the grid

the grid

Saturday 16 April 2022

Week 15: Collective wisdom

Hello everyone!

Happy Easter weekend to all who celebrate, and even if you don’t I hope you got a quiet day somewhere in there! Definitely a good time of the term/semester/session to have a little breather… I promised myself that I would have at least one day where I did not switch on my computer at all, and it looks like I will manage to keep that promise. Always so much harder to keep promises to myself than to other people!

I enjoyed everyone’s pick-us-up ideas last week, so in a similar vein this week I want to hear examples of “the best advice you ever got”! Can be for anything, career, writing, personal, child-rearing, cat wrangling, gardening, baking, really anything that springs to mind.

And because we are nearing the end of our cabin-building adventure, what have we missed? Is there anything we need in our cabins that we have not thought about yet?

Last week’s goals


Last paper’s edits and submission, so close!!!!


Read student’s complete thesis, very exciting!!!

Program book for conference

Continue budget-wrangling

Continue spring cleaning

Dame Eleanor Hull

Health: cardio x6, stretch x6, track bedtime.
Research: 2 hours a day! Write sabbatical proposal.
Teaching: grade ALL THE THINGS.
Life stuff: deposit a check, do some gardening, maybe bake something.

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell

Start thinking about what to teach the summer intern.
Write talking points for the meetings with higher-ups.
Go to dentist and doctor appointments.
Change the conflicting doctor appointment.

heu mihi

1) Come up with a rough outline of chapter 1 in order to clarify my sense of what I ought to be doing right now.
2) Read dissertation prospectus.
3) Do as much as I can with the three journal submissions I have to deal with

Humming42 (carried over)

1 oh those two book reviews
2 make progress on grading
3 start work on April conference presentation
4 twenty minutes a day cleaning office
5 some tree trimming

JaneB (carried over)

1) call GP about anxiety etc. because this is not going to defeat me
2) do teaching prep for week 10
3) make time to read or do D&D prep 4 days
4) Send an email to the "Why" author group
5) move intentionally 10 minutes a day
6) read & comment on second half of draft text for grad student
7) continue grading two lots of projects from the fives
8) grade essays for the fours
9) write comments for the fives on their project ideas

Karen (carried over)

1. Fill remaining VILE content gaps for next week before the weekend, keep boards under control
2. Make a plan for upcoming school holidays
3. Finish postgrad exegesis feedback
4. 2 hours of my writing

Susan (carried over)

1. Finish this chapter (doable) before trip to Library
2. Keep reading ms.
3. Do fun thing
4. Go to all the meetings
5. Keep up with exercise & good eating
6. Set up Mom's new computer (hangs over me . . .anxiety.)


  1. Best advice: set low goals and overshoot them.
    Do I do this? Sometimes.

    How I did:
    Health: cardio x6, stretch x6, track bedtime. NO, YES, YES.
    Research: 2 hours a day! Write sabbatical proposal. YES, YES.
    Teaching: grade ALL THE THINGS. 3 things. Haven't touched the stuff from the week I was away.
    Life stuff: deposit a check, do some gardening, maybe bake something. DELEGATED, YES, YES (well, made crepes, so not literally baking, but a treat post-dentist).
    I am the more impressed with the week's accomplishments because I lost half a day to being wiped out after a dentist appointment and a full day to having eaten something that disagreed with me. (But on the sickly day I re-read The Goblin Emperor and followed it up with Witness for the Dead, so it wasn't all bad.)

    New goals:
    Health: cardio x6, stretch x6, track bedtime.
    Research: 2 hours a day! Finish & turn in sabbatical proposal. Make progress on book.
    Teaching: grade two new assignments and give points to async-week stuff.
    Life stuff: do some gardening, bake something, mail a package.

    1. Impressed with the research and sabbatical proposal writing even in a catch-up week disrupted by other things! Yay!!
      Good luck with further catching up and finishing up the proposal!

    2. Yay for rereads of Good Books! (and it's reassuring that other people are wiped out by the dentist, even though muych empathy)

    3. Ugh, dentists . . . I must remember that even "just" a cleaning is going to wipe out the rest of the day. I think it's all the noise inside my head even when it's not particularly painful.

  2. Hello, All. As much as I find productivity culture unappealing (work first! work more! calendar 5 minutes for self care!), there is one GTD (Get Things Done) thing I’m trying to apply. If I can do the thing as soon as it comes up, then do it instead of putting it on a list. TLQ is always on my list for Sunday, and when I do manage to get here it’s because it’s Sunday. Once the week is underway, I get distracted by all the urgent things…the very idea behind making time and space for the Top Left.

    But the best advice I ever got came from a prof who was on my dissertation committee and eventually evolved into a mentor. Although I have not managed to follow this advice as well as I have previously: meet your deadlines. Maybe it’s especially important for me because I struggle with it so.

    The past two weeks:
    1 oh those two book reviews: no, now three
    2 make progress on grading: yes but always more
    3 start work on April conference presentation: presented
    4 twenty minutes a day cleaning office: no
    5 some tree trimming: not even!

    This week:
    1 finish and submit book reviews
    2 draft cfp for slash collection
    3 organize judges for conference
    4 submit abstract for one-day conference

    1. Deadlines are such a double-edged sword... They can inspire but also paralyze, and the balance between those two is not always clear...
      Doing little things as they come up works well for me too - especially when dealing with people because then you can solve lots of little problems quickly and make lots of people grateful...

    2. I like doing small things as soon as they come up BUT I am very, very distractable... moderation is not easy for me! In the "old days" when I had a decent timetable I'd be able to do a lot of small things on teaching days then block pieces of time on non teaching days to ignore them, but I've been timetabled 5 days a week for most of the last two years (why yes, I DO have an 80% contract and a 4 days a week condition, but... COVID, necessity and my similarity to a doormat...), which is probably another reason I'm so stressed at the moment.

  3. Best one for life in general is from my mother, given on occasions when I was overwhelmed by having to do lots of big difficult things… She said “just do a little bit every day”… And there really is nothing better – reminiscent of a saying common to many places in eastern and southern Africa – “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time…”
    This is always good advice to remember and I’m going to write in on a post-it for my bathroom mirror to keep up for the next month or so!

    Something I remember from the time when my kid was really little – someone said that when you are alone in your house you should never do housework, either do real thinking work, or do something like read for fun… Doing chores in your alone time makes them invisible and promotes the feeling that the magic fairies did it all and that’s not the message you want your family to internalize. So when you only have small pockets of time those are better used for something restorative…

    More prosaically – “never pass up a chance to use an indoor bathroom”. Mostly from field trips and such but good life advice in general!

    Last week’s goals
    Last paper’s edits and submission, so close!!!! ONGOING
    Accounting ONGOING
    Read student’s complete thesis, very exciting!!! DONE
    Program book for conference DONE
    Continue budget-wrangling DONE
    Continue spring cleaning ONGOING

    This week’s goals
    Paper edits of course
    Have awkward conversations with friends and colleagues
    Digital spring cleaning
    Continue spring cleaning

    1. Love the indoor bathroom advice. My daughters very dramatic disdain for longdrop camping toilets would make her the perfect audience for it :)

    2. I love the chores one - and I use the elephant analogy a lot with students (I have a cartoon in which two little characters are eating and elephant without cutlery and one says to the other "this is a disgusting analogy" - I want to edit it or draw a me version sometime where one is saying to the other something like "are you sure this is going to help me get my work done?").

      Never pass up a chance to pee is one used a lot in my family! Along with "always carry your lunch with you" (in case you get delayed by a cool bird, view or idea whilst outdoors, you don't want to have to stop just because you are hungry) and "when you fall over make sure your binoculars are on top" (my Dad is a very keen birdwatcher. There are REASONS why birds are the least interesting type of natural history to me... all those 'orrible little brown jobbies silhouetted against the sky being deliberately unidentifiable and the sheer complexity of gulls and the memorising of organised facts put me right off! I like things like rocks and snails and plants that are comfortably visible and stay put whilst I look them up in my booK!

  4. The best piece of writing advice I ever received was from my dissertation director, who told me to start writing before I felt ready, since I could read to fill in gaps as I went. The best life advice I received was not to diminish myself in order to fit in, since some people were not going to like me whether I was a chameleon or not.

    I think my dream cabin is in pretty good shape, although one indulgence I would love to have is a lap pool, probably inside, since I’m looking out of my garret window at four inches of heavy, wet snow that fell overnight-–sigh. I am beyond ready for spring!

    Work is also starting to gear up-–unlike most academic libraries, my shop is busier in the summer when international and national researchers (often academics) have the time to travel to archives. It’s frustrating, because I really want to write; also, so few people know about our book collections, most will be here for the archival materials, with which I cannot help as much.

    Last week’s goals:
    Start thinking about what to teach the summer intern. Yes, I have a good outline with several projects.

    Write talking points for the meetings with higher-ups. Almost, with a meeting in half an hour that should complete the process.

    Go to dentist and doctor appointments. Yes, with minimal discomfort, too!

    Change the conflicting doctor appointment. Not yet, but on my list for today.

    Next week’s goals:
    Really start on the faculty report.
    Continue recycling paper copies of articles.
    Brainstorm two article ideas.
    Change the conflicting doctor appointment.

    I am very interested in the best advice. Float like mist, everyone.

    1. Ooo, that is good advice! I picked it up later, from a book, with the idea of writing a zero draft for your eyes only, then the idea of writing as part of thinking and reading, which then transitions into writing drafts almost seamlessly...

      The version of the don't diminish yourself advice I heard recently was "unless you're Nutella, you won't be universally loved" which particularly amused me as I am that ornery person who doesn't think Nutella is all THAT special... That's a lesson I decided for myself at a pretty young age (I was bad at trying to fit in, I couldn't fit that shape without pinging out at the edges - I haven't watched that new film where the youngster turns into a red panda, but the trailer clips where the tail poofs out randomly in the hall exactly matched the sort of thing I felt happened, that I couldn't make myself the right shape or squeeze into the disguise).

    2. I was the square peg that always tried to fit, until I just rebelled in my late 20's, and stopped worrying about fitting in.

    3. Square pegs make the most beautiful dovetail carpentry possible, we need all the square pegs we can get!
      The film is so worth watching, beautifully done and works on many levels!

  5. ADVICE: I dunno. Lots which doesn't work for me or which is great advice but (currently at least) makes me feel guilty, but a couple that come to mind are "choose your battles". And "choose to be kind". I realise they are both about nexus of control, and about reclaiming power in difficult situations, which... well, is what I need even if its not what I'm actually acting on very well right now.

    What have I forgotten in my cabin... I don't know. A really, really great bed - not in a loft, but perhaps up on a platform so it has a view into the trees when reclining? I'd like the whole thing to be infused with low-level cleaning magic, or to be home to a friendly brownie, but that might be going a bit far! And I'd like whatever cat lives there to not walk on my keyboard, and to not occasionally jump on my desk with poopy dingleberries when I'm trying to snack (one of the downsides of a very fluffy cat is that sometimes he needs a little hygiene assistance, and he tends to resent it!). I have cosy textiles, lots of storage, books to read and write in, pens and paper and art and journalling supplies, a good bathroom (hmmm, lets go fancy there too, with a walk in double sized wet enclosure with a choice of a rainfall overhead/around shower thingie and at least one removable hand-held one for targeted actual washing.

    Grocery delivery (via brownie?) would also be nice for really anxious/anti-social weeks!

    1. It's been a wobbly couple of weeks.
      1) call GP about anxiety etc. had to leave message, missed the call back today, going to try again tomorrow. Am in the frustrating point where after a few days off I am feeling a little better, but better enough to see how far below the old normal I've slid. Also better enough to feel guilty about even considering calling in sick when I'm actually not properly dramatically incapacitated. Just that I'm unreliable and inefficient and struggling to think clearly, to remember things, to be kind and tolerant of Youthful Self-Centeredness as manifest by students (the "I WILL be away on the day of the presentations for a family birthday, tell me what to do to make sure my marks aren't affected" and "the module leader is on annual leave all break, he hasn't replied to me, so I'm emailing you so you can tell him I'll be missing class and need the notes" or just "I applied for an extension and haven't heard back and it's making me more stressed" (the central extension granting people are very, very overworked too, and they get to take Easter break!) and "Tell me the answer to this very simple thing that is in the module handbook which I haven't read and will tell you I can't find on the VLE"). And that isn't me. Plus my self-care is terrible...
      2) do teaching prep for week 10 did it. Called in sick one day, but did all the prep at least
      3) make time to read or do D&D prep 4 days I did this long weekend at least!
      4) Send an email to the "Why" author group nope
      5) move intentionally 10 minutes a day patchily, but I keep returning to this intention and starting over
      6) read & comment on second half of draft text for grad student ugh not yet
      7) continue grading two lots of projects from the fives done
      8) grade essays for the fours done
      9) write comments for the fives on their project ideas done

      COMING WEEK (what's left of it)
      1) contact GP
      2) prepare for week 11
      3) make a list of the marking I have to do and see what might need delaying
      4) other lists. Just make the lists.
      5) move, eat reasonably, drink water, try to sleep at 'appropriate' times

    2. UPDATE - called the GP, made an appointment, got signed off sick for two weeks with "stress" to see how I get on. I feel a bit weird about that, sort of a guilt-lite feeling, that I kind of willed it into being (I do hate when medical people ask me "what do you want me to do?" - I want you to wave a magic wand and FIX ME, of course. What do you think I'm here for?? Why do you think what I WANT is actually what I need? How am I supposed to know what I need?).

      And I made a list and sent emails to try & make sure someone knew about all the things that needed to happen & felt somewhere between bad about dumping stuff on other people and vindicated as the list - for six work days of a light-load part of the academic year for me in my position - grew and grew. I expect I forgot stuff. I expect I won't be able to keep away from my email completely. I hope I'll manage some self-care... not just idleness and sleeping!

    3. So glad you got the appointment!
      I hope you can disconnect enough for real rest and self-care, this is important and you clearly need the time and respite. We're all cheering you on for a good solid break!

  6. Here's some good advice from my mom, and it has nothing to do with work:

    If you're in a social setting and feel shy or uncomfortable, imagine that someone nears you feels just as shy as you do and try to help them feel more at ease.

    Every time I've remembered to practice that, I think I've made a new friend. Of course, now that we have cell phones, we can just pretend that we're answering texts or something and ignore the world around us.

    Now I need to rocket through this check-in because it's already Wednesday and I teach in 9 minutes.

    Last week:
    1) Come up with a rough outline of chapter 1 in order to clarify my sense of what I ought to be doing right now. - No!
    2) Read dissertation prospectus. - No! I mean, I did it yesterday, but that wasn't last week.
    3) Do as much as I can with the three journal submissions I have to deal with - Maybe? I think I dealt with one of them? At least, one of them has dropped off my to-do list, so I guess I dealt with it. I don't even remember what it was.

    This week:
    1) Catch up on other two journal articles. Now getting urgent.
    2) Outline ch. 1
    3) OMG so many things.
    4) My kid is on spring break right now, which just makes it more complicated. Also, all of a sudden we have a social life, to which I'm entirely unaccustomed.
    5) Revise Kalamazoo paper to something like an acceptable conference length.
    6) My own article proofs.

    1. That is wonderfully kind advice! I am going to practice that, and try to convey it to my almost teenager too...
      Good luck on what looks like a really crazy week!

    2. That is very nice! No wonder you're such a good person to be around at conferences!

  7. Best advice on writing came from Notorious to a previous writing group - "Always park on a downhill slope"!

    1. Love this one, it really makes a difference when you can just step into the work the next day without wrangling anything!

    2. I think Hemingway said it first! Proof that good advice can come even from dysfunctional writers!