the grid

the grid

Sunday 23 May 2021

Summer session: Official Week 1! Goal-setting and more

The last time that I co-hosted a session (with DEH), I duplicated the first Week 1 with my own, secondary Week 1, so I hope that I'm not doing the same this time. Since last week was the Summer Session Preview, I figure that it's fair to call this the Official Week 1--right?

As advertised, I don't have a very clever hook or imaginative prompt for you, but I thought that I would share a small story from last week. On Thursday, my department organized a hike and picnic lunch for faculty and grad students, since we hadn't seen each other in quite a long time. The hike was to take place very near where I live, at a spot that I recently learned I could reach by walking through the forest that surrounds my house. I thought that it would be fun, therefore, to hike to the event, and spent the entire week looking forward to it. And it was great! The hike to the hike ended up being longer than I'd expected--just over 2 miles, instead of the 1.5 I'd anticipated--which somehow made it even better. I left in plenty of time, met up with the department, went on a short hike with them (eating lunch at a lovely spot by a waterfall), and walked home. All told, I was in the forest for about 4 hours and hiked just over 6.5 miles. 

I loved it--especially the hiking-alone part. It was a gorgeous day, I saw four different waterfalls, and all in all it was perfect. I go out into the forest all the time, but this was different somehow. It made me think that I need to do this more often: step out my door with some snacks, a book, and a water bottle, and spend hours hiking (and reading) in the forest. So now I'm starting to think about how to fit that into my summer plans, and what that changes about how I think about the summer--in addition to Work Accomplished, how do I want to experience the next three months? I always want to soak in more summer than I seem to get; what can I do to really get the forest, and the summer air, into my bones?

Back to business. Last week we introduced ourselves and considered some possible themes for the session; one or two of us even laid out session goals. For the rest of us, this is the week to begin making some goals in earnest. (Or not. You can always just hang out for a while and make goals later. Please disregard anything that sounds too prescriptive: This is your time!)

So for this week, introduce yourself if you're just joining us, make some plans for the session if you're ready, and tell us what you want to accomplish (or enjoy, or whatever) over the next seven days!


  1. First I'm going to formalize the session goals it seems I did post last week, without quite realizing that was what I was doing:
    *paint a couple of rooms, maybe even three;
    *unpack a lot of boxes;
    *revise Albatross & send out;
    *achieve one polished chapter and the introduction for Book in Progress;
    *work on other chapters as inspired;
    *prep all four syllabuses that I'll need for next year;
    *find new doctor;
    *garden as needed/desired.

    I thought I would get more done in May than I have, but there is another week left (except it will be a short work for me, because of household Special Days). I haven't been sleeping well (oh, what else is new, long-time participants wonder), and I always notice how much more energy and concentration I have on days when I'm rested. I have made progress on the Albatross, though I'm not done yet, and I emptied one large bookcase in my study as part of the paint prep work, but there's more to go. The vegetable plot has been planted, and I have Plans for other areas of the garden.

    Goals for this week:
    Add at least 3 paragraphs to the Albatross.
    Work on the book 30-60 minutes x 3.
    Finish moving out of old work office.
    Grade a few things to clear a student's Incomplete.
    Finish prepping study for paint.
    Assorted errands and stuff too dull to list---if I do any 3, that'll be fine.

    Heu mihi, your hike sounds so lovely! I wish we lived near wilder nature, though the move brought us much closer to some parks where we can do light hiking. I'm heavily focused on *achieving* things this summer, and I think I should consider experiences as well. I'll mull that over this week.

    1. I hope you make the progress you want on Albatross. I wonder if the good balance of physical and intellectual work might create some spaces where inspiration can rise up.

      Are you able to nap or recharge in other ways when sleep eludes you? I'm one of those people who needs 8 hours to function...

  2. As a longtime sufferer of Shiny New Project Syndrome, I am continually reminding myself that I have already decided my summer research agenda and must not take on anything else. I’m also thinking that goals may feel more manageable if properly categorized:

    Session goals
    Clean up and add content to summer online class before mid-June
    Finish edits and get approval for online class
    Draft curriculum proposal for new academic minor

    Enjoy summer batch of book reviews: 4 for online journals, 2 for academic journals
    Draft DQ book proposal
    Create PowerPoint for virtual conference presentation

    Write and submit gun violence piece
    Submit to EK competition
    Write enough of tiny project to send to manuscript editor before end of July
    Organize existing drafts of poems and flash nonfiction
    Create a submission plan

    Finish cleaning office
    Build and fill bookcases
    Clear all recycling from house and garage

    As for this week, I am still in caregiving mode with parents but will be heading home tomorrow. I thought I would get more work done, but that was not the case. I have a number of things due by May 31, so I will list them for week+ goals.

    1 brief music commentary
    2 overdue World review
    3 overdue poetry review
    4 Boredom chapter abstract
    5 catalog piece
    6 Road review

  3. Setting goals always feels like such a commitment.

    Here are mine:
    1. Writing: Book review; Death article; plan for next big project; grant proposal; submit manuscript for edited collection. Ideally start on another piece of next big project.
    2. Teaching: Prep lectures for two new books in fall course; read difficult stuff for spring graduate seminar.
    3. Exercise: Stick with the exercise regime and run more than 3 miles at least 10 times.
    4. Self-care: Eat two vegan meals per week; stretch most nights before bed; take periodic Forest Days.
    5. Reading: as many books as I can.

    Is that it?

    This week--I'm pretending it's a four-day week because I'm going to my mom's house on Thursday-Saturday, celebrating FULL VACCINATION status!

    1. Write 4 hours--finish book review; send Death essay off to friendly reader :)
    2. Read 25 pages a day of Big Book I Stopped Reading in January
    3. Clear at least one article off of my desktop
    4. Sit & Latin x4 each
    5. Start prepping one article for journal issue 49.1

    1. Yay for wonderful, sublime Forest Days. Your description of your forest adventure was delightful.

      You are so right about how setting goals always feels like such a commitment, which I had not previously thought about. At some point during our summer session, we might consider a Captain Daisy-inspired event of inviting everyone to release themselves from a commitment that just isn't working.

      Full vaccination status! It's so weird. Flying home earlier in the week, everyone was masked and well behaved. Then yesterday I went to my regular grocery store where I worried about how many unmasked humans there were. There's so much cognitive dissonance for me about the idea of being post-pandemic.

  4. Wow I'm having a hard time with goals this week! I will just have to be brave and adjust later, otherwise I will keep procrastinating...

    Here is Plan A:
    1) For research I have four papers in various stages, I would like to finish and submit at least three of them.

    a) The Albatross - it has been far too long, but this one is the furthest from being finished so it is by far the scariest. It is also the most difficult of the lot, so will take serious effort.
    b) Problematic local project - was submitted and pulled back last session, did more analysis, and the answer is exactly the same as before but with better documentation. The good part is that the paper is 90% written, so once the new analyses are complete it should be an easy win.
    c) Fun new local project with new co-author - this one is a completely new one for me, and the co-author really needs it to be done so it will be a great chance to "do something nice to help an ECR" type submission. This one needs quite a bit of analytical work but will be the foundation of some future things so absolutely worth doing.
    d) Cool very old thing - paper is written but has revisions to do and first author switched to a new job and will never have time for this. I am taking over the revise/resubmit job to get it going again.

    2) For habits and health I want to:
    a) keep exercising without injuries
    b) add some consistent creative activities that will keep through the coming sabbatical year

    3) Field Work - the best part of the year! If we're allowed... who knows when...

    4) Vacation! As in take one and enjoy it!

    That's about it for now...
    I also would like to ask our assembled hive mind for tips and tricks and advice about sabbaticals! I am way overdue for this one, and have not really allowed myself to think too much about it, that was mostly paranoia that it wasn't going to happen coupled with a side of pandemic-induced-fear-of-planning...
    So, what advice would you give me? What do you wish you knew or considered before your first sabbatical?

    1. Oops...
      Modest Goals for this week:
      1) Finish three reviews that are due next week
      2) Plan analytical next steps for Project Garnet
      3) Open Albatross file and review
      4) Get Old project files from co-author and review

    2. Your research goals are clear and specific, which I think is the best way to head into things to accomplish.

      I teach at a university that doesn't offer sabbatical so that's a question I unfortunately can't address. I do hope you have field work coming up in the near future!

  5. If there's one thing I miss because of my fancy bike, it's that I don't go for walks. The summer is hard here, but I miss the early morning world outside. Something to think about.

    A different story: I've been reading a book on my kindle, and I got a bit bored with it. I brought it with me to get blood drawn the other day in case I had to wait, and suddenly I hit this point where all I wanted to do was finish it, and I spent every free moment reading it. THere's a funny inflection point in reading, I find, when suddenly you can't stop. I need to remind myself of this and just keep going.

    Anyway, somehow I decided to do session goals last week, since people had started, and I got more explicit than others. So here they are again just so goals are in one place:
    1. I'm on a book prize committee for the major professional organization in my field, and I have about 80 books now sitting in my office which will have to be read over the summer. (And in answer to last week's questions, my guess is that I will in fact read seriously 10-20 books: in the first read, the only question is whether it's a serious contender, and that becomes clear pretty fast)
    2. Get class prepared for fall. Still need to do book orders, and then get a syllabus done. (Classes start right after this session ends.)
    3. Start working on the next (last big?) chapter of Famous Author, a book I'm envisioning as short but which is turning out to be much harder to write than I'd like. I finished chapter 2, the chapter which would not end, last week. I'm not going to set big goals, but I'd like to feel as if it's underway before the semester starts.
    4. Draft part of the self-study for the program review of our graduate program. Why did I say I'd do that (I know - so that it didn't land on an assistant professor with a 2 y.o.) Most of the hard part will be done when school starts up again, but there's a lot that is formulaic and/or straightforward that I want to get done this summer.
    5. Odds and ends: I have a book review to finish, and am - in addition to the book prize -- on an article prize committee (but it's only 8 articles, so not onerous)
    6. Admin fragments for professional organization of which I am president, but that should be pretty manageable.
    7. I have the fancy bike and its exercise programs, and I want to just keep working out so I stay healthy.
    8. Read for fun
    9. Get good sleep

    Goals for the week ahead (modest, since I'm going to my brother's for the weekend)
    - finish book review
    -book orders
    - a little work on the chapter
    - exercise
    - read for fun
    - sleep
    - have fun with family

    1. The Kindle story is so easy for me to relate to and you help me realize how much I love that inflection point. It's also the reason why I don't read fiction during long semesters. And thanks for clarifying the obligations for the book prize committee.

      I'm interested in what you say here about Famous Author and that what seemed like it would be small has turned out of to be more than anticipated. Sometimes figuring out the size of a project can be a significant complication. And it's nice when an editor or publisher gives you a word count.

  6. I’m Elizabeth, a late-career rare books librarian at an R1 in upstate New York. I achieved tenure in 2015, so I have been able to return to my medieval studies research; I'm finishing a study on illuminated manuscripts, and continuing research on early modern translators of classical Latin texts.

    Session goals:
    Mantra: Evaluate
    Research: Finish a polished draft of Illuminated.
    Begin the process of turning Prudence from a dissertation into a book.
    Outline the last of the three translators to finish up Translators.
    Contact Co-editor.

    Make medical appointments, especially with those doctors with whom contact was lost during 2020.
    Walk in the stacks 3 times daily as well as the early morning and evenings during the hot days.
    Be more mindful about eating.
    Meditate at least three times a day.

    The way I interpret my mantra is "do not agree, without extremely careful thought, to do anything that will impact my research time."
    By the end of the summer, I want to have a finished draft of Illuminated, and a rough draft of the early translators article. Finally, I have to reconnect with my co-editor, because we need to start pulling things together.

    This week's goals:
    Pull together data to make the most of my day on campus.
    Search for the newest articles relevant to Prudence.
    Contact at least two doctors.

    Modest goals for the week, but I didn't want to start behind Sisyphus' rock. I hope everyone has a good rest of the week. Float like mist, everyone!

    1. Most excellent mantra. Protect your time.

      I believe we're better off setting modest goals that are achievable instead of grand goals that are more than we have time for. I would note too that pulling together data and searching for new article could potentially be onerous.

  7. I introduced myself last week. To re-cap: Mid-to-late career California community college instructor with a fairly recent, late-in-life PhD. As I mentioned last week, I had thought my research days were over, and although there might not be a lot more real research-based work in my future, I pitched an essay to The Rambling, and they took the pitch, so I want to draft that essay during this session. I also want to draft a conference paper that I'll call the Vampire paper.

    So . . .

    Session Goals:

    Academic and Academic-Adjacent:
    -Draft the Rambling essay
    -Draft the Vampire paper

    Creative work:
    -Plan and begin DIY MFA
    -Outline novel
    -write 5,000 words of novel
    -write at least one short story

    -More veggies (2-3 servings per day)
    -Exercise Daily (walking, stretching, dancing, swimming are all options)
    -Try to fix feet (plantar fasciitis)
    -Go to the dentist

    -Do 3-5 maintenance or decluttering tasks per week
    -maintain sanity and marriage equilibrium during some home improvements (new flooring, etc.)

    -See my mom at least once per week
    -soak up time with son before he goes to college
    -keep training the dog and try not to let him drive me crazy (he's not a person, but he affects my relationship with people, so . . . )
    -write a couple of letters/cards each week

    This week:
    1. Complete small grant app for teen writing program
    2. Finish flyer for teen writing program
    3. Take son to DMV to get permit
    4. Contact dog trainer
    5. Start developing DIY MFA reading list
    6. Two 30-minute writing sessions on the Rambling essay
    7. Two 20-minute brainstorming sessions for creative writing
    8. Make a list of veggies that I like and that are convenient and easy to prep. Buy some of those veggies.
    9. Start shopping for daughter's b-day and my dad's b-day.

    1. I realize this is a little sudden, but I thought I'd pass along information about Jami Attenberg's #1000wordsofsummer. She's a novelist/memoirist who has done this summer write-in event for a few years now. Although I am a person prone to brevity, I'm planning to participate but to shift my goals to a smaller daily word count so I can get back to tiny project. Here's Jami's newsletter if you're interested:

    2. Thank you! I'll look into it.

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