the grid

the grid

Friday 10 January 2020

January-April 2020: week 1

And we're off! New year, new TLQ session, new achievements for all (we hope).

This session of TLQ will run until 18-19 April, fourteen weeks in total. This week will be introductions and goal-setting, both session goals and first-week goals; on 17 or 18 April, one of your hosts (Dame Eleanor Hull and Humming42) will put up a post inviting you to report on how you did with session goals. We'll try to remember to have a mid-session goal-review post around the end of February.

I'm just going to borrow language from last year about this time; by happy coincidence, it's Humming42 who wrote these words, or drew upon older posts for them:

The text below owes a debt to those who have been good enough to host here previously...
The format will be the same as ever. Here’s a quick recap: we will set goals for the whole session and then for each week. It's really easy to get carried away setting goals so I encourage you all to be optimistically realistic without creating a new source of pressure to perform! Goals can be in any aspect of life although the key focus is often writing tasks that are personally (and professionally) important but that never quite tip over into important AND urgent. Each week there will be a discussion topic, generally prompted by checkins the previous week. Feel free to suggest topics to throw open to the group. We'll recap the session goals for updating and refining about halfway through. Feel free to comment on everyone's goals as much or as little as you like.
So for this week:
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. What's your main focus at the moment? And where are you based? You are welcome to be vague and mysterious in the interest of maintaining anonymity while still introducing yourself to the group.
2. Goals for the session. Common themes include research, home stuff, family, self-care, crafts, exercise, writing, and gardening. Be as detailed or brief as is helpful to you. Many of us give specific projects nicknames that help us keep track of things. If you anticipate any challenges for the weeks ahead, you can note them too.
3. Goals for the coming week. What do you want to get done in the next week? Specific small tasks and “microdeadlines” are typically more achievable than 'tackle big task'. And don't forget, a lot of this is about the satisfaction of ticking things off the to-do list. So you can be as detailed as you want to in breaking goals down.
Newbies are welcome to join. And finally, don't worry if you miss a few checkins. Life happens.
I'm also hoping that we'll recycle the story-telling idea from last year: though at first I was a bit resistant, I wound up finding it really useful and enjoyable. So maybe consider, now, what your story and genre might be, and we could pick that up as a theme for next week. I think introductions and initial goals are probably enough for right now.

So please join us! Happy New Year and best wishes for a good first quarter-plus of it!


  1. Introduction: I'm a medievalist in the American midwest, a woman married to a man (Sir John), with three cats and a big old house we're still trying to sell. Maybe this spring will be when we finally manage to move somewhere easier to manage! Sir John retired last fall; a year ago, I wrote "for the future I’m thinking about questions like 'How long do I want to go on teaching?' and 'What do I want retirement to look like?'" I'm still thinking! I enjoy my job and I don't have a lot of hobbies or volunteer-passions, so I'm not really sure what's going to happen, or even what I want to happen, except to move rather closer to work as long as I continue at Large Regional University (LRU).

    Session goals, some of which will be familiar to long-time participants:
    Live with uncertainty and work the process w/r/t selling the house.
    Complete one conference paper; plan it as an article from the beginning.
    Send out another essay, about half done now.
    Make some progress on book.
    Manage teaching, grading, and admin efficiently.
    Get tax stuff taken care of in a timely way.
    Make arrangements for spring and summer travel.
    Regular exercise, daily stretching, good sleep hygiene, and cooking to accommodate dietary restrictions.
    Have some sort of social life.

    This week's goals:
    Put together annual review documents.
    Finish and send in-progress article.
    Plan a “personal syllabus” for the semester, showing both grading and writing.
    Finish setting up Blackboard for the semester.
    Open all stacked-up mail and deal with contents.
    Find my calendar or order a new one (or both, since lost things tend to appear after you've replaced them).

    1. I like the term "personal syllabus"! I'm slowly doing the same thing largely thanks to getting a pack of very high quality coloured pens for Christmas which obviously have to be deployed immediately...

    2. I also very much like the term "personal syllabus," in that I like to see my life as a learning experience. In the midst of my awful fall semester I bought an academic year calendar with lots of curse words and snarky sayings about meetings sprinkled throughout, and I plan to break it in this week.

    3. We had a faculty member just retire who had no hobbies or really anything outside of work besides her kids/grandkids. She was desperately seeking a p/t job post-retirement to keep her occupied. I think she ended up having to just keep doing work without pay. It makes me very sad for her.

      I wonder if you could start doing some hobby type things while you work? Take some classes to learn some new skills, join some meetups?


  2. Introduction: I’m a chemical and physical science education researcher at a UK university. I’ve missed the last few sessions of this but need a bit more structure. I also miss the community of commenting here despite following the blogposts.

    Session Goals:
    finish and submit the sustainable chemistry manuscript
    Analyse data and draft a feedback project manuscript
    Write new lecture course, deliver, evaluate
    Modify sustainable chemistry lectures with decolonisation in mind
    Present at national STEM education conference
    Submit sustainability benchmark documents
    Complete SFHEA application

    This week’s goals: complete external examining report
    Wade through inbox and deal with the necessary stuff
    Watch and give detailed feedback on student presentations
    Give feedback on reflective diary entries
    Mark exam scripts if available
    Mark annotated bibliographies
    Arrange staff coffee morning event

    1. Welcome back! It's good to have you back among us.

    2. Welcome back! And "staff coffee morning" is clearly a very important thing to do, I'm all for Added Collegiality in current times...

    3. Welcome back, KJ! I would love to know how the coffee goes. I agree with Jane--all collegiality is welcome.

  3. Hello! I'm another medievalist, at an East Coast uni, with a husband, a seven-year-old son, and a cat who will turn 20 in March.

    This session's goals:
    1. Daily writing/research. 30 minutes/day, M-F.
    2. Language work: maybe not 5x/week, but continue to make progress.
    3. Writing projects to complete: 1 conference paper, submit Wonder (which I've had kicking around forEVer). Ideally, draft Kzoo paper (which is for a pedagogy roundtable and so not too high-stress).
    4. Prepare preliminary materials for promotion--reference names and personal statement.
    5. Prioritize research and wellness over teaching and service. !!!

    This week:
    1. Prep 4 more days of new class (so that the first 3 weeks are roughly covered)
    2. Get all teaching materials in order for the first day(s)
    3. Finish & take notes on research-related book
    4. Read/write x5, language x5, sit x5, exercise x5
    5. Go through email and make sure that I'm not forgetting anything important

    1. Wow, 20 is a good age - long may they reign over your household

    2. I think your emphasis on research and wellness over teaching and service is such a good idea. I am so bad at that, and I truly need to get better.

    3. I'm bad at it, too, which is why it's a goal this semester! Good luck to us both?

    4. An excellent thought--good luck to us both!

  4. Hello! I'm JaneB, I live with one idiot cat (who is very loving), work in a STEM field at a squeezed middle university which is going through a larger crisis than normal at the moment, and have a rather hectic semester coming up. I am also very verbose here - "if I'd had more time, I'd've written a shorter letter" is me all over.

    The worst will be over by the end of this session (in this academic year, I've had a teaching overload, been rewriting a lot of material, taken on new administrative duties at a major change point (complete curriculum review - again)... by this summer I will at least have all the new teaching written and know what is expected in the admin role). So my main focus this semester has to be TRQ matters, and TLQ has to be led by self-care in difficult times, but I do want to keep research and both academic and personal writing ticking along.

    Goals for the session:
    A) get back into good self-care habits. I did well in September/October last session, then it all fell apart mid-November when my sister and I were organising our parents 60th wedding anniversary weekend, and I never really got back on track. Christmas is well and truly over, and all excuses are past... these centre around eating mindfully and sensibly for my current middle-aged body rather than my teenage tastes (under stress I revert badly) (who am I kidding I'm never very adult), sleeping enough (at times that suit the wider world, not my body clock, which is totally messed up), moving/stretching so my joints only dislike me rather than hate me, not letting my environment become a chaotic mess, and making the time for guilt-free recreation.
    B) TRQ things. Main goals here are to do what is necessary without too much embellishment (I easily get drawn in to making classes the best they can possibly be, and that's just not realistic when carrying an overload and writing new material, so aiming for every session to be good enough is the priority (especially the topics in my own field where I could easily spend a week or two just reading around and getting up to date, I'm sooooo behind on literature). I'd also like to keep decent notes every time a task related to my new admin roles comes up, so that I have one source for "last time this is how it worked" - no guarantee it will be that way the next time I come to it, see "ongoing crisis state", but at least I'd have a concrete source for checking to see if I'm losing my mind when someone says I did things wrong...
    C) TLQ things - research, which divides into four areas, grant writing (we have high targets - of course the crisis, understaffing etc. does not excuse us from being held to those!), paper writing (main ones this session are likely to be FlatPaper1, ProblemChild1, LikesMath2), current projects where I am actually part of the group doing the research (key ones are FlatProject, FavouriteIslandsProject, one I've vaguely mentioned before which I will rename FluffyProject, and CommercialProject) current projects where I have a role in supervising others (I didn't actually officially win funding, but I got roped in to be part of a team delivering a very large multi-site project, and have a new post-doc arriving end of January (who I will be lead supervisor for) - BrownProject, a one year project including a part time RA to tend - EdgeProject - and a PhD student to recruit for September - who will get their own nickname in due course)

    1. D) A key goal for me this year is about kindness and being open, about building community in the face of adversity - because it's easy when things are hard for intraverts and Highly Sensitive People like me to go inwards, to roll up and present the world a hard, reflective shell. But that doesn't actually make us feel better or help the world, it's a short term protective instinct that can't be kept long term. And the institutional, research field, national and international politics and environment are all in long-term bad patches... So I will be setting goals around community building and collegiality - I mentor an ECR through one of the societies I belong to, I run an informal writing space for my faculty, I've ended up the default coordinator of a regional casual get together in my broad field (we meet once every 6 months for an afternoon of talks about work in progress/ideas in development, then go to the pub for science-with-beer. We meet at a uni on our broad area of the country, the meetings are open to anyone within travelling distance, and the purpose is to alleviate the isolation of those of us in smaller unis or non-uni jobs where we may be the only person doing what we do and create opportunities for nerding out about our cool stuff), I'm co-lead for a Special Interest Group as part of a national society, and I also have family and friends around the country who I could connect with more). So keeping in touch with the threads of these connections during the teaching part of the time is important and I'll set goals around that.

      1) re-establish the pattern of habits I had last semester (stop work at 6, bed before midnight, no sugar or bread, packing food for the day, a movement break every 45 minutes when sitting, at least one non-work non-screen thing every evening)
      2) Complete the teaching and admin parts of my 'personal syllabus' (borrowing the term from DEH)
      3) pick up the threads of FlatPaper1
      4) arrange a Skype with co-secretary to plan out the year
      5) write an old-fashioned letter to a friend!

    2. Oh, and grade a lot of stuff! We're currently in the exam period of the first semester - teaching restarts in the last week of January - so I have c. 150 short essays and 54 long essays to mark for final years, about 5 long essays for first years, and a couple of late masters' projects to mark in the next two weeks. And possibly some other stuff I forgot!

    3. I, too, am working on connections with other people, and letters seem like a good way for an introvert to do that. One of my new year's resolutions is to send letters/notes/cards regularly, and I put a note on FB telling people who want a note to DM their address. I got several takers!

    4. Your goal about openness and kindness really appeals to me. I recognize myself completely in the person who rolls up and shows the adamantine shell to the world. I think writing a paper letter to a friend is a lovely goal for the week!

  5. I’ve been teaching English at a California community college for about 21 years, and I recently (three years ago) earned a mid-career PhD in c18 Brit Lit at a UK university (where I studied part-time). I have a husband, and two teenage kids (theater girl and computer boy). Last April I was diagnosed with Stage IIA breast cancer, so the past half-year or so has been focused on treatment and recovery. Pretty soon, I’ll have my first post-treatment scans. I’m still in the process of figuring out what kind of work seems most important for the next 10 years—and trying to trust that I’ll be around at least that long.

    Last semester I had a reduced load. I still had three classes / three preps, but it was much easier than my usual load, and I spent a lot of time relaxing, reading, and walking on the beach. I’m a little nervous about having my heavy load back again this semester. With one more week before classes start, part of me wants to relax, and part of me wants to work really hard so I’ll be really organized. Perhaps I can find the happy middle?

    This Session’s Goals

    1. Write/Research 2 hours per week (in 30 or 60 min chunks)
    2. Work on hacks and strategies to avoid being crushed by grading
    3. Send 3-5 letters/notes/cards to people per week
    4. Meet my mom 1-2 times per month for breakfast or lunch
    5. Meet two friends per month for coffee/walk/meal
    6. Prioritize my son’s curricular/extra-curricular/college prep needs
    7. Walk 4-5x per week (40-60 min per walk)
    8. Meditate at least three times per week (3-5 minutes each time)
    9. Get enough sleep (in bed by 11:00-11:30 most week nights)
    10. Schedule and keep necessary med appointments for the kids and myself

    This Week’s Goals

    1. Complete prep for first week of class (finish syllabi, get readings/handouts for first few weeks to repro office, set up classes in Canvas)
    2. Revise/create three handouts/assignments
    3. Write/Research 2 hours
    4. Meet 1 or 2 friends for coffee/walk/meal
    5. Send 3-5 letters/cards
    6. Schedule son’s dental appointment
    7. Research Math SAT availability
    8. Walk 4-5x
    9. Meditate 3x
    10. Get lab work done

    1. I hope you can find a good middle path this week, GEW. As I said to Jane, I find the idea of connecting to other people such a good one, and I love your goals of meeting your mother and your friends, as well as writing notes to friends.

  6. I am a tenured mid-to-late career rare books librarian at an R1 university in New York State. I have a husband, two sons and a dog in residence. I also have two daughters, two-sons-in-law, and seven grandchildren.

    For one of my research projects, I have a long-in-the-tooth ABD in Medieval Studies; I have enrolled in an Information Science PhD program in order to finish my previous dissertation work as a digital humanities dissertation, so I am counting on this group to help me keep my sanity, as all of you helped me greatly through the mess that was my 2019.

    Session goals:
    Move about for ten minutes of every hour.
    Continue to streamline the work office. I have less space in my far more congenial office, so it is time to be unsentimental.
    Draft Elzevier.
    Begin editing special issue.
    Edit the Illuminated project.

    This week’s goals:
    Call about the prescription service muckup.
    Email the dean and the department chair for an update.
    Go to doctor’s appointment.
    Draft a plausible schedule--what to do when, and set milestones.
    Email the research library about working on Illuminated.
    Clear off one shelf of detritus.

    Have a great week, everyone. Float like mist.

  7. I’m humming42, teaching in my 11th year in the humanities at a mid-sized third-tier state school in the US Southwest. Spring semester classes start this week, so I’m currently focused on the back to school agenda while also having a couple of other deadlines to meet. My focus right now is on boundaries--figuring out how to declare boundaries so I can get work done, figuring out how to create boundaries for myself so I can focus my attention and minimize the feeling of overwhelm. My husband is a concert enthusiast of late, so there will be fun travel ahead this year as well.

    Session goals:
    1 complete and submit five book reviews
    2 prepare for and attend April conference
    3 write and submit abstracts for two (maybe three) conferences
    4 make steady progress on Squares paper
    5 work on developing a consistent writing practice

    This week:
    1 submit book review
    2 write conference prospectus
    3 complete syllabi
    4 complete 2019 faculty report
    5 complete work for online writing course

    Wishing you peace in the week ahead!

    1. Defining boundaries--such a good goal! I will be interested in how you figure out how to set them for yourself, and will be cheering you on as you do so.

  8. Friday roundup comment: I've read all your comments, both initial ones and responses, with interest. Here's a list of themes common to at least two people, often more of us:

    *using leisure time mindfully;
    *10-year planning (and can we let ourselves do it?);
    *finishing things that have been around for a long time;
    *valuing analog over or alongside digital activities (i.e., writing paper letters--this is something I've done quite a bit in the past year, so it's fun to see that I have company!);
    *setting boundaries, in general, with related topics such as balancing work/life (and health), likewise people/solitary activities and collegiality/self-protection, valuing “research and wellness over teaching and service,” as heu mihi put it, and settling for “good enough” in areas that can eat one’s life (like teaching), as JaneB resolves.

    If any of these are topics you definitely want to discuss as a week's defined topic, maybe you could mention that in a reply. Otherwise, the list is here for me and Linda to refer to during busy weeks, if we need a quick idea for a discussion.

    It's a pleasure to have KJHaxton and Good Enough Woman back among us (GEW, have you thought further about a new name, or is GEW still/again resonating for you?); to be reminded of Elizabeth Anne's motto "Float like mist" and know that she's out of the old awful position and in a more congenial one; to have JaneB's suggestions about creating collegiality in tough times, seconded by KJH and backed up by those of us cementing friendships with physical connections of some kind, even if at a distance via paper letters (JaneB, GEW, me, perhaps we've inspired some of you, or you're already doing this and haven't thought to mention it). heu mihi's semi-daily goals (that is, doing things 4-5 times a week) are also inspiring--establishing habits is important, and it's equally important to recognize that shifting class schedules and family needs may mean that a few times a week is "good enough" when it comes to "daily" practice.

    Happy Friday, have a good weekend, and look for our Week Two post soon! I look forward to hearing from everyone in our first check-in. It's not too late to join if anyone out there is considering it! (Bardiac? Anyone?)

  9. I am a postdoc in my final year at a top ranked school in NYC. I have been in public/state schools all my life so this has been an adjustment, to say the least. I'm a psychologist, but I work in an interdisciplinary school. I love living in NYC for many reasons, not the least if which is the theatre. Last semester was crazy (see post in week 2) - and I am glad to get back to being accountable and getting work done.

    Goals for the session:
    1. Submit IRIE paper
    2. Resubmit intersectionality paper
    3. Resubmit PTSD paper
    4. Draft hate crimes paper
    5. Draft relationship identity paper
    6. Release Latinx survey into the wild
    7. Have reviewed all articles and have intro and methods written for MST review paper
    8. Have a funded NIH K!!!

  10. Hi All! I'm slightly behind in joining up for this session, but hoping after the continuous rolling disaster that was 2019 (like many others) re-joining this group is part of reclaiming some balance, boundaries and perspective.
    I'm an arts academic in a regional southern hemisphere university, so the next moth is my summer working period. However, one of my hats is a teaching admin role, which means most of that time will be consumed by course development/ amendment paperwork. I have a menageries of small animals, including two children, and a vegetable garden that will hopefully mean dealing with tomato gluts.

    My goals for this session are:
    -have 3 x course amendment, 1 x course development paperwork in to next level up committee
    -submit expression of interest for promotion
    -do text install of grass prelim work
    -write each day to Scrivener word target on might-be-book
    -have vege garden set for winter
    -build and maintain habits of run 3 x week, yoga 2x week

  11. Oh, like Karen I'm late joining -- still getting going on the recovery from the holidays.

    I'm Susan, a professor in the humanities at a newish university on the US west coast. I'm widowed, and I live with my 2 cats, and my elderly mother lives in an assisted living facility about a mile away. So I have family responsibilities there. This semester I am on leave, and working on three different projects.

    Goals for this session:
    1. By mid- April, have 20,000 words on Writer
    2. Revise Race/Patriarchy to give it in early March
    3. Write essay on weird and interesting plays for conference
    4. Get all contributors for the Big Book lined up
    5. Regular exercise
    6. Read books
    7. Aim for 7 hours of sleep

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