Challenge update: In which I fail

So this month’s February challenge, I said I was going to do two things:

  1. No devices in the morning.  (I added to this:  no social media in the morning, since getting up and going to my computer to check twitter isn’t great either)
  2. Write every morning

I did really well on the first.  And I think it helped.  I ended up spending less time on social media overall, which is good during my busy times.  I didn’t do as many phonecalls to politicians, but I think I still got the big stuff from activist emails and the short times I was on social media.

I crashed and burned on the second.  I did fine the first week, but then I didn’t have things to write because other things had to be done first before I could write and then I’d end up writing all day because the thing was due.  I’d have days filled with just teaching and service.  Early in February I had a melt-down in the hallway when my department head, after PROMISING there would be no more service this year given how much I’m already doing (and how little my next closest substitute is doing) asked me to do something again.  While I was in a faculty meeting last week I got 2 referee report requests and about 5 more things requiring attention.  I just don’t have the time or space right now to do regular writing in a fashion that makes sense.  I need space and time to set that up and that’s just not my life right now, even though it means I’m being more scattered and less productive flitting from thing to thing.  I sent out two referee reports, submitted an IRB, handled 3 editing jobs, was part of a grant, and submitted to two conferences… but none of that was in an orderly fashion and very little writing got done on any actual papers.  I have nothing under review right now which I HATE.

I’d like to try #2 again for March, but it’s March and all of my problems from February are still there.  I’m going to see what Spring Break brings.  Everything is still a mess.

I’m not sure what to do, but all that seems to have worked for me for February is to take things one day at a time based on next deadline.  I know that’s not efficient, but everything is so scattered that having a master plan just isn’t working because when any part changes everything else goes to heck.

18 Responses to “Challenge update: In which I fail”

  1. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  2. xykademiqz Says:

    I’m sorry there’s so much in your lap. I am occasionally in the same situation and, when I am, I feel I could scream. I now refuse far more requests to review than I accept, and I accept only those from a) journals I like and where I feel appreciated or b) written by people whose work I know well. Even so, it gets to be a lot, especially since I’m also an associate editor or a disciplinary journal.

    Many people don’t realize how soul-crushing institutional service can be. I had some labor-intensive university-level service for a few years and am still kind of traumatized because the interpersonal aspect of it just destroyed me. Now I lay low, as low as I can. Don’t volunteer for anything big anymore. I’d rather work with hundreds of undergrads than deal with some colleagues in the college. Seriously. I’d swap service for more teaching any day.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I get way too much from a) and b)! Sometimes the intersection (as with an NSF request I just got…)

      Processing two associate editor things today. I did the easy one at class break!

      My students are doing a project for the department and needed feedback from other constituents, something that literally takes <20 min meeting with the students– I was shocked that two people (who are not doing a ton of service) just said no without anything else.

      Ok, that was enough of a break… back to work. (sigh)

  3. CG Says:

    It sounds to me like you had quite a productive month! My problem with those “write every day” ideas is that for me the process is really lumpy. I might not have anything to write about for months while I collect and analyze data. Then I might write for a couple of weeks once I have my data. So if by “write” people mean “work on your paper in some fashion,” then okay, but that’s going to look different in any given week. You also have to plant the seeds for future research, which it sounds like you were doing this month. Submitting grant proposals (which I don’t do nearly enough of) and conference abstracts commits you to doing future work or enables you to do future work, so that work is important too.

    One of the things I’ve been trying to do post-tenure is to trust myself and my process more. It might not look like someone else’s (or it might) but it has gotten me this far and I’ve done okay. So I am trying to worry less about whether or not I am working hard enough or smart enough and to acknowledge the ways in which what I do works well. That is not to say that I do not or you should not seek to improve or fix aspects of your working behavior that you or I find counterproductive, but at least in my case to say that although the process can look kind of messy, definitely fragmented, and possibly lazy, it seems to come right in the end, so perhaps this is the kind of process that best suits me.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      I love this comment with all my heart.

      • CG Says:

        And @xykademiqz just read your post and sounds like we are having some of the same thoughts.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        It’s very nice that you guys think so highly of me! But… nothing is in the publication pipeline right now, nor have I been working on the things closest to getting in it.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      No… I did a lot of service. I didn’t actually do the grant proposals, I just sent my stuff to the PIs and they have all been rejected (one because one of the PI was put on another grant for the same call without her permission!). Conference abstracts were in place of actually doing the work on those same projects that needs to get done. I was busy but not productive.

      (Just sent out a detailed rejection letter… next up, reviewing the inputs my coauthor sent me on Friday that I should have looked at this weekend but was too busy dealing with associate editor and teaching stuff…)

      Writing every morning does tend to work when I’m doing it, BUT I’ve never really been sure throughout my life if it’s me being organized that leads me to productivity/academic success or me having enough time being an omitted variable that leads to both organization and success.

      What I do know is that I need to start saying no a heck of a lot more. But it’s really hard. People should stop asking!

      • xykademiqz Says:

        “What I do know is that I need to start saying no a heck of a lot more. But it’s really hard. People should stop asking!”

        I really wish people would stop asking. So often the act of asking is an imposition (or, worse, aggression) when the one asked feels they can’t say no.

      • CG Says:

        I guess my comment still applies in that case. If you know you need to have a more regimented schedule, then be unabashed about protecting that. I realize that is a lot easier said than done, of course.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t really know that I need a regimented schedule either. Too many moving parts to tell for sure. What I do need is less crap work and more time.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Is it the same people asking? If so, can you use that trick where you ask if they prefer you to do this over some other thing you’ve already agreed to, to make it clear that you can only do a certain number of things, though you are happy to do the ones they most want done?

        Meanwhile, I’m afraid that having enough time makes organization and success much easier/possible.

        No good solutions, but you do have my sympathy and support.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        That is why I am no longer in charge of the department seminar series (I used that when I got put on curriculum committee… and then we just didn’t have a department seminar series for a year, though someone else got credit for having organized it even though they invited nobody out). But a lot of this stuff is short intense work instead of regular work (tenure committees, job search committees), so I can’t say take me off X from the Fall when they want me to do Y in the Spring. And there’s nobody else to do some of the regular stuff I’m doing that I value (though some of this will go to other people next year or we just won’t have next year).

        I’m feeling a bit irritated…

        Thank you for your sympathy and support!

  4. Michael N Nitabach Says:

    Sounds to me like you are generally getting a shitteefucketonne of productive work done, so maybe go easy on yourself & accept the possibility that your natural most productive style isn’t to work on a rigid daily schedule like that?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m not though. I am behind on everything and have nothing under review.

      I am, however, getting an excrement tonne of service and teaching done.

      I am much happier on a rigid daily schedule, but I can’t do that when I’m scattered and working on too many things at once. I have not been able to do any “deep work”– it’s all trying to keep up with fires.

      • Michael N Nitabach Says:

        OK that makes sense. Sounds like maybe then yr already at capacity for productive work & if you don’t decrease service & teaching, research can’t increase regardless of how you try to schedule it? Even tho it’s not necessarily “deep work”, teaching & service are fucken exhausting. I mean I don’t know how those of you who do multiple classroom teaching hours every week even survive, TBH. I only teach a classroom a few lectures per year, and it feels like I need an entire day to recover after each!

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, that’s about right.

        Must be nice to have a low teaching load… (Though I know my R3/SLAC/humanities colleagues are going, what are you talking about you HAVE a low teaching load.)

        Ok… finished looking at that thing and sent comments to co-PI… then talked to a full professor who skipped the last faculty meeting and a student who is having trouble this semester. I wonder what I should be doing next… maybe chipping away at the literally 265 emails in my inbox.

      • Michael N Nitabach Says:

        EMAIL INBOX IDGAF! 😹😹😹

        I don’t have to do much classroom teaching, but I’m expected to support about 2/3 of my salary on grants.


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