the grid

the grid

Sunday 21 March 2021

2021 Session 1, Week 11: Projects and Routines

Greetings, crew and passengers. First Mate T'Melnor speaking. In a few moments, I will be giving a talk in the small forward lounge on the topic "Projects and Routines." Also, Captain Ivan Vorpatril will share some "Ops-Style Efficiencies."

Notes for T'Melnor's talk on "Projects and Routines."

  • Routines: everything on a starship has its routine, usually with checklist.
  • Post and/or memorize checklist
  • Muscle memory for physical tasks
  • Habits of thought for mental tasks
  • 24-hour standard checklist, 168-hour, 672-hour, etc. 
  • Periodic re-training on routine tasks
  • Crew meetings to brainstorm improvements to routines
  • Then revise checklists
  • Projects: either one-off (or rare) or recurring 
  • Scheduled or emergency
    • Examples: recurring, scheduled: Paint all bulkheads
    • scheduled, one-off: disinfect ship after visit to quarantined planet (routine established by Central Command, not devised on-board, b/c we don't normally stop at quarantined planets)
    • Emergency, one-off (all emergencies should be one-off): readjust Necklin rods in-flight due to encounter with [can I talk about this? check with Captain]
    • Emergency, recurring: situations with live cargo, ex. Albatrosses and Demotivators
  • Recurring emergencies indicate need to improve routines for dealing with situation
    • Importance of motivating crew to continue to step up
    • Command needs to enforce R&R when emergency in hand 
    • Rewards for performance under pressure

Ivan's Notes on Ops

Batch routine work, set priorities, be ruthless about enforcing priorities, delegate or delete what you can. Find constraints on work: time? resources? communications delays? Exploit these: may need to make some tasks/routines less efficient to increase overall efficiency. Ex. take time to plan; ways of thinking through processes > increase yr ability to think through steps for new project/problem. R&R necessary to keep brains & bodies functional. Get Yourself On Board (dealing w/Demotivators): for lady professors, in absence of command structure, who is yr boss? You? Students? Chair/dean? Editor? Create internal sense of responsibility even if no literal report daily/weekly to this person/group. Multiple bosses? Ugh, like work for Imperial Wedding: appear attentive to all while ruthlessly following top commands (Mamere, not Countess Vorinnis).

Links for lady professors:

Classroom rules: apply to students, kids, or selves:

Templates for project plans: adapt to education?

Thinking routines: for class? for selves?

Habits/routines/rituals: "Habits vs. Routines vs. Rituals: Wondering what the difference is between habits, routines, and rituals? Habits are things that we do automatically--things like checking your email first thing in the morning or putting your keys in a specific spot when you get home. Routines are usually a collection of habits or actions you do on a regular basis to bring order to your day—checking your email, then writing your day's to-do list, then checking your team's project management tool as a way of getting the day started. Rituals are like routines. The main difference is the attitude behind the actions: Taking a walk everyday at lunch could be considered a routine if you think of it as something you need to do for your productivity. Or it could be a ritual if you think of it as a way to break out of the mundane and enjoy nature. While we're focusing on habits and routines here, most routines could be turned into rituals with a change of perspective."

Remember to thank everyone for coming & point them at refreshments; T'Melnor & Ivan available to chat about goals, routines, checklists, etc. Remind of routine weekly goal-setting & reports (example of routine!).


Captain Daisy:

1) Figure out computer modelling thing for local project
2) Go into lab and do sample prep
3) Figure out grad student analytical methods
4) Try again because this is now getting urgent: Do all my research accounting
5) Keep going on local project analysis
6) Do something fun during kid’s school break for a day or two
7) Do at least 5 classes of fancy app

Professora Hull:

Finish undergrad papers; grade grad assignments; grade discussion boards.
Dead languages 4x each.
Fall course descriptions; order fall books.
Daily stretching & cardio, weights x3.
Dentist appointment, vaccination appointment.
Collect tax documents.
More tidying of study.


1 Attend and present at last virtual conference
2 Make steady progress on grading
3 Clean office equivalent to one large trash bag of trash
4 Submit abstract for Unwanted
5 Organize small online student conference

Professora Mihi:

1) Write 3 hours (collection intro)
2) Grade a batch of papers
3) Read 100 pages of NunG vol. 5
4) Run, yoga, language, sit

Professora Mitchell:

Write for 1 hour x 3 on Illuminated.
Read background on Famous Printer, using new notebook. 1x3
Renew passport.
Get 1st dose of vaccine--yay!

Professora Susan:

1. Read book for FAMOUS AUTHOR. Maybe write some (2 x 2 hours)
2. Keep up with class
3. Read 2 journals from pile I picked up at the office today (these go back to last spring, when the campus closed & mail delivery stopped.)
4. Make appointment for haircut
5. Reorganize bedroom
6. Keep up with exercise
7. Do something fun with friends in person
8. Be kind 




  1. Well that's a lot to process. Helpful. I can't think in 672-hour segments, though.

    I'm interested in the fluidity of the boundaries among routines, habits, and rituals (since I spent the last hour writing about fluid boundaries between genres, I'm predisposed to be attracted to this). Accretion of habits = routines. Habits that are "special" = rituals, more or less. I like the idea of reframing some of my habits as rituals; lately I feel (as I may have said last week?) like I'm increasingly governed by carefully constructed habits, and calling a few of them "rituals" might make me like them more when I'm feeling resistance.

    Last week:
    1) Write 3 hours (collection intro) - Yes, although it really is SUCH a mess at this point.
    2) Grade a batch of papers - 15/21; waiting on the last 6. (OK, 2 of these came in over the weekend.)
    3) Read 100 pages of NunG vol. 5 - Yes; I love the very big margins in this edition! Makes the pages fly by.
    4) Run, yoga, language, sit - x5, x2, x4, x5 - A good week!

    This is a Week of Meetings, although I've already decided that I'm skipping one of them. Here's my overly ambitious list.

    1) Write 3 hours (WH intro)
    2) Finish NunG vol. 5; take notes
    3) Spend 3 hours reading Parzival (I'm reading this with a few students in a 1-credit independent study, and I've never read it before, so I wasn't sure how to break up the [very long] text. I suggested we all read for 3 hours this week and see how far we get. Should be interesting?)
    4) Finish up grading batch
    5) Submit book order for fall
    6) Misc: Receipts; recommendation; library trip
    7) Run, yoga, language, sit

    1. Excellent work at the habits (item 4)! You & I are in almost exactly the same place with one batch of grading, and book orders.

      I hope you all have fun with Parzival! I haven't read it either.

      The thing I'm really thinking about is "who's your boss?" b/c I resist self-imposed deadlines. OTOH I do manage to show up adequately prepped for classes and generally get papers back within two weeks (not fab, but adequate), so maybe in my head, students ARE the boss of me. Thus, w/r/t research, perhaps I need to think of Editors as the boss of me.

    2. Addendum: I am having a week of resentment and rebellion, so whatever I get done is a win. Currently strategizing to cancel class one day soon to give us all the illusion of a spring break!

  2. Elizabeth's comment last week about "immersion till exhaustion" rang a bell with me. For a long time, I was better (I think) about working in short stints, but in the past year I've felt that so much was coming at me that it's been very hard to think about TLQ stuff; I've been in TRQ most of the time. Every time I think things are about to calm down, something else pops up. My husband keeps commenting that I'm working on weekends when I said I wanted to take them off, and I say [two bad nights > two lost days] [unexpected med appointments] [whatever], and he says "Plan for the unexpected," and I say the plan for the unexpected is that I work on weekends!

    Anyway, in the last week I've felt stirrings of interest in research, partly b/c of talks/round tables I've listened to, and I keep feeling, also, that these stirrings are not safe to listen to b/c I'll just get started and then some Thing will crop up and by the time I get back to the research I'll have no idea what I was doing or thinking about. It feels like the only way to do anything research-like is to drop everything else for a day or three and immerse, and then go back to all the daily emergencies.

    I totally agree with T'Melnor that "recurring emergencies indicate need to improve routines for dealing with situation" but see above about the past year: when are you even supposed to think about improving the routines?

    1. Dame Eleanor, I read your conversation with your husband with an eerie sense of deja vu, having had that conversation just this past weekend. It is indeed hard to plan for fire emergencies when your hair is on fire.

      I was very good about grabbing little snippets of time before the pandemic, but the erosion in the home/work boundary has made it harder to work on research in the little snippets. I'll wash dishes or fold laundry or read a fun book instead. I found that taking notes longhand in a different space--a chaise lounge in front of the living room window--helped immensely. Perhaps you can find the mental space to find something analogous.

    2. I find that now that I have a halfway decent work space at home I work much more in the evenings. In the "before" world I rarely did because it involved setting up a laptop on an awkward table or my lap or whatever free space there was. Now it is easy to open the computer and do something, which I'm not sure is a good thing. On the other hand it means that I'm a lot more comfortable with taking random time in the day to do other stuff so overall it seems to be an ok trade? I have found that I need one completely computer-free day on weekends, that has helped a lot!

  3. This looks like another week when appointments & Stuff are going to interfere with actual work time. Having sent e-mail to a student who needs to clear an Incomplete (reported last week), now I've had one meeting with her and scheduled another. All I wanted was to look like a Good Professor, not to get into re-teaching the class/being her cheerleader. Grumble grumble.

    How I did:
    Finish undergrad papers; grade grad assignments; grade discussion boards. NO, NO, NO. (I keep starting promptly on grading papers, make good progress, & then get stuck about 3/4 of the way through.)
    Dead languages 4x each. ONE enough times to prep for group.
    Fall course descriptions; order fall books. YES (as of this morning) and NO.
    Daily stretching & cardio, weights x3. YES, YES, x2.
    Dentist appointment, vaccination appointment. YES, YES.
    Collect tax documents. NO. Relieved by IRS date-change. Hope state follows.
    More tidying of study. NO, despite resolve to join other TLQers in the process!
    OTHER: "attended" three scholarly talks and one monthly reading group, met w/student as above, posted the last two writing assignments for the term so now I really am down to just grading and class prep (WOOOOOT), rescheduled youngest cat's vet appointment, went to vet to pick up sedative to administer before rescheduled appointment (other cat staff will recognize what happened here, and yes it was traumatic for all), while in old neighborhood went for walk with [2 houses ago] next-door neighbor, "aerated" compost pile [i.e., lots of digging], weeded Creeping Charlie in veg patch, read two articles (inspired by talks; they'll be most immediately useful for teaching). And I am pleased to be vaccinated (round one).

    New goals (which always look so similar to the last set):
    Finish undergrad papers; grade grad assignments; grade discussion boards.
    Dead languages 4x each.
    Order fall books.
    Daily stretching & cardio, weights x3.
    Dentist appointment (yep, another).
    Collect tax documents.
    More tidying of study.
    Read or something scholarly that isn't class prep.

    1. That's a lot of things done, and a big pile of "other" stuff, all of which are important too!
      It is wonderful to have research things start appearing as little snippets of interest and find somewhere to bloom... It feels a bit like spring in a lot of ways, little green shoots of research pushing up through snow and ice maybe?

  4. Well, having missed last week (by the time I was ready to write it was Friday, and I decided to be honest and just chime in today), I'm not sure I'm good on habits and routines. I've been working on a few - my Lenten discipline is not taking my iPad to bed, so reading a book instead of checking twitter or playing solitaire, and that has worked. I've been very regular about exercise, mostly in the morning. I've been mostly eating healthy food. I've mostly kept up with my class, which is the key. Otherwise, I'm not sure where time goes.

    Anyway, how I've done:
    1. Read book for FAMOUS AUTHOR. Maybe write some (2 x 2 hours) Looked at it, but...
    2. Keep up with class, yes, and even sort of got ahead (but now am behind on recording lectures)
    3. Read 2 journals from pile I picked up at the office today (these go back to last spring, when the campus closed & mail delivery stopped.) NO
    4. Make appointment for haircut YES!!! I have short hair again!!!
    5. Reorganize bedroom YES
    6. Keep up with exercise YES
    7. Do something fun with friends in person YES
    8. Be kind I think so!

    I'm not sure where the time has gone -- a bunch of conversations with colleagues about a potential position, some virtual conference sessions and meetings, actually going outside and doing things... The bedroom done, I've now started on a major clear-out of clothes: I buy new clothes, but don't get rid of enough old ones. I've now done I think 3/4 of my closet and of of four drawers that need serious attention. There are four over-flowing bags to take to Goodwill. At the end of last week, I got very social, taking my mother to lunch one day, and then going wine tasting on Friday! We're on break this week, and I have a medical appointment, and on Thursday night my brother & his family arrive for the weekend, so we'll head to our local national park on Friday. I'm trying to combine R & R with work.

    Goals for the week ahead:
    1. Complete materials for potential position
    2. Record lecture for students for next week
    3. Famous Author: 3x 2 hours (read book, write)
    4. Email: work forward from December 1 and cut it down
    5. Journals 3
    6. Garden: fertilize perennials, keep pulling weeds
    7. House: finish going through clothes, bring to donation place
    8. Keep up with exercise, healthy eating
    9. Have fun with family and friends
    10. Be kind

    1. Yay short hair, organized bedroom, friends, exercise, and reading books at bedtime! Also yay national park trip with family! I hope you enjoy your break to the hilt!

  5. I struggle with the whole habit, routine, ritual distinctions, so the hints from T'Melnor and Ivan are extremely helpful. I have to remind myself that preparation is so much a part of the whole, and those routines and rituals are often the mental preparation that eases the way for using the small snippets of time. It helps me stay in the moment, without having to set the choke again to get started (dating myself, since cars don't have chokes anymore!)

    Last week's goals:
    Write for 1 hour x 3 on Illuminated. Yes
    Read background on Famous Printer, using new notebook. 1x3. Yes. I wrote in a beautiful notebook my sister gave me for my birthday two years ago!
    Renew passport. Nope. Therein lies a cautionary tale.
    Get 1st dose of vaccine--yay! Yes. It was efficient and quick. I walked out with a return appointment already scheduled. My arm hurt the next day, a small price to pay.

    Things went pretty well last week, with one huge exception. "Renew the passport," I toss into the goals, thinking I know exactly where to put my hands on my recently expired one. Famous Last Words. It's not in the file box with everyone else's, so I look in my files--no, not there. So I attack the document boxes stacked in the corner of the garret. Five boxes later, having combined the five boxes into one box of filing, one of recycling, and three boxes of shredding, it shows up in the sixth box of miscellaneous crap. The moral of the story: Put Things Back Where They Belong, Right Now.

    The good thing is that I unloaded a lot of stuff dragging down my brain and taking up space. Also, I got some other things done, being on a roll of sorts: I paid some bills that showed up in the top layer of paper detritus, and found calling a doctor's office for an appointment was a break from the monotony.

    I also started to write notes in my nice notebooks, and had an epiphany: it helps me immensely to break the monotony of typing on my computer, digesting my thoughts as I write on nice paper with my fountain pen.

    Next week's goals:
    Prepare and run the regional meeting.
    Renew passport.
    Break open another notebook for Translatio notes 1 x 5.
    Attack the two scary file boxes underneath my desk.
    Walk in the lovely spring weather 1x5.
    Make one more doctor's appointment.

    I hope everyone enjoys contemplating new/revised habits, routines, and rituals. Float like mist, everyone.

    1. I encourage you to use the "other things done" category to feel better about the passport saga. You did a whole lot of sorting/filing/discarding there, so yay! Maybe that will make the file boxes under your desk less scary---you are clearly a terrifyingly efficient Filebox Bane (who belongs in a fantasy novel rather than on a spaceship :-) ).

    2. Ooooh maybe the next session can be a fantasy novel in which the magical Filebox Bane rescues struggling writers!
      Good for using the good notebooks! Funny how little things add so much sometimes!

    3. I'm happy to take on the mantle of Filebox Bane. Thank you for the investiture!

  6. I love the habits/routines/rituals distinction! Drinking a beer mindlessly while making dinner most nights = habit (possibly bad), drinking a beer outside with a book at the end of the week while purposely taking time to enjoy it = ritual? Going to be thinking about this and planning topics for a while!

    In the “human motivation” category, I’m amazed by how much fun the fitness classes on the fancy app are! The degree to which my brain responds to instruction by “monkey see monkey do” is astonishing! I’m a grown-ass adult, I should be able to do push-ups or whatever else without external help, but I don’t, and somehow with the “class” I do… I even got some actual weights (because I got tired of trying to do things by lifting a bottle of fabric softener).

    Last week’s goals:
    1) Figure out computer modelling thing for local project ONGOING
    2) Go into lab and do sample prep DONE
    3) Figure out grad student analytical methods ONGOING
    4) Try again because this is now getting urgent: Do all my research accounting NOPE
    5) Keep going on local project analysis ONGOING
    6) Do something fun during kid’s school break for a day or two DONE
    7) Do at least 5 classes of fancy app VICTORY!

    Class stuff is winding down as the grading ramps up. I have a few lectures left, and the last two weeks have actually been the best ones of term for student participation and engagement. I wonder if it is because I stopped worrying about making it fun and that got rid of the pressure on me? Maybe… Or maybe we just hit the right topics at the right time or maybe it was the moon, who knows…?

    This week’s goals:
    1) Finish computer modelling thing for local project
    2) Talk about papers with visiting co-authors and drink beer
    3) Mark everything for undergrad class
    5) Report for local project
    6) Keep doing classes on fancy app
    7) Do something fun with kid

    1. It's so important to figure out what motivates each of us---exercise classes are popular with many people! Now if I could work out why I can exercise on my own but feel like saying to myself "you're not the boss of me" when I have planned out a schedule, I'd be in much better shape (and also I could probably bottle & sell exercise-motivation ;-) ). I'm glad to hear that classes are going well, for whatever reason!

    2. If you're on the same fancy app as I am (along with my associated fitness equipment) I totally agree about the classes. I also respond to the motivation of "your streak is X days".

    3. And the weirdest thing about the classes on the app is that I never in my life would have been caught dead in a exercise class before this! I hated them with a fiery passion! But somehow doing them in my basement on my own is strangely fun... I'm puzzled but I'll take it!

  7. It’s been difficult to establish and sustain routines during pandemic. The lack of structure (not going anywhere) should encourage creating my own structure, and yet. I have tried a few different things but nothing seems to stick except coffee and leisure reading followed by morning journaling. For a long time, late afternoon was my most productive time so I think I’ll try to work around creating some assigned blocks of time between 2:00 and 5:00.

    Last week:
    1 Attend and present at last virtual conference: yes
    2 Make steady progress on grading: somewhat
    3 Clean office equivalent to one large trash bag of trash: nope
    4 Submit abstract for Unwanted: yes
    5 Organize small online student conference: yes

    This week:
    1 Make steady progress on grading
    2 Clean office equivalent to one large trash bag of trash
    3 Consider how to establish routine to finish all the projects due 1 April (avoid emergencies)
    4 Joining other Profesoras in ordering Fall books

    1. I suspect that for many of us, more leisure IS a pandemic routine---I'm sleeping more, reading (for fun) more, and cooking more than I used to. These things don't really show up on my radar when I'm wondering where the time goes, but (for example) I now have a cooked breakfast every day instead of eating hard boiled eggs in the car 2-3 days a week, and that adds up. Also I'm not sorry!

      Anyway, it looks like you had a good week, except for the office cleaning, and who wants to do that? So you & I will both try again this week!

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