the grid

the grid

Sunday 10 January 2016

Sign Up and Week One

Welcome to the Top Left Quadrant session for Winter/Summer 2016!

My sincere apologies for getting this post up late.  I am at a conference that began Friday, so I got my days mixed up.  Your hosts for the winter/summer session are Daisy and me, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell. We have several participants in the southern hemisphere, which explains the rather ambivalent session time frame above.  This session of TLQ will run 15 weeks beginning now until Sunday 24 April. The basic ground rules are posted here. We will put up weekly prompts for discussion and check in each Friday (except when we goof, like today!), which should give participants the chance to reflect on the previous week and get ready to start the next week with goals in mind.  

We welcome back those who have joined in a session before and encourage new people to join. If you are interested, read back through the last few weeks of check-ins.  We are a comfortable group, and that reading will give you a good idea who we are. To officially join in, just leave a comment below following the prompts. Please feel free to share and promote through your own blogs and social media.

So for this first week, please briefly introduce yourself, where you are in your career, at what sort of university or school, and anything else you may want to share.

Then set your key, overall goals for the session. Although the original emphasis of TLQ (important but not urgent) was research and writing, many participants have added goals for creativity, self-care and other things that are important in our lives.

Then set your weekly goals, which you will report back on through the check-in post going up on Friday, 15 January. Weekly goals are a great way to break down the overall goals into smaller, manageable steps, and you might want to think about goals that could be set for each day or a couple of times over the week as well as single action goals.

Finally, we had some interesting hints for handling work email in the last post, prompted by scottishwinter's remark about struggling with it. If you have any further ideas, please share those, as well.

Welcome again and all the best with your goals. Please feel free to share your insights and support with one another by commenting on each other's posts. The interactions of this community have been wonderful and helpful.


  1. Hi Elizabeth, hi Daisy, thank you for coordinating another session.

    who I am
    I'm JaneB, a mid-career academic at a "squeezed middle" university in the UK, where everything seems to be changing dramatically, demands for excellence yesterday in all areas of academic life resound, and it's definitely a cold, grey, rainy winter right now. I blog over at "Now, What Was I Doing?" and despite there only being me and a cat in my immediate household, I am in a permanent losing battle with anything domestic. Though my health is erratic, I at least still have my sense of humour and most of my teeth!

    the session and session goals
    This is not a great session - grading chaos until the end of Jan, teaching a large and thankless core unit to all the second year in Feb and March, setting up a new module with two nice-but-unreliable colleagues... oh, and helping my grad student LikesMaths get through the phenomenal bureaucracy required to get permission to do fieldwork in their home country (which is considered complex, alien and hazardous by my university), also by mid-March. So my session goals need to be realistic...
    1) plan my conference-going for the year, including abstract submission dates, topics etc.
    2) either find and renew my lost and expired passport or just apply for a new one from scratch
    3) set up and launch a web page for the project I nickname Gallimaufry
    4) make some substantial progress on the paper nicknamed Picky Paper and on either Ferret or Fancy (which are from team projects so not entirely under my control)
    5) take small steps every week to make my domestic environment and self-care more of a priority

    goals for next week
    I have two trips (one to a medical appointment, one to a work meeting) next week, and extra grading will be coming in thick and fast. My TRQ - urgent AND important - goal is definitely to finish the Big Nasty Marking Task before the weekend so I can then crack on with the smaller but still highly unpleasant ones. But around that, TLQ still needs to happen. I would like to:
    1) revisit Picky Paper and spend an hour reading over the notes I have and sketching out a plan for what next
    2) write and submit an abstract for 'did I really say I'd go to this'? conference (due mid-week)
    3) go to the gym at least twice, even if all I'm in the mood to do is walk slowly on the treadmill
    4) go to bed before midnight every 'schoolnight' (I add the qualifier because it's 02:21 between Saturday and Sunday right now...) and make thoughtful food choices (they don't have to be perfectly 'good', just considered).

    1. Hope the Big Nasty Marking is vanquished!

    2. I keep eyeing up my marking pile and shuddering...not quite worked up to dealing yet....hope the week goes well.

    3. If only we could have the Weasleys' magic to help with housework and grading/marking. The combination of Picky Paper and her (her? his?) personality and the idea of a marking pile that would shudder at you (instead of KJ shuddering) brought up these silly images.

  2. Hello, everyone! I’m Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, and I’m halfway through my tenure decisions--my college voted yes, the university voted yes. Now I am waiting for the Provost, the President and the Board of Governors to grant the gladiator life or death. I am a Visiting Associate Professor at the moment, but will revert to an Associate Librarian if I get tenure, at an R1 in New York State. Although I am ABD in medieval studies, my home university has changed the requirements so that I would have to retake my quals, redo the proposal, and find a brand new committee to finish. Given the Ph.D. would not change my status or pay, I now plan to modify the dissertation into a book. I am an administrator, chair of a department, with the associated headaches.

    I have a husband, my two youngest children, and my Standard Poodle, at home. My sons are in their early twenties, college students who help immensely with beating back the domestic chaos. I have various health problems, and will undergo surgery this coming Wednesday to stem the tide on my bones breaking in a stiff breeze. I blog less often than I would like at, and even less often at

    Topic: JaneB, my DH says he knows how to turn off notifications on the Outlook client. I’ll get his notes and put them up when I can. I fell into the habit of checking work email incessantly, on weekends, in the evening. Finally, I had the object lesson that I was not gaining goodwill from anyone by doing so. I stopped. My away message for my work email while I am out of state at this conference says I’ll get in touch when I’m back; if the library is falling down, email my Dean.

    My session goals:
    I want to make substantial progress on my critical edition. It has been hanging around for more than a decade, and I just have the commentary and footnotes to finish.
    I want to finish a short story for submission at the end of April.
    I want to get in better shape, once I’m cleared for exercise. I need to resume walking, and may have to hit the recumbent bike in the gym as well.

    Next week’s goals: Write at least 500 words and clean up a page of footnotes on the critical edition.
    Plot and outline the short story.
    Relax and recover after surgery.

    1. Good luck with the surgery! Hopefully plotting out the short story will be a pleasant distraction from medical matters.

    2. Hope the surgery goes well and you have plenty time to relax afterwards.

    3. Hi!
      Crossing fingers for surgery going really well. pm me at deanne2sa at hotmail dot com so we can co-ordinate posts and trips and things :)

    4. I admire your ability to shut off work email on weekends. While I may not be ready for that yet, I have been mindful of my habit of running an endless cycle of Twitter, Facebook, Feedly, and Instagram in which I am letting the internet occupy my attention but I gain little from it. So I am working on turning off the computer or at least walking away for awhile.

    5. Yes, I hope the surgery goes very well and that your recovery is smooth. We'll all be eager to hear from you. And I love your session goals, and I'm eager to hear about how to silence Outlook notifications.

      Bon chance!

    6. Thank you all for your good wishes! I am headed to NYC, where I will have my surgery tomorrow, but wanted to say hello and thanks.
      GEW, I will definitely get DH to write out how to turn off notifications--he told me this morning that one can choose whom to get them from. He has mine (how sweet!), and his boss' set up to notify, and no others.
      I also have a novel in planning, but I want to get the short story out there first. (What was I thinking?!?!?!)

    7. Good luck with the surgery! And I'm working on turning off email - I think it makes me feel connected, and it doesn't really. So . . . a slow process. I think I'm going to start with an email free Sunday!

    8. Adding my good wishes for the surgery (or, I guess, at this point, recovery from same).

      Also -- I like your diss-->book decision. Freeing yourself up from the tyranny of checking degree-requirement boxes in order to focus on what you actually want to do in/with your scholarship sounds very wise.

  3. Hi

    I've not been part of this group before, but would love to join. My name is Kris, and I am an associate professor in the social sciences in Australia. I have tenure (subject to me meeting probation requirements at my new job; so far, so good) and have a 'balanced' position of research-teaching-admin. I am beginning my second year in a new institution, where I moved for promotion and to get out of my old place of work, which I had outgrown. I am quite a productive person, but am finding that I am slipping into the old habit of prioritising others' interests and research projects over my own plans: saying yes to invitations that don't fit with my key interests; prioritising co-authored papers over my single authored work etc. It's left me looking productive on paper but feeling frustrated, out of control, and harried at times - which has flow on effects for my teaching, and my family, particularly my two girls (9 & 10 years old). I work in a unit where people are nice but largely absent (working from home or with the door shut) - there's not a lot of opportunity to check in, have peer mentoring etc. I am isolated and am looking for ways to connect with people to talk to about the processes of academic life.

    The session: I am coordinating/teaching a large first year topic (new to me) and a second year topic which won't require too much work. I've got two significant institutional admin roles, both of which I am stepping into and both of which need some serious attention paid to them. I am on holidays until Monday week, and then am coming back into finalising two major grant applications (one of which make sense for me to be involved, one of which is a classic e.g. of me saying yes when I should have said no), which will only be finally done by early March. (However, I can't let them take over my research & writing as the likelihood of being funded is tiny). I am also leading a large project for my discipline's national professional association. And I'm undertaking the year long institutional leadership program. These are all responsibilities that go over a semester or year, but will be there from the start of the year until April. The session will be a very busy time, but at this stage (still on holidays) it does not look overwhelmingly busy.

    I should note that I typically under-estimate how much time and energy things take.

    Session goal: I want to revise, commit to, and work my research plan for the year (tight plan) and the following two years (looser plan), and to put that plan first in my decisions to say 'yes' or 'no' to 'opportunities' that arise.

    Week goal: I am on summer holidays until 18th January, but I would like to take some time before I return to work to:
    a) list the papers/ research outputs I am committed to in 2016
    b) list the papers/ research I want to do in 2016 - 2018
    c) list the people I want to professionally connect with in 2016
    d) jot down ideas for working and timetabling in ways that will help me prioritise the work I want to do.
    None of the above require strict timetabling, more an imagining of what I want my research future to look like.

    I'm looking forward to reading others' plans and check ins.

    Good luck with your surgery, Elizabeth.

    1. Welcome Kris! Enjoy your holidays, and hopefully the space to imagine a research plan that is fulfilling for you.

    2. Have a great holiday! I like the idea of making lists of research outputs to help you decide how to respond to opportunities.

    3. "I should note that I typically under-estimate how much time and energy things take."

      So true for me. But this year things must carry on at the proper pace!

      Welcome to the group!

    4. Welcome, Kris! I love your lists--I tend to avoid them because they look daunting, but then one can cross them off with glee as they get done.

    5. And thank you for the good wishes, Kris!

  4. I'm Karen, and I'm e lecturer in a regional Australian university - part-time, but increasing this year to four days a week. We're in the throes of curriculum redesign, demands for increased research output, decreasing support - the usual things that I'm sure in no way identify my workplace! I also have two young children, an attempted productive garden, and am chairing a local arts organisation. Last year I feel into bad habits of working late, not much exercise, and relying on caffeine and sugar to get through the day - after a holidays which was actually a complete escape from work, thanks to me in-laws and their communication black-spot location, I'm trying to hold onto not having my life dictated by work demands.

    Session Goals: I want to take the chance that the non-teaching period gives me to get ahead on things to set up a smooth run at the rest of the year, and keep firm boundaries around research and writing time as teachign starts. Specific goals are
    1. Submit co-authored paper (let's call it Earth)
    2. Revisit older conference paper (call it Body) and have a complete draft of an expanded paper for journal submission.
    3. Find an exercise routine that works for me
    4. Be prepared for major research fieldwork in late March-early April.

    Week Goals: This week is pretty clear from meeting etc - so writing time is a priority.
    1. 2 hours of writing time each working day.
    2. Contact all participants for fieldwork collaboration.
    3. Fill in gym paperwork for trial membership, 3x swimming or walking across the week.

    1. Hi Karen, I sympathise with the curriculum redesign process - we just finished one and it was simultaneously exhausting and productive...but mainly tiring! Good luck with the boundaries!

    2. "a life not dictated by work demands"

      Sounds great!

    3. Hi Karen, I completely sympathize with trying to wrest life back from work. I will be interested to see what strategies you use, and then steal them shamelessly!

    4. Yes to wresting life back from work! A lot of what you have said here resonates very strongly for me too (also down under)
      allan wilson

  5. Hello All, I'm a senior lecturer at a UK university. Slowly, over various iterations of this group, I'm starting to get a hang of setting and keeping deadlines. My research projects have silly code names (which I think makes it a bit more fun) and current projects are Scary, House, Gemstone, and Picture, with Loop and Kermit entering development stage. I do various crafts and like to set a session goal of a certain number of things to be made.
    I try to restrict email to two short periods each day, that's a little difficult during exams because I want to be available to answer student questions but I try to just close it down and deal with it when I'm tired of 'proper' work.

    Session Goals:
    1. Write scary paper 2 and scary paper 1
    2. Develop research tools for Loop and Kermit
    3. 25 hand crafted items.
    Scary 1 is on hold due to too much data to analyse quickly - what a good problem to have! I commonly say survival is my biggest goal. This is my last semester of 'big admin role' so I just need to hang on and leave things in good shape for the next person. I also want to keep developing research so that it's in good shape to fill the space left by admin roll.

    Week goals:
    1 - revisions to Gemstone paper
    2 - write Scary paper 2
    3 - finish 3 conference presentations (Scary project, Picture project, and House project).
    And then there is all the marking...

    1. Hi KJ! I love your names for your projects--I need to steal that idea. All the best to hanging on with the admin role, and then blacking out that time for research.

    2. The names are usually the first association that pops into my head when I think about the project. Then when I look back and can't remember what I'm on about, it comes back to me. So Kermit is about sustainability because it's not easy being green :)

    3. KJHaxton, that hilarious and brilliant. Brilarious!

    4. I, too, love your code names -- and Kermit is an especially good one.

  6. Hi everyone
    Daisy here, nice to be back! I'm happy to be hosting too :) Elizabeth and I will co-ordinate to have posts up on Fridays to have a nice weekend for checking in.

    I'm a 4th year tt assistant prof in physical science at a tiny undergraduate university. I have a kid in elementary school, and a husband who works 4 time zones away so most of the time it is just me. This is a major teaching this term for me (twice last term's contact hours), and I have an ongoing huge administrative program development task. It is also the last full term before I begin working on my tenure application so there are a lot of things that need to happen for that.

    Goals for the overall session:
    1) The three papers in revision right now have to go away, and go away forever...'nuff said...
    2) Write the first two papers on new field area.
    3) Read more papers - will break this down each week.
    4) Get exercise back into my schedule - I'm signed up for a very long race in May to help with inspiration.

    Goals for this week:
    1) Finish revision for paper that is due in 2 weeks
    2) Conference abstract for fabulous event in March
    3) Conference abstract for local event in February
    4) Run OUTSIDE twice, inside twice.
    5) Sort out new term's schedule and plan times for cooking and activities now before things go crazy.

    The first week back kicked my butt to badly that I was in bed at 8pm for the last two nights. This weekend I'm cooking a bunch of stuff to freeze and have on hand for dinners. Teaching is going to be rough this term, I have to make sure it is good without taking over everything in my head. After my paper revisions are done I will sit down and work ahead for the term a bit so that there is some flexibility later on.

    1. How great to have something for "fabulous event" as a goal. I hope that comes into being for you.

    2. Thanks for co-hosting this time around, Daisy!

    3. Hi Daisy,
      As GEW said, thanks for co-hosting! I've been in the several time zones thing with my DH a few times, and it is very hard--you have my sympathy and support.

      It's very hard to shove teaching back in its corner, so I think that would be a relevant topic for the group sometime this session. Teaching is like yeast bread dough--it expands to fill any space!

    4. Thanks very much for hosting, Daisy! And I, too, would be interested in discussion of keeping teaching in its place (including keeping enough on top of it to keep it from producing disasters/stress, while trying not to let it take up too much brain space. I find that very hard, especially since I'm in a field -- composition -- where we break things down for students into lots and lots of little steps, which is good pedagogical practice, I'm pretty sure (though I sometimes have my doubts about how much of it we're doing), but results in a tremendous amount of direction/small-assignment writing, and grading, on top of the larger stuff).

  7. I’m humming42, a mid-career prof, teaching at a mid-sized state school in a small US town. I missed you all! You know something is a habit when you move to do it without thinking, and during the few weeks’ hiatus from TLQ, I still found myself looking for a weekly check-in. So I am glad to be here.

    I still have this manuscript revision (affectionately referred to as RBP or Revised Book Project), on which I have made little progress, as my primary goal for this session. I didn’t get the summer faculty grant for which I applied, so I’ll need to teach summer classes and hope I can find some funding for travel. There are two conference papers to write and a few other projects I hope to take on. Because I’m determined to put writing first, I’m going to devote my TLQ entirely to writing. Remind me if I slip up.

    Session goals:
    1 Make consistent progress on manuscript revision (setting and meeting weekly goals)
    2 Write and submit short contracted biography piece
    3 Write two thoughtful and well-researched conference presentations
    4 Make sound decisions about other writing projects (learning how to say no to myself)

    Week ahead:
    Not mention in my session goals, because my lack of completing these projects is shameful
    1 Finish and submit MC book review
    2 Finish and submit photo book review
    3 Read and make notes on one RBP article

    I’ll be very satisfied to cross those off my list.

    1. Welcome back, humming42! I have the TLQ habit, too. We'll keep on you to put writing first this session, I promise.

  8. I'm GEW (or goodenoughwoman), and I teach English (comp and lit) at a two-year college in California. I'm in my 18th year at the college, and I've been tenured for a long time. I'm also a part-time PhD student at a UK university, and I need to finish the PhD thesis this calendar year. I'm married, and I have two kids (a boy who is 12.5 and a girl who is 10.5).

    This session my TLQ priorities will be thesis work and exercise. I will also need to regularly remind myself that it's okay if I'm just a barely-good-enough wife and mother in the upcoming months. In this session, I'd like to get the intro drafted and the first three chapters revised so that during summer, I can focus on the last chapter, the conclusion, and overall revisions. It all seems very daunting. I'm not sure how I'll get it all done. I'm feeling not-at-all good enough to write the thing.

    Session goals:
    1) Write a solid draft of the introduction for thesis
    2) Revise Chapter 1 (I'll call it Spy)
    3) Revise Chapter 2 (I'll call it Magic)
    4) Revise Chapter 3 (I'll call it Authority)
    5) Submit at least one article for publication (probably one based on Spy)
    6) Maintain exercise (5x per week of at least 20-40 minutes)
    7) Eat more veggies
    8) At least two special activities with kids per month (outdoor adventures, craft projects, etc.)

    I have just come off a wonderful sabbatical, and I have another week before classes begin. This semester, I have four classes that are all grading heavy because the students have to write a lot. This coming week, I have a few meetings, and I need to get organized (syllabi, reprographics, my office), but I also hope to get in a fair amount of thesis time. I might even go to a hotel Wednesday night for some focused thesis time. Perhaps I'll make a visit to a nearby library, but that sounds kind of ambitious with all that's going on this week. This weekend, we're heading to the snow for a last hurrah, so that puts extra pressure on the week.

    This week:
    1) Integrate notes into Chapter 3
    2) Create bibliography of remaining sources I need for Chapter 3
    3) Write 1000 words of introduction
    4) Write solid draft of conference paper that I'll give February
    5) Cook b-day dinner for my mom
    6) Exercise
    7) Organize school office and buy a couple of plants for said office

    1. GEW, please don't be so down on yourself! Taking care of yourself makes you a better than good enough mother and partner!

      As for the thesis, a friend of mine gave me a toy tortoise that sits by my computer as a reminder that slow and steady wins the day. I'm sure many of the folks here, including me, will be happy to support, encourage, let you vent, or brainstorm. Hang in there!

    2. Thanks, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell! And I'm thinking of you today!

    3. Sounds to me like you've got a pretty good (planned) balance, as well as some things you can jettison if need be (special activities are great, but could probably wait for half a year or so without lasting damage -- which isn't to say you may not hear about them at some point as/if your kids grow up and enter therapy. On the other hand, if my own experience and that of friends is any measure, they'll also see things a bit differently as they have children themselves, or at least watch others parenting, and realize the challenges of maintaining one's own sanity/identity while caring for others).

      I finished my thesis while teaching a 4/4 all-comp load. Unfortunately, I can't tell you how I did it, because I seem to have very little memory of that year (which had other stresses). I do know that it was not my best teaching semester, and that I kept my job nonetheless (even though I was still on one-year contracts, and close to last-hired, at that point). I don't remember what I ate, but it probably wasn't great. I did probably exercise, because that's a good stress-reliever/focus booster for me. And I was almost 15 years younger than I am now (and possibly a bit younger than you are at this point), and didn't have a family. Still, at least in my experience, theses do take on a momentum of their own in the last stages, and other things fall by the wayside if they have to, and you go back and pick them up (or sometimes not) afterward. In short, if you work on building the focus/momentum, the rest will probably work out.

  9. Hello, everyone,
    Thank you very much for hosting this session, Elizabeth Anne Mitchell and Daisy!

    I am Matilda. I teach history at a university in a non-English speaking country. I am a mother of a daughter and a son. My husband works for a different university far away from mine.

    I have joined TLQ already for several sessions. Though I sometimes miss check-in or usually I cannot achieve my goals set the first check-in, I always enjoy being a member of the group, reading and commenting others’ posts. It helps me in various ways to know others also have their own things to do, problems to solve, relatives or pets to take care of, and of course, and of course have their own precious TLQ things they want to accomplish…

    My session goals:
    1) Write chapter 2 of my planned book.
    2) Revise chapter 1 of my book.
    3) Write two short articles.
    4) Live a healthier life.

    Weekly goals:
    1) Finish the paper (from last session).
    2) Finish the short article.
    3) Have less snacks at night.
    4) Exercise for 5 minutes three times a day.

    Have a happy week, everyone!

    1. For myself, I find that it's better to set goals and miss them than set none at all. Then, at least, I can assess progress more clearly.

      I hope sabbatical thoughts and planning are going well.

    2. Thank you for your comment and remembering my sabbatical thoughts, GEW! Still lots of things to be settled, but I think I am going ahead, though very slowly.

    3. I find that goals get me working, even if I don't get as far as I would like, as GEW says. It's better to admit not meeting the goals, and getting the support and encouragement of the group, than hiding. I know, I've tried both methods!

      Living apart is difficult, too, but again, there are people here who have lived or are still living apart, so they will understand and support you there.

  10. Hi! I'm heu mihi; I blog (occasionally) at My field is medieval literature. After eight years (and tenure) at a rural, teaching-oriented SLAC, in September I started a new job at a New England R1. I'll be up for tenure (again) in 2017-18, and would really like to have my second book complete or nearly so by that time.

    My session goals:
    1) Finish drafting ch. 3
    2) Write/prepare a talk that I'm giving on March 8
    3) Write Kalamazoo paper (for mid-May)
    4) Get research for ch. 6 underway

    This week's goals:
    1) Incorporate scraps of old essay into ch. 3
    2) Write 2000 new words (classes don't start until next week, so why not dream big?)
    3) Finish reading relevant portion of book about monks
    4) Prep first and third weeks of grad seminar (don't ask me why I'm going out of order--I have no good answer to that!)

    1. Welcome, heu mihi! (Autocorrect *really* does not want me to write "heu mihi.")

    2. Welcome, heu mihi, fellow medievalist. Why stay in order? You're not writing in order, so you have a trend not to plan teaching in order.

  11. I'm late, but I have missed you all so much! I will post an intro soon. I promise.

    1. Welcome back, Earnest English! Late is better than not at all.

  12. Hi all,
    I have just lost a really long comment, so will have to come back to this, but YES I am really looking forward to being part of this group again. Thanks so much Daisy and Elizabeth-Ann.
    I am a research scientist at a government institute, my research is mainly interdisciplinary across the biological sciences and humanities, and I am a partner and mother of three children.
    My tentative goals are:
    1) spend two hours on average each work day writing
    2) work on a novel I want to start writing once a week
    3) exercise at least three times a week
    Many best wishes to all
    allan wilson

    1. it is exciting- and my very first attempt at a novel, so the main thing will be to put words on paper!

    2. This week's goals:
      1. write something on the novel- maybe a plot structure that I have in my head?
      2. Exercise
      3. Attend to two papers that are in the submission process.
      allan wilson

    3. Hi Allan, I tend to write my very long comments in Word or Google Drive, then copy into the comment box after losing my temper and my comment far too many times.

      The novel is very exciting. I find my academic and creative writing feed of one another in a synergistic way. You already have an interesting mix of interdisciplinary interests, so it should fit right in.

  13. Hi all,
    I'm going to sit this session out, though I do hope to pop in from time to time to do some cheerleading.


    1. I will miss you tremendously! And, yes, please visit.

    2. I, too, will miss you. Please do check in; I'm very much interested in hearing how you're finding/making a post/alt-academic track.

  14. I’m a mid-career, tenured, unpromoted lecturer in a Scottish university with multiple admin responsibilities way above my pay grade. I need to publish more this year to be promoted and to scrape through the next Research Assessment Framework – we’ve just been asked to list the publications we’ll be submitting to this. My goals for the overall session:
    1) Only check emails at my desk, never before work and maybe twice at weekends
    2) Yoga and exercise every week
    3) Apply for several grants to buy me out for research leave
    4) Say no to all conference / talk invitations
    5) Finish two articles that have been nearly finished for ages
    6) Finish translation of book for children (fun!)
    Goals for this week:
    1) Finalise last Semester’s grades and get through exam boards
    2) Hand over one big admin role to colleague
    3) Draft of one grant application
    4) 2x 1 hour article writing sessions
    5) 2x 1 hour translation sessions
    6) No work at the weekend.
    Thanks to the co-ordinators & originators of this group which looks like just what I need this year!

    1. It's great that you have a fun project to go along with the other work. And we will keep our fingers crossed for grants that will buy you some leave time!

    2. Welcome! I'm finding it fascinating (and a bit scary) to learn about the current UK system here. I especially like your "saying no" goal (as well as the fun one).

  15. I'm sorry to be so late, but I'm definitely in. Given my life, this group will be very important.

    I'm a senior professor in the humanities at a small research university in the US. We're growing in all sorts of unsustainable ways, which is stressful if you're looking at the big picture. I am a widow, and live with two cats. My elderly mother lives in an assisted living facility in the same town I do, which means that I'm responsible. (More on that later). I am almost finished a big book project, and have multiple ideas for what comes next.

    This semester will be fairly stressful both personally and in teaching. I'm teaching two new courses -- one a big impossible survey, for which I will be mostly lecturing, the other a graduate seminar loosely addressing what I think will be my next book. At the same time, my mother had pneumonia over break, was in the hospital for three weeks, has been in a rehab facility for the last week, and has now asked to leave (she initially said hospice, but that was clearly just to get out), and so I'm setting up the home care stuff that needs to happen. I think she can get better, but I will be coordinating things, and making sure things happen properly. If all goes as planned, this will get easier as the semester ramps up, but for the next few weeks it will be tricky.

    So, my goals for the session are very modest, intended to keep me working on writing projects while I do all this other stuff.
    1. Finish book ms. (I have maybe 2 days of work before I can send it to a press.)
    2. Work on Conference Paper revision, due probably some time in April.
    3. Keep up with regular exercise, and add in at least one walking morning a week.
    4. Stop checking email on Sunday.
    5. Strive to keep up with 7 hours sleep nightly

    In other words, limited writing goals, and lots of health.

    Goals for this week:
    1. Finish syllabi
    2. Do at least one day on book ms.
    3. Do one walk in addition to three gym visits

    1. Congrats on being so close to submitting the manuscript! That's fantastic. And I do hope things get better for your mother.

    2. Well, everything depends on that. I spent yesterday trying to decide whether I needed to take a family care leave. . . and deciding I'd be happier teaching!

    3. Sounds like you're balancing a lot, Susan (and, as I posted below, I'm now in a position to sympathize more directly, though I'm not the primary caregiver/coordinator for my Dad, and I'm not sure what I'd do if I were, other than have a very difficult time juggling). I'm impressed that you finished the book under such difficult circumstances, and hope that you have some time to enjoy the results in between caregiving duties and teaching (which can, yes, provide some structure and familiarity when things are tough).

  16. I'm sorry I'm late, when I was saying last time how I didn't know how I was going to do without the group for a few weeks!

    I'm a recently-tenured liberal arts professor at a STEM university on the dreadful quarter system. I'm a bit burnt out because I've gotten no break (see quarter system) and am involved in a number of initiatives that keep me busy and crazed, meanwhile I have a "spirited child" and a lovely husband. I live in a place with real winter, and that makes this time of year (for a northern hemispherer -- is that a word?) difficult for me at the best of times. I've honestly had a really hard time thinking of goals because of the burnout and the winter thing, which is why I put this off.

    Session Goals

    1. Research: In general, I'd like to have gotten my research world back in order. Specifically, by the end of March, I'd like to have gotten my sabbatical application ready. (Ooh, it makes me nervous just to write that.) Send out unpublished Olive Tree branches. And by the end I'd better have long since addressed galleys of Forsythia, which are currently staring reproachfully at me.

    2. Health: I'd like to work on getting some movement, centering (meditating, coloring, whatever), and relaxation into my life on a regular joyous (hopefully) basis. This has to be broken up into steps. And vegetables are to be sought out, even if under a blanket of cheese. Salads at Panera are worth the cost (though maybe not the perils of the snowy drive). I also want to maintain a sense of purposeness and centeredness instead of getting so stressed or anxious quite so often. This is all of a piece (peace!) to me. Must move like water more often. It's all good.

    3. Reading: I want to read more books. I want to also stop beating myself up about this. I think this means I need to blog the absurdity out of my system. Sometimes one needs to be humiliated out of one's idiocies. I have a blog for this purpose; I need to use it.

    4. Family: There are loads of things I want in here so I know that I have to be careful here because that means there's the possibility of making all this into sticks to beat myself with. I want to prepare more meals than I did in Fall. I want to keep up on gardening, when that comes back up. I want to spend more time working with Absurdist Spirited Son on his education, etc. I want to get a babysitter occasionally.

    Goals This Week?

    It might be useful to use those four items as a sort of scaffold, though I am sure work will intrude quickly enough.

    1. Clearly I must move forward with Forsythia. I printed it out and sent an email earlier today, so I'm finally moving on it. So by Sunday morning, I really need to have gone through the galleys with a red pen. There! I said it. I will also try to freewrite in the morning at least 3x.

    2. I'm going to the cardiologist on Thursday, and it's going to snow, and I really don't think on a week where I found out David Bowie died (I'm embarrassingly upset about this) that much more can be expected out of me on the path of health. I also woke up at 6am today after several weeks of sleeping in. I'm trying to eat better. What more can I realistically do? I think, rather, I need to be very good to myself. How about make sure to do crunches as well as leg lifts when I watch my shows? Let's say 3x this week. And sleep.

    3. I ordered some fun books, and when they get here I will read them. I will try not to "should" myself to death that I should be reading "better" books.

    4. I'll cook a couple times this week. Spend some time with Spirited Son.

    Have a great week, everyone!

    1. I hope your visit to the cardiologist goes well. And good luck with Forsythia. It's sometimes embarrassing how little time it takes to do things we procrastinated on!

    2. Your approach to your goals seems very thoughtful, and I think it's particular insightful that you mention that family goals can turn into "sticks" to beat ourselves up with. Important to find the proper perspective there, focusing on joy rather than guilt. I think a babysitter (for me, at least) would greatly help me to achieve the proper perspective!

      "More veggies" is on my new year's list, too. But I plan to prepare fewer meals. I usually do pretty well in that department, but it's one thing I'm going to to try to let go of to reduce anxiety during the final dissertation push. Viva take-away and mac-and-cheese!*

      *with broccoli on the side

    3. Welcome back, Earnest. Sounds like you've got a nice balanced set of goals. I suspect veggies with cheese are going to be one of the mainstays of my diet, too, this winter, and I even have the advantage (and/or temptation) of an on-campus Panera (but the lines tend to be very long, so I end up defaulting to less-healthy options; I need to set up an online account now that they've got that working at the campus branch, though I'm told it's not perfectly reliable when they get busy).

      I, too, hope the cardiologist's appointment goes/went well.

  17. Hello all, and apologies for a very late sign-in. As I'll relate below, the last couple of weeks have been difficult. But I'm very grateful that the group is here, and that I can use it to remind me of important ongoing commitments to myself during what promises to be a challenging period in my life.

    I'm a mid-career, full-time but not tenure-track, English (mostly composition) professor at a state R2-that-wants-to-be-an-R1 (which translates into an increasing structural, though not necessarily personal, class divide between research-oriented tenure-track faculty and "teaching faculty" like myself) in the U.S. My job doesn't officially include (or reward) writing and research, but I try to do a bit of it.

    Lately, however, as I've acknowledged that I am both firmly mid-career (such as it is) and (perhaps not-so-firmly) middle-aged, I've been concentrating on activities aimed at shoring up what I've been calling my personal infrastructure: health/self-care and household/financial matters. I plan to continue concentrating on those this session. I'm also hoping to work my way back into spending more time on research and writing, but that's probably on hold for the next few months, with the exception of one already-scheduled conference presentation (conference presentations, and the occasional submitted publication, have been my way in the last few years of making research and writing temporarily TRQ-ish).

    The added factor which has emerged in the last two weeks is one with which I know several members of the group are all too sadly familiar: I've learned that my father is dying (cancer; prognosis fewer than six months to live). It's a complicated situation: my mother died when I was in elementary school, so he's been my sole parent for most of my life. We were quite close (and cooperated quite closely in the care of both his and my mother's mother in their last years) in my teens and early twenties, but gradually became estranged, mostly by his and his wife's choice (though I certainly take some responsibility for the situation), after his remarriage when I was in my mid-twenties. He's been reaching out/responding a bit more warmly to my continued overtures in the last few years (perhaps because of the cancer, about which he's known for several years), and I'm grateful for the reconciliation, but aware that we can only rebuild so much of a relationship in the time he has left.

    My stepmother can be a difficult person (and of course I'm tempted to put the primary blame for the estrangement on her, but the bottom line is that his choices played a major role as well). Fortunately, the role of primary caregiver plays to her strengths, and she's behaving pretty well, so far, to both me and my brother (who has maintained a more constant relationship with them, but lives several hours away; I'm local). But she tends to lash out under stress, even (perhaps especially) at her closest supports, and that pattern may well re-emerge. I have to deal with her if I want to see my father, and will do my best to do so decently/kindly, but the very thought is deeply exhausting.

    1. My brother was also dealing with some family troubles of his own before this news broke (Dad didn't tell him, either, until a few days after Christmas), and it became clear this week that he's close to the end of his rope (he was in town, and I ended up helping him walk through the process of seeking emergency-room care for a panic attack; many thanks, by the way, to bloggers and other writers who have been forthright about what panic attacks feel like; that information allowed me to override my first instinct to say "let's take a long walk in the cold and see if you feel better" and help him seriously consider his therapist's suggestion that he seek medical assistance. It was really helpful to have some sense of what he was going through inside, since he actually seemed pretty okay from the outside, especially since he'd experienced an earlier attack, and knew he wasn't having a heart attack or stroke.) He's got some good therapeutic support at home, and I'm very willing to invest in what is already my primary family relationship, and will become my only major one going forward, but needing to help him keep his stress level in check to the extent I can is an additional wrinkle, especially since he's been playing the role of go-between with my father and stepmother.

    2. So, with that very long preamble/context, here are my TLQ goals for the session:

      --Do whatever I can to support my family members (father, brother, stepmother, nieces and nephews, and sister-in law) during my father's dying process, while also taking care of myself, and keeping up with my basic professional and other commitments.

      [this is, of course, TRQ as well as TLQ, and everything in between; it is, perforce, my main focus for the semester, and the overall goal which guides the TLQ goals below].

      --Take care of myself, including working exercise and regular sleep into my schedule whenever circumstances allow (and perhaps sometimes when it seems like they don't), and keeping the pantry/freezer stocked with healthy and easy-to-prepare food (for myself and any family members who may end up crashing at my place).

      --making continued progress on the most vital TLQ financial/household tasks (taxes et al. and boxes still sums this area up pretty well).

      [Some of my long-term financial planning -- taxes et al. -- will shift a bit (mostly in a positive direction, which is a relief, however sad the reasons) as the result of the terms of my father's will (which my brother has seen), but that's mostly a matter of increased resources for retirement/real emergencies, not a change in the day-to-day/year-to-year present picture, which remains challenging, in part because of some promises my father made and broke in the last few decades, but mostly because my salary, while perfectly decent by overall U.S. standards, is pretty low in relation to the local cost of living. I can't afford to lose sight of dealing with that reality, any more than I can afford to ignore my job, during this period; it's an essential part of self-care.

      Dealing with some household matters -- boxes -- has also become more urgent, since it does seem likely that I'll have relatives bunking with me, which basically means that I need to free up some of the floor space currently occupied by boxes so that it can be used for additional air mattresses. There's also a bit of an embarrassment factor (even sedated, my brother noticed the areas given over to chaos when I brought him back to my place to sleep for a while). Mostly I'm going with the idea that I'm being open with family members about my own struggles, and role-modelling the idea that, in a crisis, some of us cope by letting some things slide while prioritizing others. But there's also/still a privacy issue: I haven't really looked at my (one room, very open) living space with an eye to what I do and don't want various sorts of visitors to see lately. I don't want to entirely give up the disorder-blindness that I've cultivated in order to let me focus on work in this small, crowded space, with many possible projects in view (as an introvert, I *want* to work at home, in my own space). However, getting it more orderly, comfortable, and, hence, non-distracting/discouraging has been a goal for a while, and making progress may be a good use for some of my recently-acquired nervous energy. Investing without over-investing in the "boxes" area, to the detriment of my focus on other TLQ goals, is going to be a tricky balance. There are some pretty obvious first steps, but prioritizing will get harder after that.]

    3. And finally, goals for the present, already mostly-gone, week:

      1. Cook and freeze some food (one pot of soup already done; another in progress; I need to finish and freeze that and make some oatmeal for the week ahead).

      2. Make some progress on the @#$%! boxes (really, any progress will do; I'll be near a dropoff point tomorrow, so I should have something ready to take with me on that trip;just dealing with the ones that require the least decision-making is probably the right approach).

      3. Begin exercising regularly, even a bit, doing whatever makes sense given the weather, at least every other day.

      School also begins next week, so I'm doing lots and lots of prep, but that's TRQ.

    4. Dear CC, my thoughts are with you as you deal with this very difficult situation with such honesty and thoughtfulness. I am humbled that in a very small way we can accompany you through part of this difficult time. allan wilson

  18. CC, I'm still not quite myself, but I wanted to give you some big {{hugs}} and offer what support I can. I am sure you can vent or call on the support of this group as you need to do.

    1. Thank you! I'm already realizing that one bright spot in all this is that I do have a number of support networks to call on when I need to, which is very helpful/comforting. Also, for all that I sometimes feel frustrated at how little progress I seem to be making on my goals, despite paring them down to the things I seem to have most difficulty accomplishing, it's helpful to have already been reflecting on what I really, really can't lose sight of when things get busy/distracting/distressing.

      I'm glad you made it through the surgery okay; hope your recovery is proceeding reasonably smoothly, and that the procedure accomplishes its purpose.

  19. Hi all- I'm figuring better late than never here. I ended up away from civilisation for much of the week, which was good and exhausting, and completely absorbing, but very distracting.
    So, in short, little writing and a lot of exercising.
    This week's goals:
    1. write something on the novel- maybe a plot structure that I have in my head? NO.
    2. Exercise YES
    3. Attend to two papers that are in the submission process. DID SOME STUFF ON ONE

    So, this week's goals:
    1) exercise at least three times
    2) write for at least two hours on the novel
    3) do a bit more of the submission process stuff.
    allan wilson

  20. Hi all, I'm Danne. I've taken part in this group before when it used to move from blog to blog with each session. I'm a PhD student in literature and a language teacher. I also want to write creatively and struggle to allot enough time for that endeavour.

    By April I wish to attain the following:
    -Pass the probation review
    -Produce a draft for the first chapter of my thesis
    -Make creative writing more of a habit

    I've posted my goals for week three on the most recent post.

  21. Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job. for more info