the grid

the grid

Sunday 9 December 2018

September-December: Week 14

In this session, this is the last week for which we’ll set goals. In week 15, next week, we’ll report on session progress. Three months and a bit have gone by while we have cultivated our gardens! Here's a link to the post in which we posted session goals: Judging by the small number of comments on the last post, this past week was one in which many people were Overcome By Events. These things happen! I hope you were getting things done and just not finding time to check in.

For discussion this week: favorite tips for time management or Getting Things Done? Or, from the other side, common advice that just doesn’t work for you?

About our next session: Humming42 has kindly offered to host. H42, are you up for doing that on your own, or would you like to share the job with someone else? IOW, there’s room for another organizer if we stick to the two-host format we’ve used for awhile now. Any takers?

Bardiac (held over)
1. Work on the paper. Write two pages (what's left of the week is short)
2. Practice!

Daisy (held over)
1) Finish all the half-done things from last week!
which includes:
1) Get the major figures for Northern Paper finished
2) Do point form discussion sections for each figure
3) Write my section for cool joint paper

1. Health: the usual.
2. Teaching: start grading undergrad final papers as they come in; order books for spring gen ed class. 3. Half an hour of spring class planning.
4. Research: finish the introduction! Polish the conference abstract.
5. Life Stuff: haircut, deposit/bills, Xmas shopping, trip planning, find an account number.   

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell (held over)
Combine two earlier versions of the Introduction.
Read and annotate five articles.

GEW (held over)
1) Clean my stuff and kids' stuff from garage as much as possible.
2) Clean linen closet. (Buy some new towels as a reward?)
3) Chip away at research papers (at least 4-5 per day, with extras on Wednesday) while doing other daily TRQ grading and prep. Try to finish research papers by 12/3.
4) Walk at least twice.

heu mihi
1. Language x5, write x5, sit x5, exercise x5.
2. Write 2500 words of Novel.
3. Student work: Grade the papers that come in today; follow up with three or so Problem Students.
4. Keep on slogging towards the semester's finish line....

1 Finish reading current review book
2 Write winter blog posts
3 Work on VSE abstract

1) write this year's "christmas letter"
2) wrap all the gifts I need to mail, and mail some of them
3) self-care: the usual
4) prepare for the event (actually TRQ, but...)
5) draft talk for end of semester conference
6) grade the two small sets of work I have in right now (draft essay, interim report).

Make progress with estate organizing and prepping house for market

1. Run at least once before TG and once after (if possible)
2. FL work x2 or 3
3. Read something for fun
4. Do something artsy again
5. Collate responses to book and organize notes in preparation for working on it again after TG

1. Focus on F32 aim 1 paper
2. Abstract for APA
3. Make plan for K letters
4. IRB close out/renew
5. LOR for 2 of my mentees


  1. Topic: A strict schedule doesn’t work for me--I would have to change gears between too many disparate tasks, given the nature of the day job. What does work is timed categories: a list of tasks for the 5-15 minute open times, another for the 15-60 minute, and another for the more than 60 minute times. Another thing that does work is doing the hard stuff when I am at my best, which for me is early morning, after tea and before breakfast or shower. Finally, although it isn’t thought of as time management, getting up to move ten minutes of every hour is the only way I can work at a computer all day-- oh, and the adjustable desk is very helpful as well.

    And because I loved last week’s topic of presents for goals. I tend to do very little rewards for small goals, such as read a chapter of a fun book, or to spend a half-four knitting, when I’ve finished x amount of work. Bigger rewards for bigger goals sounds good. I was at a RWA meeting yesterday, which was a celebration of the year’s accomplishments. The prizes were not huge, but nice to get. There is something about someone thinking of a gift (even if it is an earlier version of oneself), that is very nice.

    Two weeks’ ago goals:
    Combine two earlier versions of the Introduction. Yes
    Read and annotate five articles. Only four.

    Last week’s goals:
    None set. The hope was to survive the return to work. Sort of.

    Analysis: This past week was horrific. I walked into three tenure meetings, which involve the entire college, one for which I was chosen to take official notes, and which was extremely contentious. Whoo, welcome back!

    Then there was the meeting (one of ten, in addition to the tenure meetings) where my boss told me that the one extremely important project that I had to entrust to a colleague was thoroughly mucked up by the colleague, and I need to figure out what went wrong and fix it. Whoo, welcome back!

    And finally, I had no time to move into the new office, so I still have heverything in boxes. I had to borrow a pen to vote at the tenure meeting, because I have not yet found my pens. Whoo, welcome back!

    On a positive note, it is unlikely to get worse, and Political Philosopher and I are taking most of next week to visit our older daughter. It will help ease the transition back to work, I hope.

    Next week’s goals:
    Pack for the trip.
    Practice zen at every opportunity.
    Unpack what I can from the office.
    4 hours on the dissertation.

    Have a lovely week and float like mist, everyone!

    1. Apologies for the typos!!
      Half-hour, not half-four!
      Everything, not heverything!

    2. Aw, I liked "heverything"! Like you're a character who has a Cockney maid who should have unpacked for you but didn't! (Yep, still reading "Her Royal Spyness" mysteries, where the main character has a Cockney maid.)

    3. Lol, Dame Eleanor! I love the Royal Spyness novels.

    4. I also like "heverything"--it connotes here, heavy, and heave, all of which resonate with the madness of your return. Wishing you calmer waters ahead.

    5. That sounds like quite the re-entry. I do hope things settle down.

      I really like the categorized to-do list that is divided by length. I could put work things on such a list but also put stretching, etc.

      I hope the trip to see your daughter is a good one! And that it gives you a chance to catch your breath.

    6. Whew, that was hitting the ground running and no mistake! At least you should get to catch your breath at Christmas?

  2. I’ve really been struggling with getting things done for a few years now. I set reasonable goals and then don’t have the follow through or dedication to see them through. I’m dedicated to sorting this out and hope to make some progress over the winter break. I would use the analogy of someone who desperately wants to lose weight and jumps unsuccessfully from one diet plan to another, when just eating well and getting some exercise is the simple best path. I just need to make writing a habit.

    Looking forward, I am happy to host on my own, and if there is someone who wants to join me, that would be delightful too. Good either way.

    Last week:
    1 Finish reading current review book: No
    2 Write winter blog posts: No
    3 Work on VSE abstract: Decided not to pursue

    Looking back, I see I’ve done a poor job of meeting my session goals. To make some small progress, this week’s goals:

    1 Write winter blog posts
    2 Write 1000 words for Tiny Project

    1. I feel the same way - I start a ton of things - have big exciting ideas, but lack in the follow through. This is mirrored by the many half completed craft projects in my house!

    2. How do you feel overall about what you're doing? IIRC, earlier this session, you realized that one of the goals you'd set was for a paper that you really didn't want to write, and were happy to put it aside. Maybe your goals don't match your values or current interests. Or maybe you have real Life Stuff that is getting in the way.

    3. You do remember correctly, leading me to see the big picture that I've really struggled to find engaging research this a way that is probably more significant that I've realized. Some contemplation on values and interests is called for. Thanks for helping me get to that realization.

  3. Classes end this Wednesday, and so last week was the last full week. And I decided to hit my to-do list AGGRESSIVELY, which is not my usual end-of-term MO.

    Anyway, it worked, so there's my tip. I got through just about everything. The one thing I really did *not* do was sit/meditate. I managed 3/5 times.

    I was in a seminar on Buddhism and Contemporary Literature recently where people started joking about putting "meditate" on their to-do lists. One of them said, "It should be on your *not* to-do list!"

    So where should I put it? Having it on my daily list has meant that I do it more often than previously, so it's not a total failure. But I really need to think about where it fits in my day--and where/how I can prioritize *not* doing, when I'm so very focused on *doing.*

    Last week:
    1. Language x5 -YES, write x5 -YES, sit x5 -x3, exercise x5 - YES.
    2. Write 2500 words of Novel -YES
    3. Student work: Grade the papers that come in today; follow up with three or so Problem Students. -YES
    4. Keep on slogging towards the semester's finish line.... -CHARGING!

    This week:
    (Today--Monday--has been jam packed, so I'm going to cut a few things from 5 to 4.)
    1. Language x 5, write x 4, sit x 4, exercise x 5.
    2. 2500 words of Novel.
    3. Solve thorny historical problem for Silence.
    4. Spend at least 2 hours of daylight time neither working nor doing anything on this list.

    1. I wish I could summon up some aggression with which to tackle my to-do list.

      Let me know (RL e-mail) if there's anything I could do to help with your historical problem---sounds interesting!

    2. Ooh I just might! Email you, that is.

  4. Past couple o' weeks
    1. Focus on F32 aim 1 paper - NOT DONE
    2. Abstract for APA - DONE
    3. Make plan for K letters - ALL LETTERS DONE!
    4. IRB close out/renew - DONE
    5. LOR for 2 of my mentees - DONE

    I kind of slipped into the abyss - I was feeling stressed and overwhelmed and just focused on my study and on my NIH K. I'm coming up for air and am ready to set some goals:

    This week:
    1. Draft of JAMA peds paper
    2. Draft of review letter
    3. Review of journal article
    4. Read over mentor's feedback on F32 paper and make a plan
    5. Abstract for atlanta conference
    6. Make plan for K based on mock review feedback (mock review is tomorrow- gulp!)

    Topic: Not typical feedback, but I have talked with my mentor about the sheer number of projects on my plate and my difficulties with getting things done because I am not a multi-tasker, but keep feeling pushed to focus on multiple things at once by collaborators' priorities. She has suggested that I spend time every day working a little bit on every project. To me, that really doesn't work.

    1. This predicament reminds me so much of Jessica Abel's work. She makes a strong argument for focusing on a single project because we are driven to complete things and because that deep focus means you're able to think about the one project when you're not actually sitting down and working on it--you carry it with you. As opposed to carrying the worry and panic about all the things you have to do. I know that's not really possible much of the time, but I would say that one project on one day is way more productive that 10 projects in one day. Our brains aren't built for scattered bits of research.

    2. A little bit on many projects, every day, would drive me crazy. Could you divide things over the week, so you work on two things every day, and try to hit everything at least once a week? Or then do you forget what you were doing? "Start-up costs" in the form of getting reacquainted with a project are a real time-suck, but so are the transition problems of shifting between several different projects in a day.

    3. Or would it be possible to make one project at a time your top priority, and devote X minutes/hours to it daily, with an additional half-hour a day on *one* of the others? This might help reduce the start-up costs, at least. Then, when that one is finished or close to it, move another to the top spot?

    4. I have 14 papers in the works right now - there's no way to work on all of them - even in the same week. I am having trouble finishing things bc I can't just focus on one and get it done. What I love about working on my K is that I can just focus on that and do a really good job on it. I love that kind of deep focus (I also love grantwriting bc it is all about ideas, which is my strong suit - finishing things, not so much!(.

    5. How about the AcademicBatGirl approach? She writes about having multiple things on the go here:
      Might not be possible all the time but I can definitely say that it worked for me :)

    6. That's a fun blog---thanks for the link!

    7. I've been in a not-that-bad situation and live it daily as an academic but without the mentor/boss involvement to make it more obvious what I'm doing. My last paper list had 37 on it, and my "things I really, really ought to finish by the end of 2018" list is about 15 papers. And then there are grant applications... so first, empathy. I know many people in this situation - it's a major problem with the current pressure-cooker insanity that is western science academia and it afflicts many of the "in the middle" people like post-docs or academics in my sort of job (i.e. NOT the leader/star).

      What helped me a lot has been to group them by type of stage - so am I data cleaning, doing statistics, making figures, writing a first draft (which I split into the relatively easy middle results-type stuff and the harder outside wrapper introduction-and-selling-type stff), preparing for submission - then there is a separate category where all the stuff that gets thrown back at you without being in your control like integrating material from co-authors or doing revisions - and I aim to have one paper or project that is the thing I will do when I do that kind of work (with others in a queue behind it). For me, I can put some things into places in the week ahead - a teaching day with a gap in it is good for mindless stuff like data cleaning or figure polishing, a piece of work at home time for analysis or draft writing - and I also have to allow some "what am I in the mood for" space because my inner toddler is very resistent to overly-planned weeks. But whatever kind of activity I have room for, I work on only one paper until it moves to another category, when it takes its place in the queue. I've learnt that I can tolerate 10+ papers being around, but trying to juggle three different lots of analysis at once causes me to loose too much time to just being stressed out.

      The difficult thing was then modifying this when I have people who I mentor/who work for me (grads, postdocs, project students) who bring me regular problems in their analysis, so I do still have to have awareness of multiple sets of stuff - but it definitely still helps.

      I currently have a boss who when asked to help with prioritising basically says "do it all, oh, and also this OTHER thing I just thought up should also be a priority" which is NO HELP. I have just had to decide to ignore that sort of non-advice, it makes me too angry!

  5. How I did:
    1. Health: the usual. EXCELLENT.
    2. Teaching: start grading undergrad final papers as they come in YES (but now stalled); order books for spring gen ed class. YES, finally.
    3. Half an hour of spring class planning. NO
    4. Research: finish the introduction! Polish the conference abstract. NO (about 1300 words of progress); NO not at all.
    5. Life Stuff: haircut, deposit/bills, Xmas shopping, trip planning, find an account number. YES, NO, SOME, SOME, YES (actually two numbers, different things, yay me).

    1. Health: the usual.
    2. Teaching: finish grading for both classes.
    3. Research: finish the introduction! Polish the conference abstract.
    4. Life Stuff: deposit/bills, more Xmas shopping/cards, more trip planning/prep.

    I'm leaving on Saturday for a trip to FamilyLand, so I'm trying to get a batch of stuff knocked off before leaving, though I expect to have some time to work while I'm there. So far, I'm not getting on very fast, as I had to spend the afternoon on campus yesterday, then slept poorly and have been foggy and distractable all day. Here's hoping the next three days go more smoothly.

    1. Kudos on your health goals. Lately, it seems that you've been doing very well with this area of your TLQ, which is fabulous.

      A lot of your goals sound like mine right now: grading, planning for next semester, paying bills, Christmas shopping, trip planning. I find this time of year to be one that often puts me in "thrashing" mode, and I have difficult time making proper progress. Eventually, it all gets done, but I can't help but think I could be doing it better.

      I hope things this week have gotten smoother and that you've ticked a bunch of boxes so that you won't have to do too much work while in FamilyLand. (Maybe just enough work to give you an excuse for some alone time? I must admit I have invoked the "I need to get a little work done" as a nice reason to visit a coffee shop on my own for a couple of hours.)

      Happy travels!

    2. I hope your trip goes well!

  6. I’ve been MIA from the group for the last month or so. It started with two weeks of 24/7 lab work, so nothing else got done, then when I got back from that I realized that there was only two weeks of classes left, and I got some reviews back for a paper, and exams, and then a visiting grad student sucked up a whole week of time…
    I also realized, with the assistance of one of the lovely prompts a few weeks back, that my current working pattern was not particularly compatible with small goals that fit into weeks or other short periods. Looking at my research work I can see that I’ve made a lot of progress on multiple fronts including two very nice accepted papers from more mature projects, and broke my own record for co-authored presentations at a single conference (six new talks!). I’ve done a huge amount of new work too, but much of it was in yak-shaving mode (for those unfamiliar with this brilliant term see and the original
    For the new work I’ve been writing up it has been slow because everything is so new, and I’m literally rewriting everything we know and understand about my area. It needs a level of background knowledge and confidence with previous work that comes very slowly, and with writing about it involves a lot of back-and-forth checking of details, and every one of those opens up a new rabbit hole of possibilities. Which is fun and fascinating but not fast. Making a figure is easy when it is something that only takes my own input, when it is replacing thirty years of previous work it takes on a life of its own! So a goal that says “make a figure” looks reasonable, but doesn’t work when making a figure involves thousands of words of writing and thinking and processing… And then I felt that “keep working on figure” was a very boring goal so I didn’t come and write about that…
    This is where my favourite productivity tool came in very handy – I track all my projects and all work with toggl, with a lot of detail. Each project has a name, and I can record specific activities. Being able to look at actual data on how I spend my time makes me use it more carefully (benefit number 1!) and also makes looking back an exercise in satisfaction rather than despair because I can see how many hours and days and weeks I spend on work that I value (benefit number 2!). It also makes it much easier for me to limit some types of work to appropriate times – I could spend three hours commenting on a committee report draft, but if I need to limit it to an hour the tracking helps me see when to quit and makes me plan better (benefit number 3!) or be able to say to myself “I’m already over my limit for committees this month, I shouldn’t take on a new thing until an old one is removed”.
    So, for one last kick at the goal can:
    This week I will finish the revisions for my accepted paper and get that sent off as an early Christmas present to myself!

    1. That all sounds really exciting! I certainly see your point about the importance of working slowly and thoroughly when you're making such an impact on your field. Thanks for coming back and telling us what is going on, and about your process (I do use a spreadsheet to track my writing process, but clearly I could do more with it if I wanted to), and especially for the yak-shaving metaphor! That is precisely the way my research always works. You just don't know what you're going to have to do till you plunge in and start identifying problems that need to be dealt with on the way to the original goal.

    2. In terms of goal-setting, maybe time goals - I want to spend five hours this week on research stuff, whatever that turns out to look like - might be more practical for you than product goals? I switch backwards and forwards a lot, because I know weekly and daily goal setting is important in keeping up TLQ momentum when life and the rest of the job are in the way, but neither 100% suits the work that actually needs doing...

      Toggl sounds like a high-tech version of my "done" lists - maybe I will try it out...

  7. My goals were to make progress with estate organizing and prepping house for market. The good news is that the house is all decluttered and pre-inspected and small repairs are all done. Big repairs are being done this week. Its been a massive effort and for various reasons it has all fallen on me. My sister has been unable or unwilling (or both) to be of any help. The dramas about splitting up my parents things continue and it is ugly. Death sometimes brings out the worst in family members. But other good news is that the house should be on the market starting tomorrow. The lawyer and trustee are coming tomorrow to help with dividing up personal effects etc. and then my sister leaves on the 18th and I leave on the 20th. I will be adopting my Mom's cat so I am trying to get her used to the carrier etc. and it is not going well. Fingers crossed tomorrow goes ok and that it is not too stressful getting out of here next week. Goals for next week are to get back to my home in Arizona relatively unscathed by all of this and to figure out my Christmas plans. Nothing will seem right for Christmas this year so I am struggling a bit with that.

    1. For the cat, try Feliway (renamed ComfortZone): happy-cat pheromone spray, reduces stress. I wish I knew of something similar for you. This might be a good year to take Christmas "off": binge-read or binge-watch something comforting/distracting, have a frozen pizza, just try for a bit of R&R.

      This is based on my own experience and if it's not helpful please ignore: I have found that in the early mourning period it is very hard for me to make any decisions, even something simple like what sandwich to order. I was grateful to friends who would say "Meet me at X place at Y time and we'll eat Z," because I could show up if expected, but otherwise couldn't manage even something like "bring cheese" (what kind???). If you're feeling like that, try to explain to friends that you'd love to see them but you need them to do the planning. Quite apart from your personal feelings, your place in the world has changed. It's a big adjustment and it takes a lot of emotional energy to cope with.

    2. I'm so impressed by how much you've taken care of. Regardless of family conflict, it seems that you have been a good steward of your mother's estate. And I'm so pleased for you that you'll be home (if you think of it as home) for Christmas. It does seem like a good year to really just do Christmas however best suits your own needs.

      I hope the sale of the house goes smoothly and quickly.

    3. Seconding Feliway, it did wonders for Fluffball when his life was turned upsidedown before he came to live here, and helped both my previous cats when stuff got too disrupted for them to understand.

      You're doing great! And I also think Christmas should be whatever feels restorative to you, and if that means crackers and cheese and a day in bed, ignoring it entirely, or a full day of cathartic festive sob-fest TV watching, you should make the most of it. (I would strongly recommend making sure there is chocolate around...). Wishing you very well with continuing to make progress on all the necessities.

    4. Today went pretty well with the lawyer and the trustee. My feelings are still hurt by the greed shown by my sister and my nephews. But the lawyer is making sure I am not getting screwed and will balance things out in the end. So I feel as if things are sort of ok on that end. My sister also decided to leave early- tomorrow, the relief that flooded through me was immense. Now I will have to do all the last bits, but I was sort of doing everything anyway and the anxiety of having her here will be lifted. The cat goes to the vet tomorrow and I hope they can give me some kitty Xanax for the trip. And I am leaving Christmas plans open for now but it might just mean lots of tv and maybe a movie which will have to be ok. All of your kinds words and suggestions have helped a lot, so I thank you.

  8. During this time of year, to get things done, I often just to grab whatever is closest and just do it, and then grab the next thing. This can be good because I just keep doing. But what would probably be best is if each evening I do a to-list for the next day. I find such lists especially helpful when I'm not on a regular teaching schedule and I want to tackle a number of different things.

    Two weeks ago:
    1) Clean my stuff and kids' stuff from garage as much as possible. NOT DONE.
    2) Clean linen closet. (Buy some new towels as a reward?). BOUGHT THE TOWELS! (DID NOT CLEAN THE CLOSET) haha
    3) Chip away at research papers (at least 4-5 per day, with extras on Wednesday) while doing other daily TRQ grading and prep. Try to finish research papers by 12/3. DONE.
    4) Walk at least twice. NOT DONE.

    These goals were from two weeks ago, and while it doesn't look like I did very well, I felt like I was, indeed, fairly productive, especially considering my husband's absence for five days. I was just doing other things, I think.

    Last week was all about Annie, and I was a good drama mama. I spent a lot of time putting curlers in my daughter's hair and volunteering at the production. She stayed healthy throughout the production, despite several cast members being quite ill, and then the day after the show ended, she got sick, and the day after that, I got sick. So now I have a nasty head cold that is making it more difficult to get things done. My brain is foggy, my nose is runny and stuffy, and my throat hurts. But the show was fantastic, and my girl did a great job. And everything went fine with visiting family members.

    This time of year is typically my most stressful, in part because we travel for the holidays, so just as I'm trying to finish the semester, I'm also prepping to travel. And since we do Christmas while traveling, I have to have Christmas presents ready and wrapped and shipped or packed before we go. And I also have to have the house ready for house sitters, which can be daunting since we have a lot of weird critters that need special care.

    Between now and Dec. 21:
    1) Finish grading and write rec letters.
    2) Finish Christmas shopping and wrap presents.
    3) Meet with co-instructor for SF class to plan syllabus.
    4) Prep revisions to research/argument class.
    5) Clean linen closet.
    6) Clean garage piles.
    7) Spend 2-3 hours drafting conference paper.
    8) Pay bills
    9) Prep for trip (pack, get house and notes ready for housesitters)
    10) Walk 2x, Yoga 2x.

    I feel like I'm forgetting something important.

    1. I didn't appreciate just HOW stressful travelling for Christmas was (& I don't have kids or a spouse to wrangle) until the first year when I had to postpone travel until after Christmas due to cattery availability. The amazing difference a few extra days of just being in my house without work made was really nice!

      Thinking of you and all the other stressed travel-preparers out there... (I have a conference coming up before Christmas, that's QUITE enough stress thank you!)

  9. Ugh, I am very late!

    Busy weekend - did a public outreach event on Sunday, which threw my schedule for checking in here etc. right off, and I've been tired so keeping away from the computer in the evenings

    1) write this year's "christmas letter" nope
    2) wrap all the gifts I need to mail, and mail some of them nope. Just did that today...
    3) self-care: the usual mixed but some
    4) prepare for the event (actually TRQ, but...)DONE. and it went well
    5) draft talk for end of semester conference not done
    6) grade the two small sets of work I have in right now (draft essay, interim report).done. the essay occupied the rest of Sunday...

    Goals for the current week:
    1) write this year's "christmas letter"
    2) wrap all the gifts I need to mail, and mail some of them
    3) self-care: the usual
    5) write talk for end of semester conference
    6) work up diary now next semester's timetable is finally available!