What motivates me after tenure

I was just at a conference where I get to hang out with lots of my friends.  Some of us got to talking.  They’re generally at better schools than I am and have longer and better CVs than I do.  But I’ve got tenure and they don’t have it yet.  And we were talking about trying to get stuff published and trying to find time for work… and they asked me why I care where I publish or about how much work I do because I’ve got tenure.  My school doesn’t expect as much as theirs does.  (And I have a higher teaching load and more service and a smaller salary…)

But I was never really motivated by the tenure expectations in my department.  I placed lower on the job market than most folks in my cohort, and I’ve always thought that if I did what I want and then didn’t get tenure then I’d finally be able to move to Northern California and at least live someplace nice.  I’ve always figured that if I stopped liking it, I could just leave.  If I’d gotten an offer at one of these better schools maybe I would have been more nervous, I don’t know.  (And, since getting here, the school has made a lot of really good hires, including mid-level hires with amazing CVs, and I am no longer under-placed.  I’m placed!)

What motivates me:

1.  I want to do good work.  I answer interesting (to me) questions.  I tell good (theoretical) stories with (empirical) evidence.  My work is important and it’s fascinating.

2.  People are doing things wrong and I want the profession to do things right!  Efficiently!

3.  It is a crime that nobody is answering these important questions.

4.  I kinda do like the fame and fortune aspect.  Gotta admit it.  And they give me just enough of a taste of it to make me crave more.  More.

5.  I like to watch things grow.  I want my department to do well, my school to do well, my little corner of academic research to do well.

6.  Ambition.

7.  And maybe just a bit the fact that I may need to be mobile some day, for example, if DH’s job situation changes.  And I kind of like being able to occasionally get grants to pay for RA work and summer salary.  And if they ever cross a line, I can walk and I’ll be in demand somewhere.

I used to be more motivated by being under-placed.  Sort of an, “I’ll show them!”  But I’ve kind of shown them, and, like I said, I’m no longer underplaced.  So #4 has replaced that entirely.  I probably worked a little harder when I was rage-researching, but it’s much more fulfilling to be love-researching instead.

#2 and #3 above bring me more self-confidence.  They help me talk up my work in ways that #1 doesn’t.  More of that contrarian aspect to my personality showing through.  #4 and #6 sometimes give me less self-confidence.

 

The answers of #2 revolve around research.  And then quitting.

What motivates you to work hard?

Should you submit to the top journals?

Let’s assume you have a paper that you think is eventually going to land at a top field journal.  Should you aim higher (a general journal) first and then let it filter down the impact ladder, or should you just submit places you think it’s going to end up?  Should you start with a submission to a GLAM journal?

Viewpoints:

1.  No.  Only submit your best stuff that you think belongs there.  You only have a few shots at getting into a GLAM journal and you don’t want to use them up with crap.

2.  Yes.  Have you read the GLAM journals?  Yes, there’s super amazing wonderful stuff in there.  But there’s also a lot of crap that isn’t as good as your field journal stuff.  It’s a random numbers game with each of your papers having some underlying probability of acceptance.  If you never play, then you’re never going to win.

3.  Yes.  Submitting to top journals is a learning process.  You get feedback from the editor and/or reviewers on how to improve your paper so it will actually be able to land where it belongs.  This is especially important if you don’t have a lot of local people to give you feedback.

4.  No.  You may end up getting the same reviewer who already rejected you for a lower tier journal and they’ll be biased from having rejected you before.  Or they’ll just submit the same rejection as before even if you’ve changed the paper.  (On the other hand, if they do reread the paper, psychology suggests they’ll like it better the second time.)

5.  Yes.  The answer is always yes.

6.  No.  Why do you care?  You have tenure.  Just submit it the place where it’s going to get in right away and get it published so you can move on to the next thing.

7.  Yes.  You have tenure.  That means you can afford to follow long shots.

8.  No.  The patriarchy and the unfairness of it all means that your paper needs to be much better than the connected white guys’ papers are before it gets published in a glam journal.  Don’t waste your time.

9.  Yes.  If you never submit, you will never get published there.

10.  Yes.  If you submit good stuff, then the editor and referees may remember that you’re working on good stuff, even if it’s not of general interest and they will be more likely to remember to send opportunities your way and to cite your work in their own work.

Academic readers:  What do you do?  Do you submit one tier up from where you think you’ll place or do you start right at that tier?  What *should* you do?  Do you follow the same advice you give others?  Non-academic readers:  Should you generally aim high or go with the safer choice?

 

You'd BETTER be pleased to inform me

Getting some kind of exercise routine

In cooler climes, summer is the best for exercise and getting into shape.  Being outdoors and doing stuff naturally causes activity.  It’s fun and effortless.

Living in the South, summer is the worst.  Three months of slinking from air conditioned car to air conditioned building and back again.  It’s awful awful awful.

In the summer I’m a living example of how one can be a good weight but woefully out of shape.  I may be reasonably thin, but there’s no way I’m healthy.

I know some things about myself.  I’m basically lazy (this is one of the reasons I stuck with math so long– mathematicians are basically lazy).  I have next to no willpower.  I overheat easily.  I get rashes when I sweat.  I’m also allergic to most of the plants outside, including grass (I was tested!).  I find most exercise interminably boring.  If I sign up for a class I’m going to understand sunk costs and just not go because the discounted value of my time at the point of going to the class is always going to tell me that I should skip, even if it’s better for me in the long run.  (And it’s not one of those things like work where I might avoid starting but then I enjoy it once I’m actually there.  I hate exercise classes with a lazily violent passion.)  Also, team sports give me bad flashbacks in addition to not being fun and taking time away from my family.

I like swimming.  I like leisurely walks with the family.  If we lived some place with altitude, I would enjoy hiking (I would be super healthy if we lived in Northern California).  Biking isn’t bad but it isn’t particularly safe where we live (and I, um, don’t own a bike).  I like walking to get to places, but we live in a suburban wasteland and I have no desire to attend Catholic church and I switched dentists.  I dislike having to shave if I can help it (and some of my professional colleagues live in my neighborhood so I can’t just go around unshaven without getting a reputation at work).  We do have a pool in the home owners association and a nice park with playground equipment and a little forest with a stream and nice walking paths, both within walking distance unless it’s really hot outside and then by the time I get there I’ve wilted.

And we’ve got some constraints.  The temperature is ok for walking outside before 9am and after 7:30pm.  (#1 is lucky.  #2 is in a place where it doesn’t cool down much at night and the hottest part of the day is 6pm for some reason.  #1 is not lucky– it’s actually hotter where she is, but she’s gotten more used to it.  Checking the weather *right now* it is exactly the same temperature both places.)  The kids have to be out the door pretty early in the morning (with me doing half the chauffeuring, which ends at 9:20 when I roll into my office parking lot) and me getting up earlier to exercise is not going to happen, not if I want to have any semblance of a brain for work throughout the day.

If I’m going to start exercising more regularly, I need to do two things:  1.  I need to make it easy to exercise by removing all impediments to exercise and 2.  I need to make it a routine.  The best way is to get other people in the house to nudge me, but I can’t just rely on them because past experience has shown that it’s all too easy to say, “oh no, you guys go without me,” or “oh, no you go ahead and play that video game, we can do this some other time.”

I owned two swimming suits.  One I got in college.  The other one I got right after my 7 year old was born.  I figured I could buy a new swimsuit or two at this point.  Because I hate shaving, I got a rash guard top, which is pretty cool.  Then I hit Land’s End’s 40% off swimsuit sale and got a skirt to go with the top and another suit that’s a dress.  I’m liking these old-fashioned suits and the rash guards that are in style.  I’m not sure anybody actually wants to show as much nether-region area as standard swim-suits show, especially those of us who don’t wax.  (#2 reminds about radical self-love.  #1 points out that radical self love has nothing to do with indecency.  She can love showing her partner part of her body but not want to show that to her neighbors and colleagues.)

Also as I’ve been forcing these nightly walks, I’ve noticed that my two pairs of sandals are pretty worn down and not so comfortable for exercise.  Putting on my hiking boots this time of year is out of the question.  So I bought some Chacos.  I’m bad at deciding, so I’m like, I want them in black, what is their most popular black sandal in my size and got that.  Hopefully 7W fits… I’m much better with the European sizes and shoes than with the US sizes, but I’m somewhere in the 7-8 range.  Update:  I bought the wrong shoes– wasn’t careful about making sure I got a woman’s size 7…. I’m definitely not size 9W!  Luckily Zappos really does have a super easy return policy.  I’m going to try to hit a shoe store the next time I’m in a city.  If I don’t make it I’ll try Zappos again.

So, impediments have been removed.  The routine thing is still a work in practice.  When it rains, the routine disappears as if it never happened and even if it’s nice the next day we completely forget to go out.  About a week later we’ll get started up again on the walks.  Fortunately DC2 loves the pool and reminds us to go in the morning on weekends even if we forget.  And ze makes us stay longer than we would otherwise.

Anyway, wish me luck.  My goal is to be less winded when I do the least amount of physical activity.

UPDATE:  I’m really not looking for, “You’re doing it wrong” and “You’re not doing enough” advice right now.  Really, I’m not.  Because if I hear that enough I’m just going to stay sitting in the a/c in a chair, hitting reload on the internet because seriously, why bother at all?  Please feel free to share what *you* do, but don’t tell me what to do.  (If you do need to tell someone what to do about something, check out the previous post and give me your thoughts on window treatments.)

UPDATE 2:  No, seriously, I DO NOT WANT ADVICE.  Share your experience, but don’t give me advice on this topic.  (Again, I do want advice on window treatments in the previous post.)

If you do regular exercise, how do you keep yourself doing it?  What about those of you who hate most exercise?  Do you do it anyway?  How?

I trust my body

The great irony is that I learned to trust my body at the point at which it was most broken.

Let’s step back a bit.

I started getting a little chubby around the time when my period started in middle school.  In high school I lost a lot of weight because my religion forbids me from eating poorly prepared food and our cafeteria food was worse than prison-grade, so I ended up doing this kind of feast and famine thing where I’d starve during the week and fill up on the weekends.  This was especially bad between when they stopped providing Total cereal in the cafeteria during junior year and before I was able to ask my parents if I could have a food allowance senior year (money was always really tight at home and I didn’t want to be a burden, plus the dorms only had microwaves and fridges for food preparation).

When I got to college I grew two inches.  People complained about the college cafeteria, but the lettuce was never brown or even yellow.  There was fish!  Nothing sat in tubs of melted grease.  Cold-cuts!  Cheese!  Whole wheat bread!  The milk was never sour.  They served juice made from actual fruit!  No, not as good as home cooking, but the salad bar alone was like heaven after years of starving.

In college I was surrounded by beautiful skinny women who were always complaining about how fat they were.  Everyone dieted.  I resisted, but somehow they got to me (I didn’t even *notice* they’d gotten to me until my first year of graduate school when someone asked why I talked about my weight so much… oh, man, I’d been indoctrinated).  I counted calories.  I ate a lot of sugary things that had no fat because the no-fat diet was in.  I was always hungry.   I don’t remember ever consciously thinking about doing this– if asked, I would have told you I was against diets and poor body images (and happy with my breast size!), and yet, I was doing what everybody else did.  And I continually gained weight.  I was my heaviest weight ever by the end of college (I can *totally* fit into my college clothing, though I don’t because styles change).

Scratch that, I was actually my heaviest weight my first year of graduate school.  BCP and depression and not having to walk very much caused me to gain all the weight I’d lost the summer between college and grad school and some more.  (I’ve seriously blocked this time from my memory.)  After getting the depression under control and moving where I had to walk more to get to school, I dropped some, but was still was heavier than the healthy weight for my height, and not because I had too much muscle.

Then we decided we were ready to have children.  I went off BCP.  I cycled once.  Then twice.  Then not again.  So I went to the doctor who sent me to another doctor.  And then another doctor because my insurance changed, and then another.  The second doctor suggested PCOS (and POF and thyroid).  The third doctor confirmed PCOS.

For a year and a half my body was broken.  Every three months I’d take a provera challenge to get my cycle started again.  I was poked and prodded and found out I had a blocked tube on top of not cycling.

During this time I found out a lot about PCOS.  I found out I’d been doing the diet thing all wrong for me.  No fat was ridiculous for my body and was the reason I kept gaining weight while always being hungry.  I cut out HFCS.  Then sugar.  Then refined carbs.  I upped my fruit, nuts, and full-fat ice cream intake.  I began snacking.  I stopped being hungry all the time.  Sweet things began to taste more sweet and I started being able to appreciate dark chocolate for the first time.  Weight started falling off effortlessly at a pound or two a week.  I stopped having mood swings.  My acanthosis nigricans went away.  I stopped being sad for no reason (other than the infertility-related reasons).  My rational mind had much better control.  Eventually I added Metformin to get the insulin under control and weight slipped off even faster.

The major thing that happened (before the Metformin) was I started listening to my body.  I started listening to my hunger.  I started noticing what foods made me feel crappy later, and what foods filled me up.  I ignored calorie counts (mostly– it’s still kind of ingrained, but now it’s more, is this an 80 calorie hunger=apple or a full 200 calorie=small meal/larabar hunger?), instead listening to my stomach and to my moods.  I learned to recognize when my  blood sugar was dipping and always had something on hand before it could get out of hand.

And listening to my body is so much easier and less stressful than adding up points or calories or trying to be the mental command-economy for my body’s caloric intake and outtake.  I don’t need a calculator, just some mindfulness.

Now, that’s not quite everything.  I still have a very addictive personality and very little willpower.  But I’m also very good at putting in commitment devices in pretty much all areas of my life.  If I’m aware of my triggers, I can keep out of their way.  For example, if there are chips in the house, I will eat them, even though I know I’ll feel cruddy later.  Same with chocolate frosted donuts.  So I don’t keep these things in the house.  I don’t buy them.  DH isn’t allowed to buy them, and if DC1 buys them they belong to hir and I can’t have any.

That’s not to say I never eat junk… but when I get a boxed lunch at work, I give back the chips right away, unless they’re cheetos (I allow myself cheetos of opportunity).  I have rules.  I only eat sweets if they pass a certain quality threshhold (chocolate chip cookies from the good bakery, yes!  from the grocery store, no!), same with pizza (local place, yes!  Domino’s, no!), and with donuts, if there’s a chocolate frosted, I’ll take it, but no other kind.  (When I was pregnant I avoided even the above because of borderline GD with the first and that nasty wheat allergy with the second– I have a lot of willpower when it’s someone else’s life on the line).  When DH bakes something, I’ll usually eat some (and he often cuts the sugar and substitutes wheat flour if applicable).  I keep a bar of Green and Black 70-85% dark in my desk drawer at all times and take a square whenever I have a craving.  I don’t deprive myself, but the junk food has to be really good for it to be worth it, and if it is good enough, then I generally don’t need that much to be satisfied.

We also do psychological things like use salad plates for meals instead of the big plates.  We take multiple little servings so we can better judge when we’re no longer hungry.  Sometimes we freeze a batch of cookies to dole them out in smaller amounts later.  Back before DC1 was so big, we’d take half of a cake we’d just made to daycare so we wouldn’t eat it ourselves.  These things help us to pause so we can listen to hunger and desire.

And no, doing these kinds of things alone probably won’t put most people at the bottom of their healthy range.  (And some of my eating needs are specific to PCOS and my body. YMMV, which is why it’s important for you to listen to you.)  Depending on how much junk I’ve been adding (because with nobody’s life at stake, and DC2 not eating whole wheat, refined carbs have snuck in), how much exercise I’ve been getting, and whether or not I’m hard-core nursing, I can be anywhere within that range, usually between the middle and the top unless I’m on metformin or the baby is getting most of hir calories from me.

But I don’t need to be super thin.

I just need to listen to my body and take care of it so that it will take care of me.

And that fits in with the greater grumpy rumblings philosophy… mindful laziness with a side order of commitment device can do great things, with health, child-rearing, even career concerns.  Figure out what works for your specific situation, set up an environment where it’s easier to achieve those goals, and change things when they’re not working.  Complete flexibility within a rigid setting.  Mindfulness creating a low mental load.  Grumpy rumblings is vast: contains multitudes.

#2 would like to remind everyone that, whether or not you would like to make food and exercise changes, a great thing to have is radical self-love.

Taming the Work Week: A review

Taming the Work Week is a short e-book by M. R. Nelson, aka Wandering Scientist aka Cloud.  In it, she makes the argument that everyone has a work limit, and that working beyond that work limit not only leads to diminishing marginal return (she doesn’t use that language), it can also lead to costly mistakes that actually create more work.

She notes that although research is clear that for early 20th century factory workers, 40 hours/week is the limit, we have no idea what the work limit is for knowledge workers.  And we really don’t.  It probably depends on a lot of factors (task mix, personal ability, etc.).  However, she provides steps for individuals to figure out whether they are working efficiently, and if not, how to work more efficiently.

It’s a short book with a lot of good tips.

Some may work better for some people than for others. For example, if you get more of your socialization at work than at home or after work, you may need that daily down-time with your colleagues interspersed with work, rather than waiting until you get home.  You won’t be as efficient or productive per-hour at work, but you’re also filling that socialization need on a regular basis.  On the other hand, if your home and social life provide a lot of social interaction already, cutting down on interruptions could greatly increase your productivity, allowing you to get out of work earlier without guilt.

Similarly, just going home when you’re not being productive doesn’t work for me because suddenly I become less productive earlier and earlier in the day as the days go on because I’m rewarding bad behavior and I have no self-control.  Instead, I need to task-switch from doing thinky research work to doing unrelated scut work like teaching prep or service.  That way I’m still being productive on stuff that has to get done eventually and I’m not training myself to leave before it’s time to pick up the kids (which is my hard deadline at the end of the day).

Nelson acknowledges these different kinds of different work styles.  Probably my favorite part of the book is where she provides some of the standard “how to be efficient” advice and points out when it doesn’t work for her and why. (Just going home doesn’t work for her either, but for different reasons.)  This added discussion of “why” really illustrates how you can think critically about the advice that’s out there to craft your own methods to improve your efficiency.

The biggest downside to this e-book is that the writing is uneven– it starts out stilted (carefully avoiding using contractions, for example), then shifts to a more conversational tone that is much easier to read.  Keep reading past the opening section or two– it’s worth it.

Your Ideal Work Day

A few years ago, get a life phd asked readers to think about what their ideal day would look like.

My ideal work day definitely does NOT include teaching or ANY emails from students.  It does, however, include research and friends.

I was at this conference when I realized I was having my ideal work day.  No students.  No student emails.  I talked to colleagues about research:  theirs, mine.  I got inspired to learn about a new statistical technique.

I saw good friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.  I ate good food.  I had time for a nap in the middle.

I met a new research collaborator and we talked about what research we do and could share.
I could choose what was most interesting to go hear talks about.  Setting my own schedule is awesome.
That is an ideal work day.

#2

I think mine would start off with me checking my email to find a desk accept.  :)  Or an R&R from a top 2 journal.  Follow it up with a request to do something relatively trivial using my expertise for a large sum of money (like reading a proposal or giving a discussion).

These ideal day exercises aren’t so useful to me because my fantasy scenarios mainly depend on things that are outside of my control (last week was not an ideal week– the summer started with two conference rejections and a journal rejection, also our unscoopable paper that coauthor sat on for two years got scooped), and because I’m pretty happy with my life as it is and trying to optimize instead of satisfice just makes me grumpy.  It may not be a perfect life, but spending time and mental energy trying to make it better tends to make it worse and take time and energy away from things that actually help my life improve.  I remember the morning that I first heard about the willpower research on only being able to make a limited number of decisions each day, I was completely useless because I’d second guess making any decision instead of just making it, thus adding to my mental load.

Now, if I were miserable or unhappy, then the amount of time thinking about what makes me happy would be totally worth it.  A little bit of introspection might be able to make big short-term changes.  Fortunately for me, that’s not where I am right now (rejections aside).  We will see what the future brings.

What’s your ideal work day?

How do you get through piles of grading?

The reward method:  Grade an essay or grade a problem and then you get to read a book chapter (or a section of a book chapter).  Sure it sounds like it’ll take longer, but it takes a lot less time than procrastinating by hitting reload on the internet for hours and not actually grading anything.  Works best with short sections (romance novels!)

It helps to be on a couch away from people and away from the computer too.  Distractions are difficult to resist when grading, so they need to be minimized.  Having a big pile (on your lap, or on both sides of you) that’s difficult to escape from also helps, but you have to remember to use the restroom between problems or else you could end up in a bad situation.

My best tip is to grade in colored marker.  Any and all colors that you love.  The benefits are two-fold: 1) it makes grading more fun when you get to play with pretty markers; and 2) it prevents you from writing too many comments, so the grading goes faster.  Students who want details can always come see me in office hours, but they rarely do.  The thickness of a marker means you have to write your comments pretty big to be legible, and not a lot of words fit in the margin.  As it should be.  If you really MUST say a lot of things (why??), then you can always use the marker to write “Come see me.”  Switch colors whenever you get bored.

#1 prefers Pilot G2 gel pens (sensuous) or colored pencils (erasable!).  But we’ve had this conversation before.

Those of you who are or aren’t procrastinating, how do you get through your piles of grading?

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