the grid

the grid

Saturday 1 April 2017

Week 13: the highs, the lows, the middling

We didn't do so much talking among ourselves this past week as we sometimes do, so I hope that means you were all getting $h!t done. Along similar lines to last week's "past glories" theme, I have a suggestion for thinking about the range of good/bad days. You don't have to post details if you don't want to, but think about a day when you really were on a roll and got a lot done (maybe you have a diary or a spreadsheet to check on?). What were the circumstances? That is, what made your high productivity possible? Think also about a day when you felt like you got nothing done. Was it really nothing, or were you doing things other than the ones on your to-do list, like keeping a sick child calm and happy, or tending to household problems? Could you re-frame your "nothing" as "differently productive"? Finally, remember that "mediocrity" really is the Golden Mean: a lot of "mediocre" days of chipping away at tasks does result in things getting done. Some bad days are okay if you balance them with better ones.

So, how was last week?

Contingent Cassandra
--work on taxes (get as close to finished as possible, since the next few weeks will be busy)
--finish listing to-dos for one section
--move: walk, lift weights, and garden, at least 1x and preferably 2x each.
--participate a bit more in pedagogy project related class (maybe just some blog comments)
--write letter re: promotion to dept chair
--make progress on annual report

1: Contract report, now a giant TRQ problem
2: Read some key papers and plan for analytical time coming up
3: Draft of results and discussion for one paper (related to contract, so can do this as a set)

Dame Eleanor Hull
1. House: get all tax stuff to accountant, and make one room presentable.
2. Research: 5 x 15 minutes on the MMP R&R, and at least one session of two hours on it.
3. Teaching: 5 x 15 minutes grading, and hope that I'll at least not get more behind than I am now. Talk to colleague about student H.
4. Health: continue regular gym workouts 3x/week, stretch every day, eat safely, go to bed early.
5. Fun/social: track restorative activities to find out if I do them regularly.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell
-Survive the four days of interviews.
-Incorporate research notes from last year’s trip.
-Reserve time for transcription and scholarly thought.
-Doctor’s appointment Wednesday.
-Pack for the weekend in New York City.

Good Enough Woman
1) Exercise 3x.
2) Get a head start on spring break grading (maybe grade half a stack, or even a whole stack??)
3) Spend 3 hours on article on Friday.
4) Read one thing.
5) Arrange to pick up lab results (and pick them up).
6) Brainstorm some things to do with kids for my upcoming spring break, during which hubby will be out of town. Kids will be in school, but I want to plan a couple of fun outings.

heu mihi
1. Finish scanning and uploading things to Moodle for the rest of the semester
2. Reread Sanok sections
3. Create a developed outline/preliminary draft of Berks paper
4. Update Kzoo in response to ch. 4
5. Go to intro-level classes to tout upper-level offerings

1. Read 5x
2. Write 5x
3. make notes while reading
4. use morning writing to brainstorm projects

Hanging in?

-reconnect with postgrad students
-get ahead by one week on online unit during business hours not evenings. Use evenings for sleeping.
-work through email consciously for designated periods each day and turn off outside those times.
-get to yoga x 1
-attend Friday writing group

1. collaborative paper - make edits and send to coauthors
2. poster for conference - plan and work out data
3. marking marking marking
4. adminfrustrashing - finish off the last bits

1. Hammer out first draft of Way Outside.
2. Walk three times
3. Take one day completely off -- maybe go up to the mountains and hike for a day, or go to the beach and walk.
4. Don't get too far behind on work.
5. Finish at least one book.

1. Work on mixed methods paper
2. Possibly do suicide abstract if we decide to move forward with it
3. Prepare presentation for next week’s conference
4. K99 - revise mentor’s LOR


  1. Last week I wasn’t super productive (reason for that below) - but I did everything I said I would, so that is good.

    1. Work on mixed methods paper - WORKED ON IT (but need to do way more)
    2. Possibly do suicide abstract if we decide to move forward with it - DONE
    3. Prepare presentation for next week’s conference - BACKED OUT OF CONFERENCE (timeline was obscene and conference poorly organized - I had been asked to present at the last minute, so my mentor urged me to back out)
    4. K99 - revise mentor’s LOR - DONE

    I wasn’t super productive because my NIH postdoc was reviewed on Wednesday, so I spent all of Wednesday and a large chunk of Thursday refreshing my eRA commons account. Thursday afternoon I got my score -I got an 11 (10 is the best you can get) - so in all likelihood, it will get funded. The council that decides on what actually gets funded doesn’t meet till next month - and there is no budget for the NIH past April either - plus we are apparently currently on the path for a governmental shut down … but that likely just affects the timing of my funds, not the actual funding. So, I am feeling pretty good about this - and getting such a good score is really really validating.

    I’m really hoping that my funds will make it so that my mentor feels like since she won’t have to pay my salary anymore, she can free up funds to pay for conference travel for me. I’m presenting at 2 conferences this summer that require travel (and want to submit to a third), and she is being weird about it and suggesting I should have thought about how I would pay for travel myself (even though these are presentations on her nih-funded research). This is a bit of a stressful bit in our relationship right now because I really think it is completely appropriate for me to assume her grant would pay. But ...

    Goals for this week:
    1. Make significant headway on mixed methods paper (it’s due 4.15, so this has to be the bulk of my effort this week)
    2. Write a brief proposal for grant app

    1. Regarding productivity - I am most productive (which I think I've mentioned before) when I make a to do list for the next day at the end of my day, and just start on it the next morning. That helps me keep on track. The days when I am the least productive, I can often push myself to do one task. But some days, I don't do much - and don't do much that is fun or productive on the home front either - those are the worst days because they just feel wasted.

    2. That works for me as well. If I don't do the to do list at the end of the day, do it immediately on sitting down in the morning, before email starts to dictate the day's track.
      I also hate the days wasted when you work away at something half-heartedly and make little progress, but lack the courage (or inspiration) to walk away and do something better. But sometimes I think they are necessary. Spinning in the mud a bit before getting out of the ditch and moving forward.

    3. Congratulations on the high score! That's great news.

    4. Fantastic news! Sorry about the mentor weirdness, though--I hope that this does mitigate that somewhat.

    5. "This one goes to 11!" Nicely done.

    6. Hooray for the high score, and the probably funding. And yes, the gov't stuff will be a mess for a bit, but. . . (I was discussing this with our VC for Research the other day and he was guardedly optimistic while being totally discouraged.

  2. I’m back. The awful winter quarter is done, and Spring is about to begin. I’m regrouping and hoping that spring will be better. I know that I need to consciously work on striving for a new balance. This is because I’ve worked 50 hours since last Sunday, mostly grading, but also prepping. When I finished my grading, my brain did not miss a beat but I was thinking about the new classes. (That’s the antidepressants at work. That’s not me. I want to fall over and hide in a hole and have for months.) My syllabi need a really strong edit. I have a couple other little tasks to do. Then I have to transition to doing some at-home stuff like starting seeds, clearing the office floor, and making cookies when I really don’t want to do anything because I feel like crap. So my main focus this week is going to be making myself get up and do those things that are time-consuming and sometimes overwhelming, like taking baths, gardening, and talking Star Wars with my son when I don’t feel like it.

    -Grounding: get adequate sleep! Eat well. Active self-repair on stressful days: baths, music. Meditate or stretching twice this week.

    -Spirited: therapy and hanging out

    -Gardening: start tomato and other seeds, look for or order peas, figure out salad bowls

    -NaPoWriMo: go for it!

    -Plan and Plod: get back to Dreambook by end of week

    -Scholarship: read and take notes on one piece of scholarship/one chapter of a book

    Move like water, float like mist, everyone!

    1. Welcome back! You've been an inspiration for us despite, or maybe because of, your struggles. Thank you for staying in touch and contributing your mantras and suggestions.

    2. I love the new "float like mist"--lovely. And it's good to see you here again.

    3. I hope spring will be your time to re-bloom. Welcome back.

    4. Mmmm, I like float like mist too - mist is just about the opposite of invisible and I've been feeling very invisible/inaudible of late, which makes me kind of shrill and annoying I'm sure - must isn't shrill, it's just THERE. Something to cultivate...

    5. I'm so glad you're back, and I agree with DEH that you are an inspiration, as you fight the Slough of Despond.
      Welcome back!

  3. I was busy being sad and angry and not patching over it with sugar last week - oh, and being "substitute supervisor" for most of the first and third years, since many of my colleagues were away (on legitimate travel with field classes/conferences, which all got badly clustered this year), and I realise now multiple of them had put "ask JaneB" in their out of office emails with regards to final year projects (due end of April) or first year Difficult Assignments (due Friday)...

    I won't rehash here but I had a majorly upsetting email about a minor work matter Thursday before last, and then my central heating and hot water failed, and generally it was a "that took all my breff" week (family phrase when things are too much. Apparently my Mum when very small took part in a show of some sort, sang a song, then announced to the audience "that took all my breff" before departing the stage, and this stuck somehow). I just keep starting over and trying again at the moment...

    I spent most of last week around the student stuff and the mountain of teaching prep and grading (which should be a team effort, but team effort is kind of like group work for the adult I find, at least at this stage in the academic year) working on a small grant application which is due tomorrow, which I will submit tonight, so, done a little early? Ferret is also off my desk, with former-PDF, if I didn't mention that before. And I DID do some decluttering (at least of the "shove it all in a box to sort out later" kind) and housework so that the visit of the boiler engineer wasn't too embarassing!

    This coming week I have too much teaching prep to do... and dammit it's going in the list here, TRQ and TLQ are all mixed up in my head at the moment.

    1) prepare one statistics class, one workshop
    2) prepare information packs for four field destinations
    3) make sure all lists are made and orders submitted for supplies etc. for the field day
    4) grade first year assignment
    5) comment on drafts of second year assignment
    6) pull together readings for Picky paper
    7) use internal review comments to rewrite GrantINEverShouldHaveStarted, finish internal paperwork. Maybe start progress towards submission???
    8) resist sugar, avoid bread
    9) get sleep pattern back to something sensible (have had a very jet-lag-inducing weekend...)

    1. Your reports on work disorganization (theirs, not yours---I hope that's clear) have been harrowing, so I am impressed that you're keeping up the no-sugar effort: I hope your sticking to it means that it really is helping.

    2. Yes, I echo DEH. Kudos and Godspeed for the upcoming week.

    3. Your description of your week is the kind that would make me want to be a Victorian lady who could retire to her bed with the vapors. Between work stuff and the boiler/furnace, I can't imagine. And judging by my fb and twitter feeds, Brexit day was very discouraging.

    4. I don't really know if the sugar thing is helping, but I need to give it time to work, and although I'm not losing weight (grrr) I am definitely eating better and more intentionally - so I'm sticking to it at least for the rest of Lent, then will have some candy at Easter and observe what happens...

      Yeah Brexit day was very depressing, and the posturing since, oy vey, so embarrassing! And I made the mistake of ringing my parents about something else that day, and they're very pro Brexit rah rah, and it really took a LOT of emotional energy not to go off on one... and I still get thrown off badly by not being on roughly the same page as my folks politically, it's a new thing and I Don't Like It

  4. Interesting prompt. Last week was pretty good for me, but the week before wasn't, so I have some samples to play with. Bad (work) days = days when Child is unexpectedly at home, because it's really hard to get anything work-related done when he is. Also bad: Days when I get sucked into administrative/emailing/photocopying/service holes. Time feels chopped up into unproductive little slices, and the work itself is, while often necessary, unsatisfying.

    Good days: Exercise in the morning often helps, but is not a requirement. Having an end-limit to my work (e.g., must leave at 3:45 to pick up Child). Getting started before noon is pretty important, as my energy tends to flag after lunch. And it's vital for me to have a concrete, writing-related task to do: revision is best, but drafting X number of paragraphs/words is also a good one, or integrating specific research into a document. As others have said, it's best for those to be written out in advance, so that I know exactly where to jump in. When the working is good, it's amazing--to me--how much I can get done in a couple of hours.

    Last week:
    1. Finish scanning and uploading things to Moodle for the rest of the semester DONE
    2. Reread Sanok sections NOT DONE
    3. Developed outline/preliminary draft of Berks paper DONE with outline; draft not so much—wrote a couple of paragraphs; discovered that my evidence might look different from what I’d expected
    4. Update Kzoo in response to ch. 4 DONE
    5. Go to intro-level classes to tout upper-level offerings DONE

    This week: Need to get cracking on Berks.
    1. Read some primary sources
    2. Draft Berks (5 pp.)
    3. Preliminary prep for guest class (4/11)

    Keeping it short on purpose....

    1. I hate when my day is chopped up. Despite all the time management gurus who say that one should be able to work in small bits of time, I just have to have some length of time to do any deep work.

      I also work better with a plan of x words for the day, although I tend to do that more for fiction than my research, which is often time-based. I putz around more with fiction, so time is more slippery.

      Short is good!

    2. Deep work does take time and focus. Cal Newport has a blog and a book about it.

  5. Bad days: Very much like those that Waffles and heu mihi describe: either I am not intentional with a realistic to-do list, or sudden urgent administrivia gets unloaded in an email thread, or a kid gets sick and all plans get chucked (although sometimes those kid sick days still turn into good kid-time TLQ).

    Good days: I make a realistic plan for the day and I follow it. Or, if I don't follow it, I make conscious choices and am aware of the cost/benefits of those choices. And I am not derailed by administrivia or illness. Again, Contingent Cassandra's comment about making a to-do list through the end of her term prompted me to to map out some of the major work demands for my semester, which has been very helpful. Thanks, CC!

    Last week's goals:
    1) Exercise 3x. DONE.
    2) Get a head start on spring break grading (maybe grade half a stack, or even a whole stack??). DONE. I did one stack of drafts.
    3) Spend 3 hours on article on Friday. PARTLY DONE. Not three hours. Maybe 1.5?
    4) Read one thing. NOT DONE.
    5) Arrange to pick up lab results (and pick them up). DONE.
    6) Brainstorm some things to do with kids for my upcoming spring break, during which hubby will be out of town. Kids will be in school, but I want to plan a couple of fun outings. PARTLY DONE. And I took them to see "Kedi"; it was their first trip to the indie theater and their first subtitled film, and they loved it!

    This next week is my spring break! I have a lot to do, but it's also the first break in nearly a decade that I haven't had the thesis/dissertation hanging over my head. And the kids will be in school, and hubby is gone, and I am queen of my castle during the day. I am torn between productivity and relaxation. Will have to be a mix, I think. I've struggled with how to distribute work and fun, but I think I'm going to front load the work on Monday and Tuesday with some on Wednesday. Then I plan to relax on Thursday and Friday. I bought myself a chaise lounge for the patio and am hoping the weather will allow for some outdoor reading.

    Goals for this week:
    1) Exercise 3x. And throw in something different: Either take out the SUP, do laps at my college pool (which I've never done!), or go to a yoga class.
    2) Pay bills.
    3) Do most of grading (could leave half a stack for early next week if necessary).
    4) Finish the article and submit it unless this means no days off. If I can't finish by Tuesday or Wednesday (and I'm not sure I can) I want to put off the submission.
    5) See doctor on Wed and have lunch with friend.
    6) Preserve Thursday and Friday for exercise and relaxation (pleasure reading, mostly . . . also maybe sushi for lunch one day).

    1. I think 6 is your most important goal. The freedom of not worrying/feeling guilty about the dissertation is worth celebrating.

      I admire Contingent Cassandra's semester-long plan, but I can't seem to get much beyond a month. I may work on it, though!

    2. EAM, Regarding CC's plan, the main thing I did was start using my moleskin calendar again to maintain and track my to-do lists, and as part of that tracking I put in the dates when I'd be receiving batches of essays (through the end of the semester). Just doing that one thing gave me amazing view of the lay of the land, so to speak, and I was able to be much intentional about when I would grade what and how fast I needed to do it. Because my grading load is so heavy, just mapping those big things made a huge difference for my work life.

      And, yes, I'm eager for #6! And I'd forgotten about sushi until I looked back at the goals today . . .

  6. Hmmm. For me, since having time to putz around is important, a good day is when the putzing is incidental to working. When I'm bored, or overwhelmed, the putzing and procrastinating takes over. This past week was mostly good, because I had one or two days when I had no other obligations. (The email continued, and I even had some meetings, but. . .)

    1. Hammer out first draft of Way Outside. NO, BUT A GOOD START (4300 words)
    2. Walk three times: TWICE
    3. Take one day completely off -- maybe go up to the mountains and hike for a day, or go to the beach and walk. NO: REALIZED 1 and 3 were at odds; but did take a bunch of naps, and lazy afternoons.
    4. Don't get too far behind on work. YES
    5. Finish at least one book. YES (not the one I thought, but it's a book)

    So, it was spring break, so fewer meetings than usual, but still a few. And the emails continued. While I didn't go away, I did give myself permission to futz around, take naps, etc. And my work on the essay was helped by the fact that late Thursday afternoon, a meeting I had tomorrow 2+ hours away was shifted, so I had to cancel my grad seminar. That meant that I could write today, instead of preparing for class.

    Goals for this week:
    1. Finish way outside
    2. Walk twice
    3. Read at bedtime.

    This week has a lot of meetings, but I finish meeting at 12:30 on THursday, and will call in to Friday's meeting so that I just write. Should be able to finish a draft...

    1. I think so! It turns out that writing about 20th C literature is a real challenge for this historian! (I call it "Way Outside" because it's outside time and discipline for me!)

  7. Bad days: Surprise snow days - we've had 5 in the last two weeks - a few are fine but this is ridiculous. Worst days are when someone else's incompetence causes trouble that I have to fix and it derails everything I've planned. When I get to the end of the day and cannot show anything concrete for it...

    Good days: well-planned ones, clear outcomes, and enough research that even the admin stuff feels like part of a bigger goal. My time-tracking has helped enormously with this since I can see every single way where my time went. It has been really encouraging to have that concrete feedback, especially when I'm working n long-term stuff that is not conducive to a "done" list because they are ongoing and evolving. The last three weeks of tracking have been extremely efficient, and way more fun than I imagined. Should have done it years ago!

    Last week:
    1: Contract report, now a giant TRQ problem DONE
    2: Read some key papers and plan for analytical time coming up DONE
    3: Draft of results and discussion for one paper (related to contract, so can do this as a set)PARTLY DONE

    This week's goals:
    1) Finish results and discussion for paper above, add figures for results section
    2) Plan next week's analytical time carefully
    3) Pick one other paper and figure out next steps
    4) Run outside at least twice

  8. How I did:

    1. House: get all tax stuff to accountant, and make one room presentable. YES, NO but made some progress.
    2. Research: 5 x 15 minutes on the MMP R&R, and at least one session of two hours on it. NO. Maybe twice on the 15 minutes.
    3. Teaching: 5 x 15 minutes grading, and hope that I'll at least not get more behind than I am now. Talk to colleague about student H. YES, did quite well with grading, and YES to talk.
    4. Health: continue regular gym workouts 3x/week, stretch every day, eat safely, go to bed early. YES.
    5. Fun/social: track restorative activities to find out if I do them regularly. YES: a nice combination of reading, sewing, TV and coloring.

    Last week was a very bad one for insomnia. I’m impressed that I achieved as much as I did.

    My bad days have more to do with health/energy/sleep than anything else, and so may be unpredictable. There is little that I find more demoralizing than making a reasonable plan the night before, then waking up feeling awful and completely lacking the mental fortitude to do anything on that list except the simplest and most rote items. Planning by the week is helpful because I can fall back on simple tasks on bad days. On a good day, I feel energetic and can focus; if there’s something I don’t get to, that’s okay, I just postpone it, without feeling like I’ve failed. One of the goals of my efforts with the low-FODMAP diet is to have more good days.

    This week:
    1. House: make two rooms presentable.
    2. Research: 15 minutes x 3 days, plus one session of two hours, on each of two projects.
    3. Teaching: 3 sets of assignments, plus two small sets of revisions.
    4. Health: continue regular gym workouts 3x/week, stretch every day, eat safely, go to bed early, add walking on non-gym days, now that I have good walking shoes.
    5. Fun/social: track restorative activities to make sure I do them regularly. Consider whether Wednesday gathering is worth staying up late for.

    1. I find it demoralizing to feel cr*p on a morning when I had plans to get things accomplished, especially if I've cleared the decks for it. That is one of the few times I have wished for a Groundhog Day type do-over.

  9. Topic: Bad days and good days
    As Waffles and KJ said, my good days are when I have a to do list prominently displayed, and like heu mihi, it has been written and given priorities the day before, so I can just jump right in. I also do better when I write first thing, while the coffee is brewing and no one but the dog is awake with me. I then feel virtuous for the rest of the day.

    For me, bad days are when my ADD makes me focus on the first thing I see, which is usually not the most productive use of my time or energy. Also, as GEW mentioned, an attack of “sudden urgent administrivia” is a guarantee that I will not be productive. Beyond having to deal with the urgent matter, I’m usually ticked off that I had to deal with it on an emergent basis, and it ruins the flow of the day.

    Last week’s goals:
    Survive the four days of interviews. DONE
    Incorporate research notes from last year’s trip. NO, but found more I had written and forgotten about.
    Reserve time for transcription and scholarly thought. NO
    Doctor’s appointment Wednesday. YES
    Pack for the weekend in New York City. YES

    How I did:
    The interviews are just painful to get through, honestly. I sit and think that I would answer that question better, hold eye contact better, be more on point. . . . I fear what Susan mentioned last week, that I will constantly think that I could do the job better than the new hire for the foreseeable future. Two more days of interviews this week, and two next week, and then the torture will be over.

    I was asked to rewrite each and every one of my staff evaluations, which soured my week (see bad days above). They have no impact on promotion or pay, so having my boss suggest deep revisions (twice in one case) is infuriating. I wish I could be a better person, and move on to things that matter, but I fume and sulk, and only have the attention span to clear out files and email. So, the research notes and scholarly thought were absent, sadly.

    For the good news: the doctor said I am completely healed, and gave me three more weeks of PT. That’s honestly better than asking me to do it on my own, so I’m happy. Also, I, DH, and sons number 1 and 2 met daughters number 1 and 2 in New York over the weekend, and had a very nice time. It had been nearly two years since the six of us were all together, and it was great.

    Next week’s goals:
    Survive two more days of interviews.
    Meet with staff about evaluations.
    Begin blind review of article.
    Write up research notes.
    Continue Latin transcription and translation.
    Do version control on the iterations of the book and correct filenames across cloud storage and hard drives.

    Move like water, float like mist. Here’s to more good days than bad in the coming week!

    1. Good luck with the rest of the interviews! As someone said to me when I applied for the dean job, there are advantages and disadvantages of internal candidates. But at my place I see a consistent denigration of the skills of internal candidates, esp. women.

    2. That's unfortunate, and all too familiar, Susan.

  10. Great topic. There's been too many bad days the last couple of months. Good days are typically characterised by having a variety of tasks to do that all take at least 45 mins. Not so fragmented then. I think find it helps to do that type of thing in the morning and have a longer stretch on a bigger task in the afternoon. I am not distracted by email (it's turned off or I only reply the next day), or by having to make phone calls etc. I don't really notice time passing in the same way. Bad days are ones where email derails me continually. I've been trying to do what I'm referring to as 'email sprints' where I reply to as many things as possible in 30 mins or an hour. Then just turning it off but as email is the major source of drama and last minute things to do for work. it's a major force of evil. Obviously some bad days are due to side effects of medical treatment and I struggle with the combination of feeling like I just want to read a book or watch TV while hiding under a blanket, and feeling obliged to get through some stuff that someone else has decided was urgent (generally due to their poor planning). I don't work well when I feel resentful or in pain/discomfort/whatever the word is that best describes chemo side effects.

    Last week
    1. collaborative paper - make edits and send to coauthors partially complete
    2. poster for conference - plan and work out data partially complete
    3. marking marking marking some done, more to do
    4. adminfrustrashing - finish off the last bits reasonable progress

    This week
    1. collaborative paper - finish my edits and make a decision on the ethics bit
    2. poster for conference - finish
    3. marking marking marking - finish

    I think that's enough for a chemo week.

    1. And I've just had my last chemo! Woooo hoooo!

    2. Woohoo, indeed! That's fabulous!

    3. How wonderful to be done with that! May it be a thing that Stays Done, forever.

    4. Wooo hooo from me as well. That is very good news!

    5. Yay for being done with chemo! I hope you feel up to SOME celebration.

      (Also, I'm impressed at how much you are tracking while doing the chemo.)

  11. Great article! I completely agree with your points about the importance of trauma counselling in today's. Your insights on how counselling have really helped me understand the benefits of incorporating trauma counselling into my own counselling . Thank you for sharing your expertise and knowledge, and I look forward to reading more from you in the future