semester.

    Semester goals: write the article, assemble the dossier, stay healthy, stay sane.

    This week: Meditation and yoga daily. Block out sacrosanct times for writing, and sketch a preliminary schedule for the semester.

    1. good on you for prioritising health and well being here!
      allan wilson

    2. Good to see you here too! How strange to be putting your tenure packet together so long after you have firmly established yourself professionally. I'm interested in how you bridge these two disciplines and maintain your dedication to both.

    3. Thank you, Allan!

      Humming, it is a bit strange, I'll admit. In one sense, I'm not tied in knots anxious, having been in the field so long. On the other, if I don't make tenure, I am getting too old to go back on the market, so there is the edge of anxiety. That's probably good, so that I will do a good job on the dossier. :)

      As for bridging the two disciplines, most of my "straight library science" articles are on management and assessment, while my "bridge articles" are on rare books. Once I get tenure, *knocking on wood*, I can blithely return to the "pure medieval studies" research.

      I find the hardest part is switching gears between how one does social science research and humanities research. I prefer the latter still, which helps me stay dedicated to that discipline.

  12. Hi everyone:

    I'm Earnest English in my sixth year in a service department in a specialized college in the US. I am so glad you all are doing this again, as I found out about it on the blogs I usually read. I really need something like this. About six weeks ago, I turned in my tenure materials, and next Monday I begin teaching again (we're on quarters). Many things have changed on the home front (all good), but with that and a very intensive teaching schedule, I'm worried about getting everything done. I also just spent the last month pretty jazzed about my renewed engagement with Secondary Field, my original field that I love but which is not so in demand (nor do I particularly enjoy teaching it) in terms of positions. I really don't want to lose my renewed Secondary Field mojo. This is a huge priority for me, though I find it difficult to find time during the day for it. (But I proved to myself that I really can manage to do a lot at night or even in the morning if motivated.)

    So here are the big goals, most of which feel impossible at the moment (but I didn't get enough sleep either):

    -Keep up Secondary Field momentum. How best to do this is something of a question. (Just do it. Any old way, some part of me begs.)

    -Schedule and be firm about making enough time to properly prep and grade for the intensive classes I have this quarter. (My family is very home-based, and I plan to be at home more this quarter, but this means doing work at home, which is sometimes very difficult for me to do. I just need to be firm about it -- not angry and panicked because I'm already too far behind.) Next step: figuring out times when I can regularly schedule work time.

    -Stay engaged with my child's homeschooling (though my partner is definitely going to have to pick up on that). To make that concrete, I'd say that I should make sure to do at least two sessions with him a week or take two classes together per week (which are already on our scheduled actually, though as the weather turns, I imagine we'll want to stay home more). This should be okay, but since I've never balanced work and homeschooling before, I'm nervous about it.

    -Maintain gardening, composting (order that composter!), and holidays/family traditions through the term.

    -Take care of myself: get enough sleep; eat good vegan food as often as possible (and no going to work with no food!); take supplements; exercise at least twice a week; try to catch up with the doctors, especially the eye doctor -- also find new doctors since the move; consider meditation or use writing as meditation; let loose sometimes (go out for drinks with Mentor). Take that yoga class already?

    -Keep up minimal research in my Primary field enough to not have to go insane right before a conference. This means getting some reading and some notes done. Next step: schedule?? I really only need an hour or so per week for this.

    -If possible, write some notes about intensive classes I'm teaching.

    This is already really helpful as I think about how to make these ideas and goals concrete.

    1. Welcome! It's good to see someone else with gardening goals (in addition to yet another person with health/wellness goals).

    2. Welcome! And congratulations on submitting your tenure portfolio. It's interesting to think how the enthusiasm for one project may carry over, allowing a tidal wave ride to bolster a less engaging one.

    3. Thanks for the welcome, everyone! Great to be here.

      Humming42: It is neat to think of how enthusiasm can be catching from one project to another -- and I hope that I can keep the Secondary/Beloved Field projects going. I think a big part of it was being finally freed from all the tenure stuff. I think I've been saying "I'll get back to this when I have tenure" for far too long!

    4. I am really interested in your determination not to lose your secondary field- I have a similar problem, in that my secondary field is the one I currently have a lot of external funding to work in, and thus spend my time on (and will do over the next 5 years officially), yet my primary field is the one I love best (but is currently unfunded). I want to keep my skills up in my primary field, and keep publishing in it, but it is hard to carve out the time to do this. Luckily at the moment I have some work I can write up which will help keep my foot in the door, but I need to work out how I can keep nurturing this field. awilson

  13. Duh, goals for the week, and gah, just lost my post about that!

    -Prep for Monday.
    -Exercise once between now and Sat.
    -Do at least one more homeschooling session between now and Sat.
    -Take care of self re: food, etc.
    -Do 1/2 hr at least two days between now and Sat.
    -Order composter.

  14. Can I join?

    I'm a postdoc in ecology in Australia, struggling with general motivation. I'm working on projects that, in general, don't inspire me (and other projects going on in the lab inspire me even less).
    I'm pretty sure I don't want to stay in academia but I would like to continue with research, most probably in a more applied area (my PhD and work prior to my PhD were in more applied areas to what I'm doing now).

    My goals for this week would be:
    - enjoy the public holiday on Monday!
    - tidy up comments from co-authors
    - do additional stats for postdoc advisor on large-lab-paper-lead-by-former-lab-member
    - determine species for this summer's fieldwork and check out sites

    1. hi Ivy, lovely to have another southern hemisphere ecologist in our group. funnily enough, I love 'pure' ecology more than applied, but the money seems to lie in strongly applied topics where I live. Allan Wilson.

  15. Hello everyone! It's been a really hectic first week of semester and I've been trying to figure out if being part of this group will work for me during semester time. I'll give it a go, so thanks for setting it up and to humming42 for running it.

    I'm an academic at a UK university, have an ever expanding admin role and need to learn to say no. My priorities are often a little different to 'traditional research intensive academics' but I don't see a problem with that.

    My goals for this semester:
    1. complete professional development activities, 1 by mid October deadline, and two others thereafter. These types of things always feed into each other quite well hence tackling several in one go.
    2. rewrite manuscript that was drafted over the summer for a new journal - the one I was aiming for (with quite a specific focus) no longer seems to exist. Oh, and find new journal to submit to.
    3. Get back to writing for 30 - 45 minutes first thing each day to plug through the other manuscripts in the list.

    My (retrospective goals for the week):
    1. make a start on CPD activity 1.
    2. get all my project and research students up and running as they start back.
    3. sort out my calendar to allow a day per week working from home.

  16. Hi, KJHaxton, I hope you will find being here will be any help!