the grid

the grid

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Summer-North, Winter-South session, Week 4: Planning

I'm feeling terribly uninspired blog-post-wise today, so I'm just going to ask you about something that I struggled with this week: concocting a work plan for the session. For WEEKS I have meant to come up with a "concrete plan" for my work this session, and on Thursday, I finally sat down to do so...only to realize that the best I could do was "Revise X article" for 4 or so weeks, with "Copyedits" pencilled in here and there (not sure when they're coming in), and "Draft proposal for Z" taking up one week--but none of this helps very much. The trouble is, it's hard to know in advance what the revisions will *look* like until I'm in them. So I was able to put on the schedule for this week "Reread reviewer's comments and essay; plan revision," but then the rest of it is entirely up in the air, for obvious reasons.

And yet, the Academic Writing Guru Coach Thingy that sends me automated inspirational emails every Monday insists, strongly, that concrete plans are needed, as far in advance as possible. As did the real-life writing coach that I worked with a few years ago.

I'm sure this varies considerably by discipline, and partly for that reason I'm curious about how the rest of you plan your work-lives--especially those of you with many projects going on at once.

I recently came up with an appropriate image for my research agenda: It's like walking through a dark forest with a flashlight. I can see to the very next part of the path and maybe a few yards further, but beyond that I don't know whether there's a sharp turn, a fallen tree, or a bear. This makes planning difficult.

What about you? How far ahead do/can you plan your projects? Are you on a sunny stroll through well-marked terrain, or, like me, stumbling along in the moonless dark?

Dame Eleanor Hull:
1, gym/walk/swim x6, stretch x6, usual low-FODMAP cooking.
2, some gardening and other House Stuff.
3, finish reviewing past plans, work on outline, start writing.
4, Finish reading one scholarly book.
5, continue planning courses, ~ 2-4 hours.
6, read at least 1/2 hr x 3 in a strong language, drill grammar or vocabulary x 5 in a weaker one.


heu mihi:
1. Finish Amy (due 6/15)
2. Language x5, writing x5, sit x5, exercise x5, garden 3 hours
3. Detailed research/writing plan for coming weeks
4. Read a book
5. Read essays for symposium
6. Email collection contributors
7. Enjoy my birthday!


humming 42:

1 Draft Time abstract
2 Write and submit a review
3 Finish next review book
4 Blog post
JaneB:1a: water, if the cold allows do 5-10 minute exercise routines, sleep schedule1b: I have another decluttering appointment next weekend... - I have three possible areas in mind, need to make a decision.1c: pick up the square I was working on and make some progress2a: Spend half an hour each on Fragment and FlatProject, review an article and a grant application, make comments on drafts from both LikesMaths and DrVisitTheSecond 2b: start making some lists, send more emails about the recce visit2c: Find samples for FavouriteIslands analysis and pass them on to technician3: extras: half an hour of office decluttering
oceangirl101:
- write 3,000 words Ch 3 and 30 minutes of editing per day- exercise x 4, fun x 2- something for house- garage door, possibly weed garden- a few admin bits for trip planned in July and/or book

Susan
1. Finish Violence2. Finish Collaboration3. Finalize travel plans and hotels4. Read dissertation draft5. Walk three times 6. Do something fun

Waffles
1. Once get final edits to JAMA paper from collaborator, finish it up and submit it.2. Connect with colleague about interactions in victimization paper. Finish writing discussion.3. Draft ppt for conference presentation4. Keep working on R&R5. NIH progress report (UGH).

21 comments:

  1. Topic: I’m right there with you, heu mihi, stumbling along in the moonless dark, not knowing what my research agenda will throw at me next. I like to say that it is the nature of the medieval studies beast, and I truly believe it is hard to get a handle on a discipline which spans several centuries and at least two continents, despite carving down to a reasonably specific period, genre, or language. It still happens that the manuscript earlier scholars thought was the source of the print translation could not have gotten into the English printer’s hands, since it was in Brussels at the time, for example, so I have to look for the intermediary manuscript. One ends up having to roll with the punches.

    The way I handle my research work follows from the slippery, shape-shifting nature of the beast, with the added complication that I use slivers of time--I write when a meeting starts five minutes late, or when I cannot escape a meeting that completely wastes my time. I completely sympathize with “revise X article.” I have had to go 180 degrees in the other direction, making an intricate outline, with each subsection broken down with the hoped-for time for completion. My schedule last summer during sabbatical looked like something that Bletchley Circle might have wanted to see. Here is a sample: June 16: Revise II.C.i.a and b. June 17: Proofread ff. 56-59. Create glossary for same. June 18: Citecheck endnotes pp. 137-140.

    It is not an approach for everyone, as my colleagues enjoy telling me, but as confining and prescriptive as it is, it works for me. I have an irrational fear of open time, partly because I have a talent for bingewatching Netflix or knitting for hours if I don’t have a schedule. This approach reins in the ADD, placating it with hyperfocus.

    Two weeks’ ago goals:
    Half an hour x 5 on decluttering/organizing craft closet.Yes
    Half an hour x 3 on faculty review document.No. Le sigh.
    Half an hour x 3 on work email.Yes
    Email associate dean to schedule meeting.No
    One hour x 3 on article review.Yes
    Call to reschedule doctor’s appointment.Yes
    Call to reschedule dentist’s appointment.Yes

    Analysis: The first week back at work after surgery was more difficult than I expected. I didn’t have much physical stamina. Also, most of my immediate colleagues were beginning a few weeks of enforced inactivity, since our old system had been frozen, and we do not have the new one yet. Boredom and nervousness about the future are truly debilitating. If I had any say, I would have told everyone who had vacation time to take off, instead of having everyone sitting around stewing in the unknown.

    On a bright note, I completed the article review and sent it back to the journal editor; I made all my reappointment calls; and I reorganized the craft closet so that everything is in neat, labelled bins, and the next three projects are pulled together with all necessary tools, needles, and yarn.

    Next week’s goals:
    Pack for conference.
    Declutter work office two hours x 3.
    One hour x 3 on faculty review document.
    Email associate dean to schedule meeting.
    Block and install lace curtains.

    Have a great week, and float like mist, everyone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I *love* it when I can have a detailed plan like that! But I'm not very good at making them far out into the future. Still, knowing what to do makes me feel much more like I've done something.

      Delete
    2. Is it Doctorow who says writing is like driving at night? You can only see as far as your headlights throw light, but you can make the whole trip that way.

      Delete
    3. Heu mihi, I make the plans far into the future, realizing that the timing will change and the topic or destination may do so as well. That bothers me less than facing the neant, but of course, ymmv.

      Dame Eleanor, I love that quotation. The road is only clear so far, and one progresses incrementally. That describes writing perfectly. If one is lucky, the destination stays in one's mind, or perhaps, whatever destination one comes to works well out of all the increments.

      Delete
  2. One reason that this group is helpful is that it lets me see what I've accomplished, even when I feel that I've accomplished nothing. Like last week. I caught a cold, skipped the out-of-state symposium, and spent a lot of time lying around. The lying-around time did let me catch up on reading, though!

    Last week
    1. Finish Amy (due 6/15) - Yes
    2. Language x5, writing x5, sit x5, exercise x5, garden 3 hours - Language x2, writing x5, sit x0, exercise x4 (including chaperoning a field trip and the hike for my son's birthday party), garden x3 or thereabouts
    3. Detailed research/writing plan for coming weeks - Did my best, but it's pretty lame/vague
    4. Read a book - Yes, plus a fun book, plus bits of two back issues of Speculum
    5. Read essays for symposium - Yes, and then didn't go
    6. Email collection contributors - Yes
    7. Enjoy my birthday! - Yes

    My son is now out of school for the summer, and I'm doing first-year advising all afternoon today, and we're going to visit my family tomorrow through Friday, so I do NOT have high hopes for work this week.

    I should reframe that. It's summer! I plan to have FUN this week, and work be damned! (Oh that I could deeply internalize that latter feeling....)

    This week:
    1. Language x2, write x2, sit x4 (I can keep hoping), exercise x1 (I'm still feeling a little crummy, but maybe Saturday?)
    2. Reread readers' report and essay draft
    3. Schedule lunch with new friend
    4. Read part of a book

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Have FUN! It is summer, after all. Your son probably has some ideas about summer fun!

      Delete
    2. For lying around and having a cold, you got a lot accomplished!

      I hope the family time is fun!

      Delete
  3. I am *not* a good planner. I know I have to revise X, and I set time aside for it, but even if I've planned revisions, it's hard to plan when I'm trying to figure out what the argument is. With Violence, which went off to the editors last night, I kept clarifying the argument with every read, but that makes planning a revision difficult. On bigger projects, I often have the long term goal, but not the intermediate steps. Then I figure out what the steps are -- what are the chapters? or what are the articles? Etc.

    Anyway, so much for un-planning!
    Goals last week:
    1. Finish Violence - YES!!!!! At last! the essay that would not die
    2. Finish Collaboration - Almost - one more read, but it's ready
    3. Finalize travel plans and hotels - No
    4. Read dissertation draft - About to start
    5. Walk three times Yes
    6. Do something fun Yes

    Violence just too much longer, because I could tell the argument wasn't working and I kept fiddling. I skyped with my collaborator on Collaboration, and I think it's done, but want to do give it one final read. The rest, I just got overwhelmed by Violence.

    Goals for this week:
    1. Read dissertation (today + tomorrow)
    2. Make travel arrangements (today + tomorrow)
    3. Place book orders
    4. One day on Memorial, assuming I get comments from editor
    5. Tackle desk, reorganize shelves so I can find books
    6. Walk three times
    7. Read: 2 x journal, 2 x book for fun
    8. Get a second roofer to come and give estimate

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, send off Collaboration!

      Delete
    2. Congratulations on finishing Violence at last! It's always such a great feeling to get done with one of those will-not-die pieces.

      Delete
    3. Congrats on finishing a piece!!!

      Delete
    4. Double congratulations on Violence and Collaboration (umm, that sounds wrong). Congratulations on finishing Violence and Collaboration!

      Delete
  4. I have also been struggling with this. Even on days when I'm feeling well, I haven't been getting much done. Instead, I read old blogs or threads on the Chron fora. I would like to think that my unconscious mind is working through some writing problem, but then why can't I go and read foreign languages or write a syllabus for next year? I've resorted to this post about writing for some consolation: http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2015/05/how-do-we-write-dysfunctional-academic.html

    One problem I'm up against with the R&R is that even when I outline to a fare-thee-well, once I actually start writing it will turn out that I need to move things around. I find this discouraging. My plan for the summer was to work four hours a day, preferably 8-12 or 9-1, so that I could then have the afternoon free for Life Stuff or fun. I haven't been doing this, and there are Reasons why I don't just shift my work time to 12-4 or 2-6, so I have been feeling like a Failure. Therefore my top-level goal this week is to work two hours a day: four half-hours. If it turns into more, that's great (and I'm hoping I will do more), but I figure I can always manage four x 30 minutes, and then I won't be struggling with the Failure Bugges on top of the R&R.

    How I did:

    1, gym/walk/swim x6, stretch x6, usual low-FODMAP cooking. YES! Gym etc x7, stretch maybe 5, but well done here.
    2, some gardening and other House Stuff. VERY LITTLE. Procrastinating here too. The main thing was booking a flight to go see my dad.
    3, finish reviewing past plans, work on outline, start writing. YES: in the most half-assed and minimal way possible, but yes.
    4, Finish reading one scholarly book. YES (since I had one chapter to go!); skimmed a relevant chapter in another.
    5, continue planning courses, ~ 2-4 hours. NO. One half hour.
    6, read at least 1/2 hr x 3 in a strong language, drill grammar or vocabulary x 5 in a weaker one. NO, x2.

    So let's keep trying! New goals:
    1, gym/walk/swim x6, stretch x6, usual low-FODMAP cooking.
    2, some gardening and other House Stuff.
    3, keep writing/editing R&R.
    4, read one scholarly book or the equivalent in articles.
    5, continue planning courses, ~ 2-4 hours.
    6, read at least 1/2 hr x 3 in a strong language, drill grammar or vocabulary x 5 in a weaker one.

    Fitness is also a priority for the next ten days or so, until I leave to see my dad. I want to pack super-light, that is without exercise clothes/shoes, so I want to get to a point where five days of just walking/stretching will be a good rest-and-recovery period rather than a screeching halt in my exercise program.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I started a plan, but I messed up massively - I thought I was an external examiner for THREE years, finishing last November, but I actually signed up for FOUR years, so last Tuesday a very big mound of mark-checking arrived, which has taken me all weekend and is nearly done... oh, and had some refereeing to do... basically this month has been a total write off between the cold and now this on top of multiple meetings last week about term time things, which were stressful and distressing, and I'm also just not very well again this weekend (late perimenopausal cycles are worse than teenage ones apparently. BOO. And I ate stupidly out of "convenience" and comfort seeking which doesn't help). AND two final year students were found to have cheated on a tiny, tiny assignment worth maybe 5% of a module, but now they can't graduate and there was a good few hours lost to doing the paperwork etc. So I am very very mardy!

    I pretty much need to just start over with the summer work both work and personal once this week (and this marking and other meetings) is done, but that doesn't work so well because the next two weeks are busy - summer is slipping away...

    Handling research work: I have problems with plans because my inner toddler resents them a LOT, and they make me feel very anxious and trapped at times. So what I do is have times to work - I aim to do research related work for x hours - but don't plan ahead what I will do in that time. Sometimes things just come up - R&Rs, a manuscript back from a collaborator - or get delayed - waiting for a collaborator to share data or similar. Mostly though I have several things on the go at different stages (reading around and grant writing, data compiling and analysis, first draft writing, editing), work on what feels right for how many spoons and how much attention and focus I have on a given day, and always "park on a downhill slope" - end the session by listing at least the next three to four concrete steps in a different colour on the document, or in my notebook, depending on the project. I've come to accept that setting very specific goals is just doomed to failure between the constant interruptions of the job, the nature of team working, and my own butterfly mind and erratic resources!

    last week's goals:
    1a: water, if the cold allows do 5-10 minute exercise routines, sleep schedule yes, no, no
    1b: I have another decluttering appointment next weekend... - I have three possible areas in mind, need to make a decision had to cancel, my voice was still bad
    1c: pick up the square I was working on and make some progress no. don't want to
    2a: Spend half an hour each on Fragment and FlatProject, review an article and a grant application, make comments on drafts from both LikesMaths and DrVisitTheSecond yes, yes but it was pointless as the others have not collated their data yet, no, yes, yes on one of two, yes. the DrVisitTheSecond was a resubmission and it was accepted yesterday!
    2b: start making some lists, send more emails about the recce visit no, no
    2c: Find samples for FavouriteIslands analysis and pass them on to technician no
    3: extras: half an hour of office decluttering no

    UGH UGH UGH

    this coming week:

    1a: water, if the cold allows do 5-10 minute exercise routines, sleep schedule
    1b: pick up the spaces that have been decluttered, make another appointment.
    1c: pick up the square I was working on and make some progress
    2a: Spend half an hour each on Fragment and FlatProject, review an article, make comments on the second draft from LikesMaths
    2b: start making some lists, send more emails about the recce visit
    2c: Find samples for FavouriteIslands analysis and pass them on to technician
    3: extras: half an hour of office decluttering

    ReplyDelete
  6. Chiming in here on the work plan struggle. I have a task on my list that I keep moving forward to the next day: “squad goals.” This is my task of creating a work plan for Tiny Project, for which I intend to have a complete draft by the end of the year. I have the goal of writing something for that project every day (since I have no pressing obligations but also no structure to my days) and I have no beginning. Since this is intended to be a collection of related essays, there’s not a traditional argument to build or academic structure to follow. I know I need to create a set of deadlines and tasks to have some sense of where I am going. That’s true for Tiny and for the projects to which I am already committed.

    Last week
    1 Draft Time abstract: no
    2 Write and submit a review: no
    3 Finish next review book: no
    4 Blog post: yes, 2

    Analysis: Last week was just short. I came back from traveling and had some curriculum things to deal with, while otherwise was somewhat unmotivated. At the doctor’s office today, I scheduled a 2-month follow up visit, which is the week before Fall classes begin. It was a wake up to get to work.

    This week
    1 Draft Time abstract
    2 Write and submit a review
    3 Finish next review book
    4 Blog post
    5 Write for Tiny Project every day

    ReplyDelete
  7. I usually am a big planner with daily lists of what I want to get done and a word goal for writing. But its not working for me now- it is just causing anxiety and general unhappiness. So I am trying to be flexible and instead give myself daily writing time goals instead of word count goals and general end of chapter deadlines which I seem to consistently be missing. I find it weird, as a researcher you settle on tricks that work for you to get things done (lists, deadlines, this group) and you think these are always going to work but then because of life changes tried and true things that used to work no longer do (at least in the short term). So I am trying to be flexible rather than feeling like a failure. I am generally not good with being flexible so if I can pull that off it will be a goal met! Also I am trying to be lighter in general with myself as being a hard ass does not seem to be working. That feels like a weird thing to say but I think folks here will understand.

    In terms of generalized planning: my goal for this week is to get as much writing I can get done on Ch 3. It looks like my Mom's house is going to sell which is going to mean a trip out to her place next week to gather all the stuff to ship out to my place. Its going to be emotional as it will be the last time I can be in my parents' last house before they died. Then after that I go to my field site for 12 days to set up a project for next year. I did finally decide to speak to my book editor to let them know that yes, I am working hard on the book but no, the August deadline is not going to be doable. I still have to draft a formal email to the press editor but the series editor seemed ok with the idea which is and continues to be a relief. So this means my international trip for setting up research will really just be a mix of work in terms of meeting with landowners for permissions and govt officials for permissions and then some real vacation time with reading and swimming and all that entails.


    This week:
    - write 3,000 words Ch 3 and 30 minutes of editing per day Sort of? Decided not to count words and to count time instead, did c. 4 hrs per day
    - exercise x 4, fun x 2 Yes
    - something for house- garage door, possibly weed garden Yes
    - a few admin bits for trip planned in July and/or book Yes

    This week:
    - 4 hrs writing/editing/research per day on Ch 3
    - exercise x 4, fun x 2
    - cat to vet for check up and set up house sitters for when I am gone
    - final admin bits for upcoming travel
    - finish labwork and organize stuff to give back to government when travel in July

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So glad to hear that it looks like your book deadline can be extended without too much concern.

      Best wishes with your parents' house and all the challenges that will entail.

      Delete
  8. I would very much like to be planful about my work - but given that I am a postdoc entering my last year of funding come September, it is hard to think beyond that. I mean, I know I will be applying for faculty positions in the fall. I know I will resubmit my NIH K likely in October. If my little grant gets funded, I'll get to do a fun mixed methods study. If I can ever slog through these last few pubs, I can move onto some really fun ones I have planned. That's about it. My mentor really wants me to have like a —10 year plan - and I can fake one for job interviews/applications, but things feel too up in the air to really invest in that.

    Last week:
    1. Once get final edits to JAMA paper from collaborator, finish it up and submit it. NOT DONE BC COLLABORATOR STILL HASN'T GIVEN IT TO ME. It has been super frustrating to work with this person bc they and their partner have so many health issues that create constant emergencies -and then everything else grinds to a halt. And then last week they submitted a big grant, so couldn't work on it. Now they have other things they feel are more pressing … This paper is so close to being submitted and I just want it done!
    2. Connect with colleague about interactions in victimization paper. Finish writing discussion. PARTLY DONE. Colleague can't work on their part till next week - so there is no point finishing the discussion till then.
    3. Draft ppt for conference presentation. DONE just need to practice it and cut it down a tad.
    4. Keep working on R&R. NOT DONE.
    5. NIH progress report (UGH). SOME PROGRESS, NOT DONE.

    This week
    1. Oops. I finished the conference presentation this week - so I shouldn't have given myself credit for it last week. But who cares - I am claiming credit both weeks!
    2. Write and submit review
    3. Either R&R or progress report - one of them needs to get done.
    4. Do some longitudinal analysis webinars so I can claim them on my progress report! :)

    Saturday I head to Minneapolis for a conference. It will be my first time in Minneapolis, so I am excited. I plan to apply for a position at a university there so will be interested to see what it is like. I'm not eager to return to the midwest, but I do kind of miss cold winters (NYC winters are just sad, it barely gets cold at all and yet people complain endlessly!).

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have been trying to do some daily planning--setting up to-do lists and schedules the night before--but I haven't really been sticking to them. And I realize that this summer I'm kind of looking at the trees and not the forest, so I do worry the days will zoom past, but mostly I'm letting myself relax (although it does get difficult when my husband is very chore focused).

    Goals from about two weeks ago (SEE BELOW for results):
    1) 5 hours of exercise
    2) 5x meditation
    3) 5 hours of writing
    4) 5 hours of prep work
    5) 5 hours of house chores per week (pay bills, tidy the Witch Hut, clean daughter's room as part of her b-day present)
    6) Finish knitting scarf for MIL
    7) Read 300 pages of leisure book (is it still leisure if I set a goal?)
    8) Surrender goals when necessary for doing b-day things for daughter, but don't totally abandon them.

    My daughter's birthday kind of took over (as it does), so I didn't get all of this done, but it was great, and I did most the list over the course of about 2.5 weeks. Also, chemo wiped me out for a few days. It wasn't awful, but I slept a lot and had chemo brain. I could barely read a tweet, let alone a book.

    But, here are some good accomplishments:

    Cleaned daughter's room
    Tidied witch hut
    Cleaned out cabinets, etc. in hall/kids' bathroom
    Did several hours of course prep
    Read about 300 words of fiction
    Have been walking and yoga-ing regularly

    AND, my favorite thing I've done is I have actually been working on my novel, and I've realized that if I *just do it*, I can write about 500 words in 20-25. That is quite a discovery.

    This week is almost over and my dad is coming to visit tomorrow. When he is here, I don't get much alone time, which is very stressful for me. He is a "spend all of the minutes actively visiting" person. So I will surrender to this because I don't see him very often. I'm sure I can plead fatigue (which will be real) if I want to go to bed early to get a little reading done. If I can do that, then the days will be fun. Knitting might help.

    The remainder of this week will be small goals:
    1) Meditate 2x
    2) Start knitting a hat (I've never done a hat)
    3) Walk 3x (probably with Dad)
    4) Write 500 words 2x
    5) Journaling 2x
    6) Have fun with the family and my dad

    ReplyDelete