the grid

the grid

Sunday 25 June 2023

Session 2, week 7

 Hello everyone, 

Happy Solstice for the week past - midsummer!  And it's...

time for HALF-WAY CHECK IN (😱) 

That always catches me by surprise in the summer iteration, because it's a shorter session and because the UK and US years tend to be most out of kilter at this time of year - we only finished the formal assessment meetings for 2022-23 this week at NorthernUniversity, but we don't start teaching again until late September.

For this week's topic, let's talk about how we manage our intellectual curiosity and the hydra-like nature of any worthwhile academic project - how do you keep your writing managable?  Capture new ideas so you don't lose them, but also ensure that some things get finished every year?  Does prioritising come naturally and completion feel like a great incentive, or do you work better with several projects to choose from on any given working day?  We can never do everything we want to, and that's especially true of TLQ tasks which have to fit into small pieces of time alongside other parts of our work and life - let's share some tips for how we do (or don't) make those peices of time efficient and productive.

So that means we have three things to write about this week, if you choose (no obligation to do all three!)
  • first, respond to the prompt
  • second, take the opportunity to revisit and update or remove your session goals if you want or need to (listed below)
  • third, report on how last week went. (goals are at the bottom of this post below the session goals

Session goals

  • Submit 2 papers based on conference talks from this week
  • Do analysis and write my part of joint local paper
  • Field work with 2 students
  • Garden project TBD
  • Vacation and regular fun with kid
Dame Eleanor Hull
  • Expand an article into a chapter
  • Cut down a chapter section into a conference paper
  • Make progress on another chapter OR preliminary work towards spring sabbatical project
  • Work with library colleague on new project*
  • Prep fall classes
  • Do some sewing/alteration projects
  • Get some house/garden tasks done
  • Unpack the boxes in the garage
  • House re-organization as necessary to accommodate box contents . . .
  • Sleep enough, exercise appropriately (consider joining a gym), enjoy the warm weather.
Heu mihi
  • Chapter 2 (draft by end of May/early June)
  • Chapter 4 (if not draft, plan and get ready for fall writing). Accept that actually drafting chapter 4, whose contents I haven't exactly figured out yet, may be an unreasonable expectation and result in the production of total garbage.
  • Plan fall course, which is entirely new
  • Proceedings essay--this should be easy, since I'm not planning to make many changes to the conference paper that it's growing out of
  • Promotion review--should also be relatively easy, since I've already read (and reviewed) the book of the person I'm evaluating
  • Make pages for silly handmade book project--more about this below
  • Intentionally take two weeks entirely off???? --We'll see.
  • Finish and submit Boredom chapter, now that editors have a publisher signed on
  • Prepare conference presentation about Squares
  • Draft and submit Squares proposal
  • Prepare conference presentation about Showcase
  • Write and submit Showcase essay
1) self-care: the usual. Building & maintaining good habits, improving my environment, my ongoing wrestling with the healthcare system for diagnoses.
  • 1a) getting back on top of my personal finances (I am embarrassed to admit that I know I pay into a savings thingie every month but I can't remember who with, never mind any of the details about the type of thingie. Which is of course why I have direct debits set up in the first place because I am scatty, but... cringe).
2) Researcher; things which need to happen
  • 2a) poor abandoned multi-author paper
  • 2b) paper with senior grad student
  • 2c) wish-we-never-started-project (ends this summer)
  • 2d) paper using consultancy work (led by the people we did the work for which is nice)
  • 2e) submit a grant application (for my KPIs - fortunately I'm a partner on several, so one might get submitted this summer)
  • and I also want to take some time to read and think about who I am as a researcher and who I want to be for the next decade or so.
3) Teaching:
  • 3a) summer teaching duties
  • i) supervising two PhD students
  • ii) preparing for an MSc by Research student who will start in the Autumn (in an area related to what I do, but I need to do some reading around!)
  • iii) supervising an unknown (small) number of taught MSc student projects on unknown topics (usually these are assigned in March - this year it will be "sometime soon" and there are a LOT of students and a three line whip about everyone taking some on. Sigh! Makes taking proper breaks extra difficult).
  • 3b) preparing for next year.
  • i) establish what I will actually be teaching
  • ii) putting together a "skills resource" for higher level students which makes it easier for them to find handouts etc. from their first year courses when they learnt specific skills or topics
  • iii) getting on top of what my 'new' administrative role ACTUALLY needs from me - I've been almost 100% reactive this year.
4) fun. I know fun is self-care, but it's also just FUN. So every week I want to do at least one thing I can point at and say that was FUN, working up to something every day on any day I have off. Some things that count as fun:
  • 4a) book and TAKE leave
  • 4b) crochet - finish "Lithrops blanket", make an anigurumi, start a new simple blanket project
  • 4c) read things (whilst social media etc. are very good escapism/mild disassociation, reading can do the same thing but in a quieter mode).
  • 4d) do things with words (fiction, poetry, journalling, blogging - non-work things with words always used to be my happy place, so maybe spending time there will bring that back...
  • 4e) dungeons and dragons (playing with Nibling and their friends, and I'd like to try out some different ways of playing with different people & maybe get involved in another long-running game but that depends a lot on how well I am doing mentally/socially - I might not have the energy - in which case I can replace that with reading about D&D and preparing extra materials which will make it quicker to play in term time (basically potter around in my elaborate fantasy city and world settings)).
Session goals: I have research leave this term, until the end of September, so this is space to breathe and see what can be salvaged from the wreckage. The challenge will be to be disciplined about how I use it.

  • 1. Grant application. The main aim is to get to archives, do background reading and be in a position to apply for funding that would enable the big project I want to do. So honing research questions, and thinking about project design.
  • 2. Writing. Not sure what form this will take, but want to keep some form going alongside the other stuff, because I will feel happy if I do. So adding bits to articles, crafting the grant application (though that's a harder form of writing).
  • 1. Ongoing PhD students: give them the time they are entitled to, which is not always the same as what they want/need. I have three currently
  • (a) Dream student - works hard, great project, has just gone part-time so deadline has been extended, absolute joy.
  • (b) Bright but needy student - works hard, ok project, tends to ask for more meetings that current amount of written work and stage really need, and my co-supervisor tends to say yes, grrr.
  • (c) Pain in the neck student - should be finishing in the next few months, is very slow with writing the actual thesis instead of trying for journal articles that are mostly mud-slinging at big names. Does have good project, but never listens to my feedback. Suspect he will become a problem and need to avoid having my time sucked away.
  • 2. New module for next year - am going to try to postpone this to the next session so it doesn't distract. Future me may curse present me, but I think this is one ball I may as well place gently on the ground.
  • I have some large projects (new kitchen, bathrooms) and lots of medium projects i.e. things that aren't huge in terms of money or time but still require me to find someone to do a job/buy some equipment/give up a weekend. There are far too many for one session so:
  • 1. Medium/largeish garden projects, since it's summer (or find new gardener - old one only mowed the lawn and I can get kid to do that for much less money)
  • 2. Sort finances
  • 3. One or two medium other projects e.g. framing pictures for my study.
  • 4. Start one big project (emphasis on 'start' and 'one').
Life/self care
  • 1. Holiday already booked in a couple of weeks! Next year Kid 1 has important exams, so travel will need to be reduced.
  • 2. Read good books
  • 3. Try to establish better sleep habits.
  • 4. Start HRT and see if it works
  • 5. Try to reduce the high cholesterol I have recently been told I have 😢 - so exercise, diet.
  • 6. Find dentist.
  • 7. Overall, try for more balance, being more present with the kids and less stressed. Emphasis on try.
  • 1. I am co-editor for a massive collaborative project. We've still got some first drafts to receive from the 31 commissioned; we have to write an introduction; and the whole thing needs to be submitted next March. So the goal for this session is to finish first drafts & draft introduction.
  • 2. Famous author: I have finished the draft of a very short book on a very famous author, and have comments on it. If the world smiles on me, I want to look at the comments and do revisions. In a perfect world I'd send it to publishers later this summer.
  • 3. Book prize. I am on the committee for a major book prize, and that requires reading about 20 books in the first round and then another 15 or so in the second round. First round readings need to be done by the end of June...
Goals: Admin
  • Be ready for the start of the fall semester.
Goals: life
  • 1. Be present with my mother as much as possible
  • 2. Do nice things for myself

Last week’s goals

Daisy (carried over from week 5)

1. Get fancy machine working with help of friendly physicists
2. TRY AGAIN Take one day for writing a couple of paper sections
3. Write outline for joint student paper
4. Write promotion review
5. Write association report
6. Get myself and students ready for field work….

Dame Eleanor Hull

1. process proofs for article coming out in July
2. expand Alms chapter
3. dead languages 3x each or as possible
4. finish reading book for tenure review
5. read at least 1000 lines of Relevant Romance
6. process at least 3 grad apps
7. at least 2 things from Huge Summer List

heu mihi

1. Finish reading for promotion review and draft letter
2. Read JO, start LMS, skim relevant parts of PL, start BM, read AW
3. Make 10 pages
4. Notes on MM; draft vignettes on JM and MM
5. Process journal article


1) Self-care: baselines, book the Decluttering Lady for sometime soon, make a Drs appointment
2) Researcher: Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Near-final action steps on very overdue paper. Two "small jobs"
3) Teaching: Feedback to all new MSc students on their project ideas. Make a summer list.
4) Fun. Play D&D or do some D&D planning. Read something. Start the next blanket. Draw something. Make a 
5) summer wish list for non- work days


1. Finish French book
2. More archive searches
3. Read two interlibrary loans
4. Read Difficult PhD chapter
5. Garden - find some chairs for the patio, maybe hire a gardener
6. House - 1-2 small to medium jobs
7. Niece's birthday present
8. Get back on exercise bandwagon.
9. Book trip to Liverpool to meet new other niece.


1. Second article review
2. Read 4 books
3. Spring schedule
4. Finish filling jobs
5. Contact attorney
6. Organize forms so I can figure out what needs doing
7. Keep having fun with friend who is visiting

Sunday 18 June 2023

Session 2, week 6

 Hello everyone.

This is not a very inspired post, as I got back this evening from a weekend in London in the kind of sticky heat which I don't do well in, having got to bed around 1 am, which is very late for me. I was at an Arctic Monkeys concert at the Emirates stadium. Not sure what the US equivalent would be, but think big football stadium, rock band on tour, screaming fans. It was my daughter's birthday present. It was actually kind of fun, and I did really like the music, but it was probably something I should have done in my twenties, not my forties.

So, in part inspired by the music theme, this week's prompt is rituals and routines. What do you do to get into writing mode? Do you listen to particular kinds of music, or is silence a necessity? Do you need a particular notebook to hand, or a clear desk? And what times of the day work for writing? Do you have preferred times? Do you need a whole day clear, or is an hour enough?

Last week's goals:


1) Self-care: baselines, sort through the Combined Pile, book the Decluttering Lady for sometime soon
2) Researcher: Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Final action steps on very overdue paper. Two "small jobs"
3) Teaching: responding quickly to requests (for late marking, mark checking, bureaucracy etc.). Feedback to all new MSc students on their project paperwork). Make a summer list.
4) Fun. Play D&D or do some D&D planning. Read something. If the yarn arrives, start the next blanket. Make a summer wish list for non- work days.



1. Finish the spreadsheet
2. Follow up on references from unexpectedly useful article
3. Research French archive catalogues
4. Read book on one of my French case studies.
5. Read Difficult PhD student's chapter ahead of meeting IF he sends it through.
6. Do some gardening
7. Ring someone about a couple of medium to large house & garden jobs.
8. Book overdue blood test (I don't want my high cholesterol confirmed).
9. Enjoy quality time with daughter while son away on school trip (= watching Queen Charlotte on Netflix)


Dame Eleanor

Have fun at conference!
File travel claim as soon as I get back.
Read book for book group #2.
Do another 1-2 things from Summer List.



Get fancy machine working with help of friendly physicists
TRY AGAIN Take one day for writing a couple of paper sections
Write outline for joint student paper
Write promotion review
Write association report
Get myself and students ready for field work….


heu mihi

1. Read more!
2. Get caught up on some journal stuff: proofs of one article, check in with co-editor about proofing the others and a questionable review
3. Read 3 articles for promotion review
4. Two yard tasks
5. Make summer list(s)
6. Make 10 pages--I would really like to make time for this!
7. Prepare for and enjoy my son's birthday, which is on Wednesday (party scheduled for Friday, weather permitting)



1. Do article reviews
2. Read 2 more books
3. Write a paragraph of Big Collaboration Intro
4. Confirm last bits of fall schedule
5. Budget for next year
7. Spring schedule
8. Contact attorney
9. Fill in many forms

Sunday 11 June 2023

Session 2, week 5

 First order of business - wishing a very happy birthday to both Daisy and Heu Mihi for yesterday.  I hope you both had a wonderful day!

Second order - building that writing toolkit.  So far we've talked about what part of writing is most fun, inspiring writing/writers on writing, how to keep/restart writing in tough times, and fantasy writing retreats.  I'm not feeling terribly inspired this week (my imagination is probably still on retreat somewhere, drowsing with the bees or gazing out to sea), so this week's prompt is more concrete - writing fuel!  What do you like to eat or drink whilst writing, or in breaks during a long writing day?  Do you have seasonal favourites (any summer recommendations?), or are you permanently loyal to one specific drink, "tea, Earl Grey, hot" or equivalent?

(xkcd of course)

Here are last week's goals:

1. Continue work with samples
2. Continue lab set-up and purchases
3. Teaching planning meetings for next year
4. Take one day for writing a couple of paper sections
5. Three reviews, only one of which is overdue
6. Do garden work four times
7. Exercise in the morning, do something every day
8. Plan field work, but do back-up plans of literally everything because everything changes every time I write something down…

Dame Eleanor Hull
1. Observe principle of 10-3 as "work hours"
2. Create PowerPoint for conference paper
3. Return to work on Alms chapter
4. Continue reading through tenure-review file
5. Aim for one creative, one house, and one garden task from Summer Lists
6. go through the proofs for an article coming out this fall!

Heu mihi
1. READ. For work and pleasure. The stack of books to be read is getting too big.
2. Read and take notes on two articles for promotion review.
3. Make 10 pages.
4. Comment on grad student's job materials.
5. Prepare for and enjoy my birthday, which is on Saturday.

1) Self-care: baselines, sort through the Combined Pile
2) Researcher: Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Any new action steps on returned paper. Two "small jobs"
3) Teaching: More marking (a few late pieces, bureaucracy - we're into the complaints and paperwork part of the process at least). Meet with all new MSc students again (they have a really poorly planned out, tight schedule this year). Summer list.
4) Fun. Play D&D or do some D&D planning. Read something. Do some thinking about the next large-and-simple blanket crochet project (& estimate how much the yarn will cost...). Plan out and book annual leave this summer.

1) Claim expenses
2) Upload photos and write up notes before I forget what everything is.
3) Read Bright but Anxious PhD student's chapter ahead of a meeting.
4) Finish a database/spreadsheet of rural charities for Burgos
5) Schedule coffee with a friend and colleague to talk about research.
6) Keep email catch-up brief

1. Finish 2 article reviews
2. Read 3 more books for book prize
3. Start writing introduction to Big Collaboration
1. Finish summer schedule/ contact people
2. Contact people for limited fall jobs
3. Draft budget for next year
4. Submit spring schedule
1. Pick up all stuff from Funeral Home (photo, ashes, death certificate) so I don't have to deal with them any more.*
2. Start filing for life insurance and other stuff
3. Contact attorneys for probate.
4. Have fun in the big city, enjoy the kids and the family.


Sunday 4 June 2023

Session 2, Week 4

Hello all! Sorry to miss last week, especially as it was a great prompt, Jane, but had a great time on holiday in Greece, Paros to be exact. First time on a Greek island, and it was as beautiful as all the classic photos that get used in adverts. It was a very slow-paced holiday, with a lot of time for reading and enjoying things at leisure. Italy at Easter was great, but we did pack in cultural sights and jump on and off trains, whereas this time, although we did check out the archaeological museum and monastery, and catch buses to different villages, we spent a lot more time on beaches and in cafes and restaurants. I don't think I realised how much we all needed this kind of a break. Anyway, I will stop boasting about travel for some time now, you will all be relieved to hear: we have a week planned in Scotland for late August, but no further trips abroad.

This week's prompt is a bit of fantasy escapism. Our little apartment had a roof terrace with a table and views of the sea, which would have been a perfect place to write if I hadn't been on holiday. I did do a lot of journaling there. It got me thinking that an ideal summer writing break would be to be somewhere like a Mediterranean island. Because it's a fantasy, the temperatures wouldn't get as brutally hot as they actually do in the Med in summer - or, at least, there would always be a cool breeze and temperatures would fall at night. And there would be no mosquitoes. I would have writing time in the mornings, while other people were asleep, then take a break for a swim, leisurely lunch, then maybe some reading or perhaps a bit more writing while it was too hot to go out, then maybe another swim and an evening spent strolling, going for drinks and dinner. In this fantasy, there would be friends to spend time with, but they wouldn't impinge on my writing time. So for this week, tell us about your fantasy summer writing location (or your real location, if you're lucky enough to have one that allows for an escape).

Last week's goals


1) Self-care: baselines, optician's appointment, make next Drs appointment, Pile On Chair and Pile In Hall
2) Researcher: Wish-we-never-started project - at least 5 hours of work. Meet about and do my action steps on returned paper. two "small jobs"
3) Teaching: Keep up with marking process (mostly administration and a few very late pieces may come in this week - mostly that will be next week). Meet with all new MSc students for an hour to get their planning started. Summer list.
4) Fun. Might play D&D - if not, do some D&D planning. Read something. Do some thinking about the next large-and-simple blanket crochet project. Start mini project (I'm trying a sun hat pattern next).
fun. hopefully play D&D this coming weekend (this one was a no-go because of the dread exam season for most of the players), and work on the 'Lithrops' blanke


Redo ALL existing summer plans to fit in new opportunities
Submit ALL expenses for both trips this month
Renew two sets of software licences
Order last bits of kit for lab
Work on samples! NEW samples!!! Yay!! (aka do actual science with actual samples)
Sit down with wine and write down everything I said in conference talks for paper outlines

Dame Eleanor

 Keep 10-3 as "work hours" and do exercise, house stuff, errands at other times
- Finish editing conference paper
- Start reading through tenure-review file
- Process grad applications
- Aim for one creative, one house, and one garden task from Summer Lists


The real agenda is to slide back into a semi-normal life, though part of that will be dealing with more of the administrative part of the estate.
Research - scholarship
1. Read 1 draft essay and one revised essay for Big Collaboration
2. Read 2 articles I agreed to review even though I should have said no.
3. Start reading for book prize
4. Read book (that I want to read) for review that was due in February or March

Admin for work:
5. Work out schedule for summer program for new grad students (due last Friday)
6. Draft budget for next year
7. Get people to work on seminar series for next year
8. Get last people for small task forces
9. Schedule for next spring

10: Mail books to Paris
11. Ship pictures to Paris
12. Clear up last bits of clutter
13. Do something nice for myself/ with a friend

Heu mihi

1. Finish working draft of ch. 2 (there will be much left to do later, but time to move on, I think)
2. Start working up a list of possible texts for ch. 4
3. Make 10 pages
4. Finish reading a couple of things that are sitting around (KM, FT)
5. Maybe take a forest day???

Julie (carried over)

1. Maximise time in different set of archives Monday and Tuesday (I'm now in Burgos, and thinking of Susan especially, as it's full of people doing the Camino).
2. Claim expenses for trip.
3. Upload photos and write up notes before I forget what everything is.
4. Get ready for holiday next week.