the grid

the grid

Sunday 17 November 2019

Northern Autumn/ Southern Spring Week 10

Well, last week past and I didn't even post - my mother was in the hospital for several days, and it threw everything off schedule. (She's OK, and was relatively healthy for being in hospital.  But it was time.)  And it appears that everyone is struggling, because lots of us didn't post.

I want to think more about JaneB's question from last week about how we decide what not to do, and turn it to intellectual focus.   I'm at a conference this weekend, and as is often the case at conferences, I hear papers and think, "Oh, shiny, new, I could do that!"  And the next one  "Oh, I could explore that!"  Having read and participated in conversations on this blog for some years, I know I'm not the only one who gets excited by new ideas and areas of exploration.  How do we choose projects?  When do we say no to projects?  We make choices about research at the beginning (will I take this on?) and then in prioritizing in real time-- what will I work on NOW.  Research projects are rarely squeaky wheels, so maybe thinking about how we both choose and prioritize them can be a transferable skill?

Goals from last week:
Dame Eleanor Hull
*finish long overdue R&R; progress on abstract;
*write two quizzes;
*daily exercise and stretching (x6);
*keep up with dead languages;
*deal with paperwork.

Elizabeth Ann Mitchell
Finish packing my cubicle.
Continue editing Prudence 30 minutes a day.
Write a little fiction every day.
Contact my co-editor about next steps.
Contact my advisor.
Go through Interlibrary Loan books.
Knit the tree skirt every day.
Knit socks every day.

Heu Mihi (from previous week)
1. Finish conference paper and print it out; prepare intros/read abstracts for panel I'm chairing
2. Language x 2
3. Clear out email and niggling service-y tasks
4. Find a book or article that I want to read and that's related to my next project

Humming42 (from previous week)
1 Finish and submit DQ
2 Prepare online conference presentation for next week
3 Read next review book

JaneB (from previous week) 
1) maintain habits (8 items)
2) research - flat project, do SOMETHING. MAYBE
3a) External examining - read a large, large pile of final projects and prepare for a trip to Crowded Capital on the 20th... this has to all be done by the 15th because of family stuff...
3b) prep everything for next week.
3c) Sit down and look seriously at what is to come, and possibly throw self on the mercy of timetabling to ask for a change of some sort, or the mercy of my colleagues, or just... I dunno, cut something. I just. Can't.
4) NaNo. Discuss family stuff with sister, try to finalise the plan for parents wedding anniversary weekend.

1. grade midterm, input all grades etc.
2. prep classes
3. two article reviews
4. read student diss chapter
5. bills
6. exercise x 2

Susan (from previous week) 
1. Make committees
2. Admin stuff: expense reports, letter, report etc. Maybe clear out email?
3. Re-read Race, think about how to revise
4. Clear desk, which has become a disaster area
5. Keep walking
6. Sleep


  1. Hello! GEW here, stopping by to say hello. I had thought I might try to join you for this session, but I haven't really focused much on productivity. I finished chemo a few weeks before fall semester started, and then I did six weeks of radiation during the beginning of the semester. I'm on a reduced load, but I still have three classes with three preps. When I'm not teaching, I'm just trying to relax with a book or go walk on the beach. I haven't really had bigger goals than that. I thought for a couple of days about doing NaNo, but that was crazy.

    Anyway, I just wanted to do a one-off kind of check-in, I guess. I'm finally meeting the walking goals that I failed to meet for years. The challenge will be to continue doing so when I'm back to a full load next semester. But I'm determined to keep my health a priority!

    I'll be popping by, reading some posts, trying to catch up on your lives a little bit. Good luck getting through this crazy season!

    (Susan, I'm glad your mom is okay.)

    1. It's great to hear from you, GEW! I've been wondering how you were doing. That sounds like a lot for a "reduced" load, but how lovely to have a beach to walk on, and good news that you're meeting your walking goals.

    2. GEW so glad to know you're doing well and giving yourself the opportunity to take things slow...although I agree with DEH, three preps might be a reduced load but it's definitely not a lighter load!

    3. Thanks so much for the check-in, and I'm so glad you're doing well. I can't imagine 3 preps with radiation. The beach sounds lovely (jealous glances across the coastal range...)

    4. GEW, enjoy the beach and the books and the walking. You may well have made several self-care routines habitual by next semester. Great to hear from you!

    5. Great to hear from you! Beaches are wonderful... three preps, that's HARD.

  2. Susan, I'm glad your mom is okay, but those hospital stays can really take it out of everyone even when things work out well.

    What a great topic! I was already thinking along these lines, this week. I did put in a couple of hours working on the R&R, mainly getting reacquainted (yet again) with what I was doing and had planned to do, and discovered that there is a new book out this year on a sorta-kinda-related topic. I felt very jealous, because it is the sort of work I'd be interested in doing myself, but it is not actually a project I had contemplated taking up, so there was really no reason to feel jealous. I had to have a talk with myself about the work that is My Proper Work that I want to be sure I complete, and those "ooh, shiny" ideas that I can leave to others. As Alan Garner's grandfather said, "If the other chap can do the work, let him." (

    1. So, how am I doing? I may do a bit more today (those quizzes aren't going to grade themselves), but unless I check in now, it certainly won't happen till at least Tuesday, so let's do it.

      *finish long overdue R&R; progress on abstract; HAHA, well, I put in two hours on each of those projects.
      *write two quizzes; ONE.
      *daily exercise and stretching (x6); YES.
      *keep up with dead languages; ONE, no prep at all for the other.
      *deal with paperwork. NO.

      New goals:
      *draft abstract, send to writing group; two more hours on R&R;
      *write one quiz, grade it plus a one-sentence assignment;
      *daily exercise and stretching (x6);
      *keep up with dead languages;
      *pay bills; book flight to see my dad.

    2. Such good advice, Dame Eleanor, on one's Proper Work. I sometimes chase those will o'wisps that catch my eye, and your advice (along with Alan Garner's grandfather's) just might keep me from falling in the bog.
      Also, don't be too hard on yourself not finishing things--two hours is a lot on a project, and it's two hours more than you'd put on it before last week. I have a tortoise on my desk that a friend gave me a long time ago, to remind myself that all progress is good.

  3. Oh, Blogger, you ate my comment for no discernible reason.

    Short version: The conference was fine; I'm glad to be home. This week is insane (see below). Survival is key.

    Two weeks ago:
    1. Finish conference paper and print it out; prepare intros/read abstracts for panel I'm chairing - Yes, because the conference is over
    2. Language x 2 - I think so?
    3. Clear out email and niggling service-y tasks - Presumably?
    4. Find a book or article that I want to read and that's related to my next project - Found 3 books and 1 article.

    This week:
    1. Survive the following: Tonight's speaker, whom I'm hosting; Husband's 50th birthday party tomorrow; guest author in class on Wednesday; giant birthday party for Husband on Friday. Take care of everything that needs taking care of. Don't freak out about the house being small and full of people and getting messy. DON'T.
    2. Language x 3
    3. Read 2 chapters/essays on research topic

    1. Happy birthday to your husband! More celebration, less worry.

    2. Oh, my. That's a lot of socializing in one week, says the partial introvert. Recommendations: Eat cake. Breathe. Float like mist...

    3. Yes, happy birthday to your husband, and "breathe deep breaths and recite your mantra" to you. The full, small house is just cozy and inviting. No worries! And as a high-functioning complete introvert, I say follow Susan's advice.

  4. Well,I chose a topic I needed to think about, right? I think for me the key thing is to try to remember the big picture, what I'm really interested in studying. One of the talks I heard this weekend talked about a particular court; I was talking with a friend after the session, saying I was thinking I should look at it, and she said, Oh, I let X do that stuff - that court is just a mess. It was a nice reminder that I didn't have to do all the things. DEH's Alan Garner quote is extremely apt!

    Anyway, how I did:
    1. Make committees NO MUST MUST DO YESTERDAY
    2. Admin stuff: expense reports, letter, report etc. Maybe clear out email? YES except clearing out email.
    3. Re-read Race, think about how to revise NO, and will put on back burner because all the grading
    4. Clear desk, which has become a disaster area YES, it's a little less of one.
    5. Keep walking MOSTLY, though this weekend was not great.
    6. Sleep MOSTLY

    This semester, with two pretty much new preps, has been hard, and especially because my week is frontloaded, with a 3 hour class on Monday at 9:30, and then the three committees I serve on meeting on Monday and Tuesday. Today I was in class or in meetings from 9 AM to 3:30 without a break - and that's after getting home at 10 PM last night. I'm doing laundry tonight while preparing my 9AM class tomorrow. At least next Monday is the last one for which I have to read a book in advance - then it will just be grading.

    Goals for this week:

    1. Make committees
    2. Get all the assignment prompts and related material for both Course A and Course B
    3. Finish grading papers for B
    4. Do stuff for committee I chair
    5. Start reading student dissertation
    6. Read 3 journals
    7. Walk
    8. Sleep
    9. Keep knitting in meetings. I started a scarf at the conference, and have decided it's good for me!

    1. I love the Alan Garner quote, too. You've also reminded me I have to clear my desk at home--while not a shiny thing, it is a horrible distraction.
      And knitting during meetings is so very necessary. I find I can put up with the blowhards and narcissists far more easily when I knit ("See, they're not really wasting my time!"). I knitted a cowl during the faculty meeting this afternoon, which kept me from getting upset at the person who bangs the same drum at every meeting.

  5. his semester has been tough. Not meeting my tiny goals resulted in not posted, but I realize it’s important to show up even when you come up short. This week’s post speaks directly to what I have identified as one of my biggest obstacles. Shiny new object syndrome gets me all the time. I am trying to learn to be mindful of it and be more reasonable about what I can manage to do.

    Questions I ask of shiny new objects: Do I know the literature? How much time will a thorough lit review entail? Can I develop this idea into a full article of X thousand words? Will working on this advance my idea of where I want to be/the scholarly identity I want five years from now? These are hard questions when those shiny objects really, really sing to me.

    So, from two week ago:
    1 Finish and submit DQ: I asked for a deadline, and have exceeded that, with so much shame
    2 Prepare online conference presentation for next week: done, meh.
    3 Read next review book: Done.

    This week:
    1 Submit DQ, for real.
    2 Write next book review
    3 Submit old Perform abstract for new publication
    4 Grade like a madwoman

    Next week, the university is closed all week for the Thanksgiving holiday. This is a much needed time away from campus, since I have another article due 1 December. In the meantime, wishing you peace, patience, and inspiration.

    1. Those are excellent questions! Thank you. Good luck with the article!

    2. I'm glad you have the whole week next week! And I love your questions of shiny new objects. I tell myself that curiosity is one of my gifts, but I also have to discipline it.

    3. I agree, great questions! And, like Susan, sometimes my curiosity runs amuck. I hope you have lovely quiet time to work on the December 1 article, and some down time as well.

  6. Topic: What a good discussion topic! I definitely suffer from shiny object syndrome--my poor advisor/Shakespeare professor had to talk me out of changing my major at least three times my junior year of college. I want to do all the things. Linda’s questions to ask of the shiny object are very good ones. The one about where I want to be in five years resonates with me, especially as I am at a true bend in the road professionally. I need to be cognizant of what topics will pave that way forward, and not lead me into a hike through the woods, as pretty and enticing as they may be.

    As for what to say no to? I find myself reluctantly putting aside topics that have so much written on them that I would wrestle with far too much lit review, and end up not enjoying doing the writing. One can find tiny, unexplored corners for even the most foundational texts, but they are far and few between.

    I also contemplate how much expertise I already have, weighing that against the time and effort involved in pursuing a topic on the periphery of my expertise. I enjoy expanding my expertise, but it does take time and effort away from other things.

    After writing all of the above, I am struck by how analytical it all sounds. Sometimes, I want to write on something because I want to figure it out, even if there isn’t a huge return on the investment. But yet, if I enjoy it and can carve out the time without exhausting myself, why not? See, shiny object syndrome abounds!

    Last week’s goals:
    Finish packing my cubicle. A good effort, some more to go.
    Continue editing Prudence 30 minutes a day. 4 times, so not horrible.
    Write a little fiction every day. Nope.
    Contact my co-editor about next steps. Nope.
    Contact my advisor. Yes, waiting for him to suggest a meeting time.
    Go through Interlibrary Loan books. One out of two done
    Knit the tree skirt every day. 3 times
    Knit socks every day. Yes.

    Analysis: A mixed week, probably due to waiting for shoes to drop. The meeting with the Dean went better than expected, and I accepted the transfer to rare books. The suggestion was made to wait until January 1 to move, but I asked to move December 1 instead. The less time in this fresh hell, the better. This morning, I found out that the head of Special Collections is fine with my transferring on December 1, so I did a reasonably subdued happy dance in my cubicle. I have a bit more packing to do, but have done the bulk of the shredding and recycling, so I am in reasonably good shape.
    I will meet with my advisor in the next couple of weeks; I’ve already spoken to the head of the new department about taking classes, so I’m cautiously optimistic about being able to start next semester.
    I need to get cracking on the special issue with my co-editor, but I think I’m going to start looking at the suggestions on my own, then get in touch with the co-editor.

    Next week’s goals:
    Start to tie up loose ends, and decide which ones can stay untied in the old job.
    Look at five of the suggestions for the special issue.
    Finish packing the cubicle.
    Look at the second interlibrary loan book.
    Plan what I need in the new office space.
    Edit Prudence 30 minutes a day.
    Find out the brass tacks of the new building--refrigerator? Lounge?
    Begin the attack on the yarn stash.

    I woke up to snow on the ground this morning--winter is starting to creep into the area. Float like mist, everyone!

    1. HOORAY! Special Collections sounds great for you! I hope it works out even better than you hope. I'm happy dancing here for you!

    2. Thank you, Dame Eleanor! I had a few years as a rare books librarian before this job, and do enjoy the work immensely. Our shop is heavily archival and 20th-century, so I can fill a gap both historically and linguistically, and make myself useful. I'm still pinching myself, to be honest.

    3. Reasonably subdued happy dance -- the best!

    4. SO PLEASED FOR YOU!!! WHat a great way to finish what has clearly been a hellish year, with a new opportunity...

    5. Thank you, Jane! It is indeed a wonderful way to finish out the year.