the grid

the grid

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Week 1 Done, October 5

Hello all! I hope you had a productive and enjoyable week. Last week’s goals are listed below. Please let us know how your week was, and what your plans & goals are for the coming week. Since we are early on in planning both a big block of time and short incremental plans as well, I’d be interested to hear about different ways of keeping track of time spent, deadlines, calendars, to do lists and such. Particular software/apps, wall calendars, writing by hand…what works best for you?

Week 1 goals:
Allan Wilson: set a schedule, creating a doable plan for Pirate, check a vital Pirate analysis, 3. Decide on the form of three graphs for the paper, 4. Exercise at least four times, 5. Go to the dentist.
Amstr:  1) read 2 articles for article revision; 2) read 2 chapters of Dissertation to Book; 3) re-read dissertation intro; 4) exercise 4x.
Contingent Cassandra: 1) focus on the cooking/eating and sleeping part of wellness, and 2) do a bit of work on the garden plot.
Daisy: send paper revisions to supervisor.
Der Modell Wissenschaftler: 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
Earnest English: 1) Prep for Monday, 2) Exercise once between now and Sat, 3) Do at least one more homeschooling session between now and Sat., 4) Take care of self re: food, etc., 5) Do 1/2 hr at least two days between now and Sat., 6) Order composter.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: 1) Meditation and yoga daily, 2) Block out sacrosanct times for writing, and 3) sketch a preliminary schedule for the semester.
Good Enough Woman: 1) Read at least 25 pages of text related to theory, 2) Make one appointment, 3) Walk three times with the dog.
Ivy: 1) enjoy the public holiday on Monday! 2) tidy up comments from co-authors, 3) do additional stats for postdoc advisor on large-lab-paper-lead-by-former-lab-member, 4) determine species for this summer's fieldwork and check out sites
JaneB: 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, and 4) to spend at least 15 minutes on SOMETHING productive and unrelated to work each evening
KJHaxton: 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.
Matilda: 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.
Susan: On research trip


  1. I pretty much cheated on my first set of goals by setting them after I'd done was a tough week!
    I started the CPD activity (which will become TRQ by the end of this week), I got all the project students underway but I feel that some of them need more guidance than they got, and I sorted the calendar out so that most weeks this semester I have a day working at home.

    I noticed this week that I arrive at work with a fairly decent plan for the day and the need to be productive then something shatters that within the first 30 minutes. I spend the next few hours running around playing catch-up and miss out on the 'first thing' productivity. I'm going to try arriving at work and immediately going someplace else this week to work on things for a short period of time (usually the duration of a cup of tea). Then I can avoid my inbox and any urgent/not important things that invade. I'm also going to try to limit emailing time to a half hour around lunch and a half hour before home time. If I can spend a short period of time first each day on what is important, I should get good progress made.

    I don't tend to track hours otherwise - things are done when they are done, and if there is a deadline, the quantity of time available for the task increases with proximity.

    This week:
    (1) Draft of CPD thing, wrangle peripheral paperwork into good shape. Send to someone to read.
    (2) Finish 1st year teaching prep (need to clear it out the way for some tougher prep that's looming).
    (3) Spend the first 40 mins of each day quietly doing something on this list or similar, as mentioned above - try to set the habit for the rest of the semester.

    It should generally be a quiet week, got a 2 hour lecture and a couple of meetings. I need to get ahead in teaching prep because in a few weeks I'll have a week with 8 lecture hours including 3 hours of new prep.

    1. Protecting your time and compartmentalizing (limiting email to a particular time of day) are great strategies for being able to focus on what you value.

      Also of note is the goodness of knowing that your workload changes and will require you to shift your focus. It's easy to get taken by surprise even when we should know better but haven't planned adequately.

  2. Amstr here:

    Goals for last week:
    1) read 2 articles for article revision--done
    2) read 2 chapters of Dissertation to Book--done, read 3.
    3) re-read dissertation intro--nope.
    4) exercise 4x--2 great workouts, 2 mild ones

    The beginning of the week went really well, but the end of the week kind of fell apart. So much so that I missed picking up our 5-kid carpool on Friday afternoon. I did catch up on sleep a lot, so I can count that part as a win. I accomplished most of my tasks and at least dug out my dissertation from a pile.

    This coming week should be less crazy. But the one after is going to be a doozy, so I need to make the most of this one. I’m adding some jobs items--I’m really stalling in this area. I feel like I need to get some momentum (and perhaps to figure out why I’m stalling).

    Goals for the week: 1) re-read my article and make final changes; 2) read 2 chapters of Diss to Book; 3) re-read 2 diss chapters (skim what I read this summer); 4) exercise 4x; 5) 1 syllabus and 1 letter for jobs.

    Topic: I usually have a Google Doc open and keep a running list of tasks for the week. I have my big goals (or areas of goals) across the top so I can always refer to them. I modeled the system after one my husband uses to report into his manager every week on what he has accomplished and what he’s planning for the week ahead. It’s easy to scroll down and see what I’ve accomplished over the past quarter when I start to get discouraged.

    I’ve also just started using a template similar to Wendy Belcher’s from Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks to schedule my days. Last week on days when I followed the schedule I got a lot accomplished. My week got jacked up when I was up at a school-related meeting until midnight Tuesday and then took a gigantic unplanned (but much needed) nap on Wednesday. I’m hoping to make better use of the schedule this week.

    1. I also just started using a service called Follow Up Then. You can forward or send emails to "" or "," for instance. Then you can clear the email out of your inbox, and you'll get an email reminder at the date/time you specify. It's been great for getting rid of the clutter of emails I need to deal with later. (

    2. I like Belcher's book. Actually I have never accomplished in 12 weeks, I think it has so many insightful points.

    3. A school-related meeting that ran until midnight? On a school night?! Small wonder you took a giant nap.

      I've read Dissertation to Book and found it very helpful even though I am still working on the book manuscript...I know what I need to do, but have not made time to do it. I like the strategy of re-reading the dissertation while reading through the book.

    4. You have always been so good at lists and systems and plans! Your systems sound like good options to try.

  3. Here were the goals for last week:

    1) Prep for Monday, XX
    2) Exercise once between now and Sat: Didn't do this.
    3) Do at least one more homeschooling session between now and Sat., ???
    4) Take care of self re: food, etc., XX
    5) Do 1/2 hr at least two days between now and Sat., XX
    6) Order composter.XX

    I got most things done. I didn't exercise, but that's because I got sick and our child got sick (much worse than me). So taking good care of myself (and others) meant no exercise. Yes, that's a little self-justification there, but also taking care of myself means not pushing and stressing myself out. For example, last night I was sick and super-tired, so instead of pushing myself to do another half-hour on Secondary/Beloved Field, I took care of myself instead. Not much choice when you get sick anyway. Even though I didn't plan it, I did end up helping with organizing stuff yesterday (finding a lot in the process), to the point that my partner was talking about "how we're really getting stuff done now" all night, so that's a checkmark in the "keep up with family projects while at work" column. I honestly can't remember whether we did another homeschooling session but he got sick and I have been reading about homeschooling and researching new materials. So I think that's a modified checkmark.

    The coming week is full of stuff, from the class I said I'd cover to the big meeting to the new term starting. Plus I'm under the weather -- not enough to cancel class (which I wouldn't want to anyway). Oy! So there are a bunch of big transitions going on and I'm foundering a bit.

    -Be as calm as possible, drinking tea at work and taking calming supplements. Just breathe.
    -Make sure to eat, especially at work, and take care of self, taking time out when needed. Meditation or writing sessions at work would be excellent.
    -Do at least 3 half hour sessions of work on Beloved Field. (I'm considering taking the first half-hour of any work time to do this.)
    -Prep without panic and without not sleeping.
    -Exercise at least twice (later in the week when I'm not sick anymore).
    -Get in a couple homeschooling sessions when Child is no longer sick or is ready to focus.
    -Get work done in timely non-panicking manner.
    -Gardening projects (dependent on weather)?
    -Show my family that I can be with them when I'm with them.
    -Read for conference presentation (30 min).

    So lots of self-care this week. I really need to keep the priority of keeping balanced while things are still calm.

    Have a great, productive, and mindful week everyone!

    1. Being calm and having something nice to drink is the best combination, really!

    2. Mindful is definitely the word here. Approaching every task with the focus on not panicking and being present is such a solid foundation.

      As a parent and partner, it's so good to remember that self-care comes first. You can't show up and be present if you are in tatters.

    3. Matilda, mmmm. Yummy drink! (I set myself up to have tea at work -- and it's so nice. I just have to have time to do it.)

      humming42: so true and so difficult to remember

  4. Last goals:
    1) Read the important article I have left unread.
    2) Re-read first two chapters of the important book.
    Done. Feel good.
    3) Exercises, no midnight snacks, reviewing my French, 3 days.
    I did exercises every day, so this is good, but also I had midnight snacks every day! Very bad. French? Well, I did some, but I should have done more.
    4) 15 minute-writing, 5 days.
    3 days.

    Next goals:
    1) Write up the big grant application.
    2) Exercises, no midnight snacks, French. - thinking about my poor teeth, which are in poor condition, I must avoid sweets and eat reguraly.

    There was a funeral, an administrative meeting and an important task for my university, which took more time than I had expected. Thus, I was not able to achieve my modest goals. I need to think that I had known I would have these time-consuming jobs this week and they would take time, other than the funeral - of course, one cannot expect funerals - so my modest goals turned out to be ambitious and not achieved. Next week I must concentrate on writing an important grant application file, so this is my goal this time. Achieveble? This is not a question: I just do it.

    I have a notebook and I write anything down in it. So, things-to-do lists, research related memoranda, what to do on weekends with children, and so on. This is just scribble but it helps me to sort out my plans. Other bit I do is to make a record of writing and researching, as the way I found in the book ‘How to write a lot’ by P. J. Silvia. This is a very good book, by the way.
    I wonder if you have any books recommend...

    1. How to Write a Lot is a great book!

    2. I'm sorry to hear there was a funeral. As strange and unexpected things are bound to come up, it's a good strategy to acknowledge what didn't get done then regroup and move on.

      I'm wondering if JaneB might be able to help us compile a list of recommended readings for the group?

    3. To Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, you like the book, too? Silvia's book is the first book of this kind which I really enjoyed reading.
      To humming42, thank you for your comment. Things do happen when you have lots to do, so I always try to think it is better not to complain but to face the problem.

    4. Good idea! We can have a reading list page in this blog, with comments from people on each book maybe?

    5. Could be a great resource.

  5. Last week's goals:
    1) Meditation and yoga daily, DONE
    2) Block out sacrosanct times for writing, DONE
    3) sketch a preliminary schedule for the semester, YES (now holding to it is the next step)

    Next week's goals: 1) Yoga/meditation 2) 1500 words on the article 3) 1/2 hour a day on the dossier

    Topic: I have a to-do list that pops up next to my email, so it is annoyingly present. I also have a paper to-do list that is split into daily, weekly, and monthly tasks, and a catch-all. Every day for the last 15 minutes at work, I cull through the to-do lists for the things for the next day.

    I also have a list of 5-minute things, 1/2 hour things, and longer things that I cull for the waiting times: waiting for the bus, waiting for a meeting to start, waiting at the doctor's. It is a work in progress, but it is helping.

    1. Yay for meeting goals! The different lists with different types of projects is a cool strategy. I often think back to my beloved office mate from grad school who one day said, "But I can't deal with this when 'finish dissertation' is a single line on my to do list!" So true.

    2. I like the idea of lists based on the times for tasks, but I'm not sure how well I could manage multiple lists.

    3. I like the idea of daily vs. weekly vs. monthly goals. I think that might help me rather than one big amorphous goal (write paper).

    4. I'm not as organised as EAM sounds, but I do definitely have a "forest list" of big-picture stuff like "write this paper" and I also have one or more "tree lists" for the day or week, depending on how fraught things are (more things going on, more lists). I throw out and rewrite lists a lot, rather than keep a rolling document (both electronically and on paper, the medium doesn't seem to affect my habits much), but by "throw out" I mean dump into a drawer or a folder, so that at the end of the month or semester I can flip through the lists to see what I actually did before binning them properly.

      The Writing Group approach of semester and weekly goals definitely works for me, when I stick to it.

  6. I’m having trouble setting goals for this block of time. So far this semester, I’ve been working constantly just to keep up, which also means not making time for exercise or TLQ writing (I’m writing on deadline and opting out of submitting abstracts to journals or conferences I calendared as optional). Long term goals, then, will be about process rather than product.
    Write 15 minutes a day.
    Exercise at least three times a week.
    At least three times a week, meditate, do yoga, or do art project.

    The week ahead is busy. I am determined to still make time for these things.
    Write 15 minutes a day (I’m warming up for AcWriMo and also have a conference paper due to respondent next week)
    Twice, child’s pose or sivasana.
    Take care of at least two of those nagging service tasks I haven’t made time for.

    1. I hope that you will be able to find/make some space for TLQ--that you find a process that works. Your goals seem like realistic strategies for opening up that space at least a bit.

    2. Making time to set good goals is haaarrrrrdddd :-(

  7. Last week's goals: 1) focus on the cooking/eating and sleeping part of wellness, and 2) do a bit of work on the garden plot.

    Accomplished: both (it helps to make the goals modest, and also to set them 2/3 of the way through the week, when one has already accomplished one of them).

    This week's goals: (1) continue cooking (and eating, and sleeping); add some exercise; (2) continue work on garden; (3)do some work on financial matters.

    Topic: I currently keep my to-do list in Bonsai, an outlining program that I chose because it had (has) both PC desktop and Palm versions (yes, this was a while ago). I'm now using it on the desktop and also carrying it on a flash drive, but will need to switch when I get a smartphone, so I'll be reading others' answers with interest. I'd like better calendar/task integration, so I can schedule tasks.

    I periodically try tracking where my time goes in a simple table in a Word document (usually with one "planned" column and one "how it actually worked out" column), but that can get discouraging and/or a bit too absorbing. On the other hand, it does help me figure out how long tasks actually take, which can be useful information (but also discouraging).

    1. Definitely singing the praises of modest goals. It's important to get things done.

      I have used Wunderlist, Trello, and Kanban to go, none of which have a current list right now. I am instead working with an open ended Google doc, then take the pressing items and order them on a weekly spreadsheet (just a plain Excel file). I think I've gone very minimal for the time being because I was spending too much time organizing the pretty lists.

  8. Last week's goals:
    1) Read at least 25 pages of text related to theory. YES! Maybe even more
    2) Make one appointment. FAIL
    3) Walk three times with the dog. NOPE

    Our accreditation visiting team was at our college last week, so I spent a few hours with them in interviews and spent even more hours tracking down additional evidence. Also, students were needy because they had papers due. It was the first week in a long time that I didn't have my walks with the dog. However, I did send a rather long message/update to my PhD supervisor, and nagged her a bit about feedback on my latest chapter draft.

    This week's goals:
    1) 25 more pages of theory-related material
    2) Make one appointment (probably dermatologist)
    3) Walk 3x with the dog

    I don't have any fancy tracking systems. I keep a lot of stuff in my head, and then, when it's too much, I make a list in a spiral notebook that has a lot of teaching-related notes. But most of my to-do lists are teaching and service related. I have a separate little notebook for PhD stuff, but it's been a long time since I've kept lists going there. When I hit the thesis hard (next semester), I'll probably have more lists related to the PhD.

    I have tried using to-do lists on my smart phone, but they just don't work as well for me. (Except for grocery lists--I love having my grocery list on my phone!) The idea of having a list on an open Google Doc sounds good, but I'm often somewhere working without my computer going. I might look into that though. But I really do like spiral notebooks.

    I don't track my accomplishments (unless it's service work that I have to report to the Academic Senate or something like that).

    1. I am certain the dog will be grateful when you have time for walks again--one of the great things about having companion animals is that they are very good at expressing their appreciation (at least most that I have known!).

      I have a very tech-savvy, tech dependent colleague who has just started writing notes for teaching, service, and research in spiral notebooks and is absolutely giddy about it. Sometimes there is nothing better than the most basic tools.

  9. 1) enjoy the public holiday on Monday! - yes! we went for a bike ride and had a picnic in the park. It's already hotter than I would like though…

    2) tidy up comments from co-authors - nope, started but argh!

    3) do additional stats for postdoc advisor on large-lab-paper-lead-by-former-lab-member - ongoing. Admittedly this has been going on and off since July, whenever I think we're all happy with the analysis, postdoc advisor comes up with something new or I discover a mistake (e.g. failing to log-transform a variable).

    4) determine species for this summer's fieldwork and check out sites. Have given it some thought but not really done.

    This weeks topic - I have use the mac stickies program to keep a running list of things I have to do for various projects.
    I also track my time using toggl but that's mostly for retrospective analysis - I discovered that a disproportionate amount of time was going on "lab and departmental activities" so would like to cut some of that back. However, I can't see where I could cut back on these without antagonising my post-doc supervisor.

    This weeks goals:
    1) complete tidying up comments from co-authors. Get Methods and Results sections into a reasonable state.
    2) do additional stats for postdoc advisor on large-lab-paper-lead-by-former-lab-member,
    3) determine species for this summer's fieldwork and check out sites
    4) sell car! A friend is buying to for a nominal amount, just have to complete paperwork.

    1. Retrospective analysis and subsequent adjustment (when possible) is a great idea for making sure you're distributing your time effectively. I would imagine you might also see places where you are "wasting" time...

      Your post brings up a number of issues regarding collaboration...I'm in a humanities field where collaboration is very much a choice, but I know there are many disciplines where you have to collaborate in order to complete your research projects. I'm interested to learn from scholars like you how I might overcome some of the pitfalls of collaboration, beginning with not being surprised by them!

    2. Collaboration is a good thing, and a bad thing, and a deeply annoying thing, and very rewarding, and leads to new insights, and causes papers to take an extra year or two to come out... all in the same project and sometimes at the same time.

    3. Amen to JaneB's comment - it is fantastic, and terrible. I think the key is to make sure everyone is clear on timelines and goals early on, and to accept that sometimes you will be the only one with a time goal, and therefore the one to do all the organizing and nagging and nudging along...

    4. hummingbird - if I knew how to overcome the pitfalls of collaboration, things would be sooo much easier at the moment!
      I think part of the problem is what Daisy says about differing time goals. And while people might agree to a timeline and goals, things change as people get busy / change jobs etc etc

  10. goals: 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, and 4) to spend at least 15 minutes on SOMETHING productive and unrelated to work each evening

    achieved: 1) nope 2) I did one 45 minute on one of the three things every day, and sometimes two, but there were so ridiculously many interruptions. And I just had a bit of an uphill week... 3) mostly yes 4) mostly yes, assuming laundry and cat tray scrubbing count... (as a good friend often says, cat trays are NOT like work because the sh*t you shovel is real and dished out by someone you actually like, rather than metaphorical and pillock-delivered).

    analysis: Not a good week for reasons personal and work-related, but this week is shaping up to be a bit better. I will adopt the slightly-cheating tactic of listing some things that are already underway, but hey, I'm late reporting in; pretend this went up Sunday if that mild bit of self-deception worries you

    goals for this week: 1) domestic infrastructure: chase up garden quotes, finance appointment, vaccinate cat, fetch repeat prescription. Spend 15 minutes a day on chores or other domestic items. 2) prep teaching materials up to next Wednesday and confirm arrangements for overnight field visit next month. 3) finish first draft of (now late) admin report and send to other colleagues for their input [one of these key people is away this week so I can't do it any faster now, which feels less pressured]. 4) Do three lots of 30-45 minutes on Crunchier, then send it back to co-authors, even if it isn't all done (I've already written replies to their comments, so in that time I should be able to get most of the changes where we all agree on what needs doing done, and draft a version of some of the less obvious ones)

  11. My comment on the topic got stupid-long (because I don't use special software but have my own system), so it's over here on my blog

  12. Apologies for being late. Got back from conference late last night and passed out.

    Goal for last week: Get paper revisions sent off - FAIL, but did 90% of them so not a terribly bad fail in the grand scheme of things.

    Next week:
    TLQ goal: Get revisions on paper 1 sent off, get paper 2 complete.
    TRQ goal: (the scary urgent one) - get grant application ready for review.

    My favourite way to keep track of work is to do a big sheet of paper every 2 weeks or so with all my tasks on it (big, little medium, work, personal, anything really), just written down in any order when I think of them. Then I colour code them with highlighters (pink, yellow/orange, green) for urgency. And that list stays right beside my computer so I can see it and every time I am sitting there wondering what to do I can pick something of the appropriate size for the time available. This cuts down on endless wondering about what to do with small gaps in time, and takes only a small amount of time to set up. I am not "allowed" to make a new list until he old one is done - any transfers between weeks get moved up to urgent. I also keep the old sheets in a file as a reminder of things done, and of a rudimentary tracking system. I like the ease and visual nature.

    1. Congrats on getting so many of the paper revisions done, especially on a conference week!

  13. Hi all,
    sorry for the late checkin- i have just realised I wrote a long comment last week which got eaten, and now I am away on a research trip which makes checking in awkward. The long and the short though- I decided not to focus on pirate as I had planned but on some work from my secondary but much loved field. did the exercise 4x, which will be a goal again, New goal for 20th October is redo an analysis for my FS paper, recheck comments from a colleague critique for FS, and consult with coauthor, hopefully with the aim of submitting to a journal the week after. The new analysis is the last major thing to do, really, the rest shold be small. I am a list person-every day I make a list,usually before i go home, for he next day. And i also have an annual plan as a table, which is on my wall - roughly 5 rows, each row for a task type eg grant apps, paper submissions, conference and other types of speaking commitments, and usually one row which is a focus row for specific tasks that need to be done for 2-3 priority projects. With my table, i get a sense of how the balance between different tasks looks, and whether i need to cut back on talks or outreach for example, or do more.. I like the soundof Belcher- paper submissionsis something I need to work on, as I always seem to be slow.. .