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Writing Group Week Three

23 September, 2011

Hello, all, and welcome to this week’s post. I’ll be building on last week’s post, because it’s very relevant to me at the moment. And some of the responses have also been weighing on me, because I always freak out a little when people read something in a way that is so different to how I’ve read it. In this case, it seems to me that the two things may be connected. Here’s why:

I’m not as young as I used to be. I’m not old, and some of the group are older than I am. But it’s only in the past year that I’ve started to actually realize that my body is aging, and not as forgiving as it once was. I don’t feel older. But my body does. It aches sometimes. I feel creaky and there are fewer positions I can sit in for hours and hours without my back hurting a little. My digestive system seems more sensitive. I can’t drink as much as I used to be able to — and especially not if I want to avoid a hangover. It’s harder to get back into an exercise routine than it used to be, even three or four years ago. The number of “health management” prescriptions I have has doubled in the past few years. Nothing serious, but stuff for muscle spasms, asthma, backaches, migraines… I get sick more easily than I used to. I can’t wear the sort of high heels I used to wear all the time. I have to wear progressive lenses or reading glasses ALL THE TIME, for Pete’s sake!

Add those things together, and then the somewhat insane sort of schedule that many of us have, plus the fact that my body has been rebelling against my life in a fairly serious way since the end of July, and you get a very different reading of “pace yourself.” Where some people got sort of Bolshie and focused on the part where they thought they were being told to work according to a certain pattern, I only saw the metaphor of the race, and the physical connection to what it is we are doing. Because for me, pacing myself isn’t just about making sure I get things done on time, or organize my schedule in a way that I don’t have to play catch-up. It’s that if I don’t pace myself, there seem to be very real and very bad physical consequences. And those physical consequences can snowball and then create a vicious cycle of bad, overused metaphors being too ill to work, getting too stressed because I’m not accomplishing anything, and then doing really unhealthy things to my body in order to try to catch up.

The thing is, pacing yourself is a skill. It’s about knowing how your body works, what it does well, and what kind of race it’s running. There’s a reason that some people tend to be sprinters and some people tend to be distance runners (or swimmers, or whatever). There’s obviously some overlap, and people have different ways of training, even when it’s for the same event. But knowing your body and knowing how to set the right pace is pretty crucial. As undergraduates, we tend to be sprinters. We tend to focus for short periods on shorter projects, and our attention is seldom that divided. As postgraduates, coursework is much the same, and even exams have more in common with an important short race than a marathon. One of the things many people seem to have trouble with on the thesis is that we aren’t used to looking at a project that massive and breaking it down to manageable size. And most of us, even if we are teaching while writing, are still pretty much in that sprinter mode, sprinting to deal with prep, sprinting to deal with a deadline, sprinting to get grades in…

But life as an employed academic is really a marathon. Or perhaps a series of marathons, and some of us schedule them too close together. We might need short bursts of speed, but the people who are most successful in terms of keeping a full agenda with a lot of publication turnover AND being a good teacher AND keeping up with service AND being able to give something to a partner AND eating properly AND exercising AND seeing friends and family AND any number of any other things are the ones who have learnt to keep up a steady pace that is not frenetic — or at least not all the time. We all know people who publish a lot, even though they are not necessarily the most brilliant thinkers around (and we know some brilliant ones who publish a lot, too, I expect). The ones I know can turn out the burst of speed when they need it (and many do!), but they aren’t exhausted by it, because they still manage that steady pace most of the time. The burst of speed isn’t at the expense of everything else. One of the spinning plates (yes, this is a metaphor shift: deal with it) might wobble, but it’s probably not going to fall. And if it does fall, it doesn’t break completely, nor does it take all the other plates with it.

When I was younger, and my body could take the massive sprints, one after the other, and recover. I can’t do that anymore. This year, the plates have been falling, and before I can get them spinning again, I have to figure out which pieces get glued where. My gut reaction is that I have to speed up, I need to sprint. But I don’t. I need to find the pace at which my life works when running a marathon, because that is what academia is. I need to find the pace that will let me have the occasional sprint without landing me in the hospital. And that’s not a metaphor.*

Goals for Week 4

  • ABDMama: [Complete an article draft]; Search to see what has been written on the topic since I last wrote. Begin to go through that material. Continue to write 300 words of notes a day on this material
  • Adelaide: [write a conference paper]; skim and take notes on source, and organize notes and thoughts on the primary source
  • Amcalm25: [finish an article]; gather a couple of major resources on the historical period and determine if my ideas are “new” enough to go that route with the paper. Write 20 minutes a day for at least five days.
  • Amstr: [revise and resubmit an article]; 1) make (and limit) reading list; (2) order items on reading list from ILL; 3) read 5 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft
  • Another Damned Medievalist: Finish up with last week’s goals (‘chunking’ the paper and putting it into scrivener, starting to read the review book, and especially the ILL requests)
  • Antikate: [revise a conference paper into an article & submit]; spend at least fifteen minutes a day writing, starting with lit review
  • Belledamesansmerci: [transform a conference paper into a journal article]; insert article into lit review; finish ridding the piece of “I’. I am setting aside 1/2 hour a day on the paper
  • Bitterandjaded (Bittergrrl?): [finishing a dissertation chapter]; 1) re-read major texts for chapter and flesh out that part of the introduction; 2) re-read primary text and expand the outline for that work; 3) add another 1500 words to chapter
  • Britomart: [completing a draft of dissertation introduction]; re-read two dissertation chapters and start writing the chapter summary section of intro; Write at least 200 words per day for 5 days
  • Cly: [write a book chapter]; 300 words per day
  • Contingent Cassandra: [complete a full draft of a journal article]; get into a working rhythm
  • Dame Eleanor Hull: [complete a chapter of the article-turned-book]; [Dame Eleanor, I missed what your goal for this week was? –NPhD]
  • Digger:[write two book chapters]; 1) work on chapters 5/7 days; 2) Start writing background of Why Wheels chapter, starting with the background.
  • Dr. Crazy: [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]; 1) Reread everything so far and do light revision/editing notes; 2) Write 3 pages plus the opening “body body” section paragraphs; 3) begin rereading Giddens’ The Transformation of Intimacy; 4) figure out the missing theory piece for the chapter.
  • Dr. Virago: [draft a 7500-word essay for a contracted publication]; 750 words plus a “getting started” goal: Apply Butt To Chair, first thing.
  • Erika: [write a complete & final draft of an article already underway]; 30 minutes a day,, compiling all the Thoughts & Jots.
  • Evan: [write a conference paper]; write conference paper outline, reword abstract into workable intro
  • Firstmute: [Revise and submit a journal article]; collect some more data and draft a new ten page or so section (incorporating some already-written material)
  • Forthright: [write two article-length pieces]; a) write two good, solid, usable paragraphs per day, each day this week; b) pull out and revise old structure for at least one these two articles; c) keep reading
  • Frogprincess: [Final draft of the dissertation]; begin revisions of the other problematic chapter (chapter 1); start working on the mini-section my advisor wants added to the introduction; read this major work that my advisor wants incorporated into the introduction
  • Gillian: [3 chapters of my dissertation]; work on chapter section (Gillian, once you’re back from the high holidays, can you add a few specifics to your goals – word count, page count, minutes worked, section x completed…? –NPhD)
  • Good Enough Woman: [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter]; read 50 pages of a primary source, the first two chapters of Descartes’s First Meditations, and one article, taking a few notes on each.
  • Heu Mihi: [write paper for a faculty colloquium]; 1) Go back to relevant MS page, transcript, and associated secondary source; 2) Take notes on these and draft (or freewrite) some ideas about what to do with them
  • Inafuturelife: [transform seminar paper into a conference paper]; reread secondary sources and order new articles
  • Jamilajamison: [finish writing the M.A. thesis]; finalize 1 out of the 4 sections for this chapter
  • Janice: [write a first draft of a chapter]; complete the outline, read one resource, make notes on one half of the major source and write 500 words.
  • Jennifer: [finish writing a neglected article]; 1) add all of the literature in office to endnote; 2) Reread and scan what I need to take abroad; 3) Sort scrivener file and move into manageable chucks for writing/editing
  • Kris: [write up a “full” paper and cut it down to a 15-minute conference presentation]; 1300 new words by the end of the week; develop a plan of the rest of the paper
  • Lucie: [Complete a full draft of my PhD thesis]; re-read two other primary texts, and write 400-500 words every day, and commit to spending the first hour of every day working exclusively on this goal
  • Luo Lin: [finish and submit an article]; Incorporate the sources into the article, plus track down missing Interlibrary Loan article
  • Marie: [finish turning paper into journal article]; Re-re-read original paper. Try to decipher notes from last week
  • Matilda: [revise a paper into a journal article]; work with week 3 section of WYJA to construct argument; try for at least 15 minutes for writing every day
  • Merryweather: [write conference paper]; Map out a schedule.
  • Mike: [write ch. 2 of dissertation]; Finish a detailed outline of the chapter so I can start putting words to screen the following week.
  • Monks and Bones: [turn a seminar paper into an article]; 1) Identify and look over subset of sources that are actually relevant for this article; 2) Articulate in writing a set of concrete steps to take for dealing with data; 3) Reread 2-3 English-language articles that I remember as making persuasive arguments with attention to structure rather than content. Take notes on this
  • Notorious Ph.D.: [write a conference paper]; get that outline done, and write at least 300 words a day of notes on secondary source material
  • Nvrwhere42: [finish a dissertation chapter]; finish historical section, and get to the case study/chapter argument.
  • NWGirl: [Revise one dissertation chapter into a book chapter]; finish dividing this chapter into two rough chapters. Move the material for the one chapter into Scrivener. And write a rough outline for that chapter
  • Opsimathphd: [turning a dissertation chapter into an article]; Investigate journals; notes on read articles; read at least 3 more; write a minimum of 15 minutes a day; work on basic argument
  • Salimata: [write a conference paper]; keep up the reading and free writing and decide on a plan of attack by the end of the week
  • Scatterwriter: [revise three chapters of book]; Read the intro and the first chapter
  • Scholasticamama: [Transform a conference paper into an article]; 1) re-work my abstract from the summer to include new argument and possibly turn that into an introduction; 2) Skim Hildegard’s Liber meritorum and Sciviasto see if there is anything for me there
  • Sisyphus: [polish the rough draft of my article and send it out]; finish cleaning up middle section; sit down with my calendar and make a schedule along with a to-do list for the article and pace out my semester
  • Stemi: [Complete and send off a review article ]; 1) Reorganize note-taking file to match the new outline; 2) Identify sections that need more references; 3) Add 500 words to outline file (including rough draft writing)
  • Su Real Alteza: [finish textbook manuscript]; write new words (Does SRA have a particular goal for this? Word/page count? A particular section to be finished up? — NPhD)
  • Susan: [write a 7000 word commissioned essay]; finish sketching the historiographical section, which is probably 1500 words or so
  • Trapped in Canadia: [draft two chapters of the dissertation]; write 500 words a day on the abuses chapter and still manage an outline for my next chapter
  • Undine: [Finish nearly done chapter and complete another]; 1000 more words (did I get that right? –NPhD)
  • Viola: [writing an introduction and a chapter for thesis]; go through list of revisions and get a revised version back to supervisor by midweek (Bonus points for going over the 2,500 words done and start whittling that down to 1,600!)
  • Z-Cat/Kiwimedievalist: [ write an article which I have planned, but not got much written. About 8,000 words?]; write the book list and start reading it, while free writing.

Absences from week two:

  • Highlyeccentric: [Draft two thesis chapters];
  • Katrin: [re-write and add to MA thesis to get it publishable];
  • Synecdoche: [Finish conference paper]; [putting together the start of a working bibliography.]





*Speaking of which, since I underestimated how much time this week would be spent on medical tests and actually sitting in a hospital, I’m not reporting in till Saturday. And then I’m going to set a goal that is doable by the following Friday, so I can feel like I am running with the pack, rather than trying to catch up.

  1. 23 September, 2011 12:50 am

    This post of yours is right on.

  2. 23 September, 2011 3:21 am

    Ugh, I haven’t even thought about my conference paper. I haven’t been unproductive—I roughed out a couple of conference *proposals* yesterday, but I’ve been exhausted. I do need to get started though, so I’m back to square one: start assembling my secondary material, and maybe do some exploratory freewriting.

  3. 23 September, 2011 4:25 am

    Thanks for this, ADM. I had some enforced inactivity due to a tweaked piriformis muscle. I’m feeling much better now, but it did knock my normal routine out of whack. I’m still not convinced that I’m a middle-aged lady (have you seen how fast I ride when I’m racing traffic?), but certain parts of my body beg to differ. And I do own a number of pair of sensible shoes.

    So, did I meet my project goals this week? About 80%:

    Goal #1: I wrote every morning… except for two of them. But I learned something here: on my teaching days, I CAN write, but only if I have something really prepped and ready to go. For me, this semester, that means reading something substantive the night before, then saving the note-taking and musings for the next morning. So I’m going to put that into action this week.

    Goal #2: Get that outline done. I did. But it’s a bad outline, and I’m not at all sure that that’s where I’m headed. So what I learned here was that I need more background material. I have the primary sources, but I have no historiographic context; nay, not even enough for a piddly conference paper.

    Goals for the upcoming week: Keep up my 300 words a day (shooting for 6 of 7), but focus on reading and taking notes and writing musings on secondary materials (with a goal of 3 articles + 1 book)

  4. Contingent Cassandra permalink
    23 September, 2011 5:04 am

    Short version:
    Goal for the past week: get into a working rhythm — let’s say 75% accomplished. I did write on both Tuesday and Thursday, but started and ended later in the morning than I planned, or can really afford, given everything else I need to get done. But ideas are really taking shape, and I’m enjoying staying connected with the project.

    Goal for the coming week: Continue the working rhythm on three days (Sat, Tues, Thurs.), but get closer to the ideal (c. 6:30/7-9 a.m.) time frame, especially on Tues. and Thurs. (Saturday can spill over as long as I get to the local farmer’s market before noon, and even that is optional most weeks). Related goal: ease back into an exercise routine (to help with sleep pattern, general health).

    Longer reflections:
    ADM, your topic is very relevant for me, too. I’ve been starting my writing sessions later in the morning than I planned, because it’s a hard semester, with really intense teaching days and lots of details and new bits and pieces to juggle, and I’m just plain tired, and tend to fall back asleep after waking at the appointed time (even if I’ve had 8 hours or nearly 8 hours). I actually did write on both Tues and Thurs mornings this week, but did so later in the morning than I could afford (and of course that puts me behind in juggling everything else, and has me getting to bed later and/or with more on my mind than I should, which leads to me being tired in the morning. . . .). Somewhat paradoxically, my solution is to try to fit in two *more* things: a day off on Friday (something that is theoretically on my schedule, but hasn’t been happening; I think I can manage a morning and perhaps part of the evening off tomorrow), and some exercise on Tuesday and Thursday (and other days if I can manage it). That will probably have me craving even more sleep for a week or two, but I know from experience that I gain energy, and stamina, in the long run (the same is true to some extent of getting back into the teaching routine, but the gains are offset somewhat by the ever-increasing demands of the semester). But, yes, as I get further into middle age, it seems harder to get back into both the teaching and the exercise routines, the energy return is a bit less, and I generally bounce back from all-nighters, illness, etc. less easily — all good reasons to, yes, pace myself.

    All that said, I’m actually very pleased by what I’ve accomplished so far as ideas for the content and even possible structure of the article goes. It’s been a long time since I started a project from scratch, and I’m really enjoying the process of finding details and patterns that those details contribute to and moving toward larger arguments. I seem to be moving away from a possible argument that relies a lot on the ideas in the key secondary source I mentioned, and more into creating an independent argument, which is good, I think, and more my style (my strength and weakness is probably independence: I’m good at constructing my own arguments from scratch, often about fairly obscure, little-analyzed primary sources; I’m less good at figuring out how to connect my arguments to ongoing scholarly conversations). So, for the moment, I think I’m just going to chug along. I’ve got a couple of events coming up in the next month or so that will give me a chance to bounce my ideas off others, and get an idea of ongoing conversations: an informal brown-bag type group, a big formal conference (where I’ll mostly be listening and prowling the book exhibit) and another more specialized conference that I’m considering attending (this would also be listening-only, but I often find that useful; my own ideas percolate as I’m listening to others’).

    But I also need to be careful that I’m keeping up with teaching and other responsibilities reasonably well. I’d say that I’m currently at about 75% on that, too (hence the need to work part of the day tomorrow, which means I should go to bed — 2 hours later than I’d planned/would keep me to my routine. And I skipped my usual Thursday night activity — choir practice — to keep even close to on schedule. I’d rather not do that again, either).

    • Contingent Cassandra permalink
      23 September, 2011 10:03 pm

      Additional update: spent a bit of time after I wrote this last night (early this morning) looking at journal possibilities, and I think I might have a plan: basically, a “high reach” journal and a probably more realistic one, and some sense of how much their requirements overlap. Actually, that’s pretty easy, at least on a superficial level: an article of 5,000-10,000 words could be submitted to any number of journals that would be appropriate to my field, and the subject I’m writing about. I still need to do some more investigating — mostly reading/skimming of actual recent articles — to get an idea of favored styles, structures, approaches, etc. But that’s a start on the remaining “perhaps” goal from last week. Of course, I was supposed to be going to bed right after I wrote the post, whic points to another issue: trying to get things done right before bedtime has a way of postponing bedtime, because I think of more things to do.

      But I did manage to take off part of the day (morning/early afternoon). Now I need to get some teaching and non-writing professional stuff done, and still get to bed at an hour that allows me to be up and writing early tomorrow.

    • 25 September, 2011 7:03 am

      Oh, I so get that postponing bedtime thing — and I am starting to worry that that is part of the vicious cycle. Congrats on being on top of so much, though.

  5. Evan permalink
    23 September, 2011 7:08 am

    My goals for the week were fairly unambitious, yet not 100% completed. I did have a go at reworking the abstract into an introduction. The elimination of the rhetorical questions at the end of the paragraph seems to have achieved that… for now. Who knows what the paper will actually be saying in two months time?!!! I’ll rework the intro then, but for all intents and purposes – goal one acheived.

    Second goal was draw up paper outline. I didn’t go so well at this, because I re-read the abstract and forgot that I’m going to need a quick overview of the rise of the New Right and ‘race’. This means having to re-read a bunch of stuff. Bah!

    A metaphysical third goal for the week was to check with the National Library about copies of Militant and SW from the 1960s. The NLA has these editions, but between a 9-5 job and a 10 month old son, there’s not much time to actually go to the library.

    Next week I’m off to a conference interstate, so my goals will be fairly small again! I’ll take The Meaning of David Cameron with me and read up about the rise of the New Right. Make a list of stuff to ILL for when I get back.

    Now just to get that other article finsihed that I promised will be done by Monday…. If I can get that out of the way, maintaining pace in this writing group will be much more manageable.

    This marathon seems to keep going!

  6. Jamila Jamison permalink
    23 September, 2011 7:16 am

    This post resonates with me in more ways than one. I’m embarking on the 4th year in my PhD program, where everything needs to be done: complete and defend the thesis, finish up coursework, figure out the dissertation, write the proposal, defend the proposal… oh, and deal with teaching and grading as well. The thought of all the juggling is giving me migraines and nightmares, and the quarter only started back today.

    I need to learn how to tackle a marathon, and to a certain extent, the MA thesis has been a major lesson in doing that. It’s taken so much more time than I expected, but all that thinking work has required time for ideas to marinate and brew.

    Writing just hasn’t happened this week — my mom is visiting, we have been dashing about having adventures, and I have been so exhausted by the end of each day that I sort of collapse into bed. I ran into my advisor at the grocery store (ugh), but she assures me that she would rather that I take my time, do things well, etc. Still, I do have a timeline that I need to deal with, so I can’t use her permission to ‘take my time’ as a rationale for completely slacking off.

    I’ve tinkered together a schedule where I write only thesis things for two hours on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons, and so after my mom takes off next Wednesday, I can try and put this into action. The frustrating thing is that I *know* what needs to get done. I have an outline, I have lots of arguments lined up. I just need to sit down and DO it.

    So my goal for the upcoming week is an amended version of this past one: complete 1 of 4 sections, and do my best to follow the writing schedule that I’ve made myself.

    • 25 September, 2011 8:37 pm

      I like that you’re recognizing what you need to do. Another sort of goal, since the plan is there, might also be to make sure you focus on what seems to be the main problem: honoring your research time slot.

      That’s certainly my problem!

  7. 23 September, 2011 7:32 am

    ADM, I hope you find your balance for the marathon soon! I know the feeling of overwhelming things to keep up with as well, and when I realise it’s all too much and I am not able to keep up… I take a day off. With no work at all allowed. (I can do that since I’m my own boss.) If I catch myself fast enough in the getting overwhelmed process, this helps a lot – otherwise, I just do inefficient things and sit around and procrastinate or get nothing done in some other creative ways. I also have a policy of no work on weekends which can get broken if there is need for a burst of work for a given date, but I do try to keep weekends free. It seems paradoxical to take time off when you feel that you should really be working, but for me it usually really works. It’s not so helpful when I have waited too long, or not realised I need an extra day off; then I sometimes just get sick and have to take a day off – body will get its due time off, like it or not, for me.

    My check-in comment from last week seems to have been lost in transition- probably due to different sign-in thingies on yours and Notorious’ site. So… I did manage almost all of the goal for week 2, and I have also managed almost all of the goal for this week (which was to read a book and a long paper in Norwegian relevant to the project). I don’t read the language that well, and I got stuck yesterday evening at the relevant section in the paper and decided to tackle it next week, instead of doing a rushed, non-concentrated and crappy job. (I won’t have time to work on it from today till Monday.)

    I am also starting to notice a pattern: I will start off on Monday full of enthusiasm and get a good bit of stuff done; then, because it’s all going so well, I will slack off and get sidetracked and research other things relevant for the project but not helping with the week’s goal. And then I will only almost manage the week’s goal. Overall, though, it means good progress both with the goal and other stuff, so I am not yet sure if I should try to change this, or just go with it. Maybe it’s enough to be aware enough of it to keep it in check so I don’t get sidetracked too far.

    Goal for next week: Finish reading the paper; read yet another Norwegian thesis; check, reformat, and update/extend the catalogue section.

    • Contingent Cassandra permalink
      23 September, 2011 9:53 pm

      “If I catch myself fast enough in the getting overwhelmed process, this helps a lot – otherwise, I just do inefficient things and sit around and procrastinate or get nothing done in some other creative ways.”

      This sounds very familiar. I’ve learned that a day spent trying to work and not getting to even the simplest tasks is a pretty good sign that I need a real day off — not always possible, of course, but by now I know that if I do take one (and try to fit one in every week — which usually means succeeding every other or every third week) it really does help.

      • nwgirl permalink
        25 September, 2011 4:29 pm

        On days that I work from home, if I leave the house before I’ve finished the day’s goals, I have trouble re-starting when I get home. And I find myself going in circles and not accomplishing even the simplest tasks. So on my writing days, I try to schedule any non-writing related tasks for later in the day. Not always possible, but I’m trying.

    • 25 September, 2011 4:59 pm

      That is exactly it for me, too — and most likely when I feel overwhelmed.

  8. 23 September, 2011 10:26 am

    Katrin – Your pattern is scarily familiar! I managed to do all I planned on Monday, and felt good, and then it all fell to custard.

    In other words, I managed to make a great reading list, felt really inspired by it, and then got caught in the essay-marking mess. About 50% of the goal, again.

    Good news is that I got feed-back on one of my articles (article A), and the comments are cheerily positive, and the problems easily fixable – they mostly arise from my ripping it from my thesis, so it needs more situating.

    So, as I have essays this week, my goal is going to be very small – I’m going to take a bit of a side-track, and fix the issues with article A, so that it can be out of the way, and I can then approach job-applications with some more confidence.

    • 25 September, 2011 4:18 am

      *steals “falls to custard”*

  9. Adelaide permalink
    23 September, 2011 2:44 pm

    despite an out of town wedding, being sick, a funeral to attend, and more than I knew how to handle this week, I actually got most of this week’s goals accomplished. My primary source notes are not as organized as I’d like, but I found some great bits and pieces that may be relevant in the secondary sources this week (but still nothing on my particular angle, yay!) so I’m feeling rather good about it. (Also after Saturday another source of stress and time sucking will be over, so that means I should be much more productive next week)

    Next week goal – finish organizing my notes and start writing SOMETHING towards the paper…

  10. Matilda permalink
    23 September, 2011 2:51 pm

    Hello, all,

    A good thing was that I have worked constantly at least one hour or more every day this week, so I think my daily writing habit has been re-constructed quite well. I will continue.
    The reason of this, however, is that I have a task which need to be submitted as soon as possible, but not completed yet…Thus I have hardly worked on my own project this week. Regarding what I have done and my situation, I think better set a modest goal for next week. I will go back to work on 3rd October after a very long leave, so I will need some energy to adjust myself to working situation.

    Yes, ADM, it is very true what you said: pacing yourself is a skill. You need to know yourself, what situation you are in, and what you have to accomplish. I like the words of Sun Tzu: If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without jeopardy. Sounds a little bit bellicose, but when I am facing a tough situation, I sometimes think of this old saying.

    Goal for next week: working again on the week 3 section of WYJA to construct my argument. And finishing it.


    • 25 September, 2011 8:40 pm

      Sounds like a plan — one of the things I keep noticing is that I don’t always take stock of what I have on for a given week before working up a plan — knowing that we might not have a lot of time helps to set reasonable goals.

  11. 23 September, 2011 3:00 pm

    My goal for the week was: Incorporate the sources into the article, plus track down missing Interlibrary Loan article
    I did not finish fitting my sources into my draft.
    I did find the article I wanted, and managed to re-read another article.

    Goal for this week: Read through my draft and outline where it is and where I want it to be.

    My normal working hour is going to be interrupted by a meeting, so I have to work earlier. I have the time. The question is discipline.

    As for the topic of your post, it overlaps a lot with the topic of my therapy session this week.

  12. 23 September, 2011 5:18 pm

    I had a very slow start this week – partly recovering from my eye injury (trouble staring at a screen for more than 10 minutes) and partly just misplaced exhaustion (OBA – ‘Overcome by Apathy’?). I agree with ADM that pacing oneself is a skill, but it isn’t a terribly well-developped one in my case. My reaction of a daily writing goal was as much of a limit as a target – I’ll have days where I write too much (of usually useless rubbish) and days where I write nothing. The days where I write nothing i curse myself for not having written for hours; the days I write a little bit, I’m not so upset. (Ther have been too many ‘writing nothing days’ lately…)

    Here is what I actually managed to finish: I changed the index, found another hundred mistakes in my proofs, but got them in to the publisher (only two days late). I
    updated my CV, and made endless cups of tea. I only managed to write two days this week.

    The ‘three things’ approach which I was so proud of last week seemed to be more of a wish-list than an actual list of things that might get done (even including things like watering the plants!) My other goal of buying a Mac went out the window when I realised that the Mab Air (all my feeble body can cope with carrying) only has one USB port (and I do a lot of file sharing with an external disk drive). I know, it isn’t an insurmountable problem, but it seemed like one more headache…

    • 25 September, 2011 8:50 pm

      I have a great USB hub — it’s from targus and has four USB 2 ports and one USB 2/mini USB port. It would likely solve the mac air problem!

      • 25 September, 2011 9:38 pm

        I thought they must exist! You’re a computer *goddess*!

        Now, to find a computer that writes stuff for me…

  13. 23 September, 2011 5:20 pm

    Err, the last post was from ‘Cly’

  14. 23 September, 2011 5:24 pm

    Kind of odd how this has been a week of discouraging setbacks for many people. Funny, but my dad went through the same thing this week. He’s trying to lose weight, and has been quite successful for several weeks… then last week he somehow undid the losses of the three previous weeks.

    So here’s what I wrote to Notorious Dad last night:

    “Do NOT be discouraged. I’ve learned that setbacks can be part of the process, so long as you learn something from them, and go on to apply it the next week. […] So: last week was last week, and this week we’re starting over again. Figure out what your biggest stumbling block was last week, then firmly resolve to do better in that one area. You can do this.”

  15. Erika permalink
    23 September, 2011 6:25 pm

    Thanks for this great post on learning how to pace yourself, and learning what *your own* pace is for each of us, ADM. I’ve shared your sense of panic and the need to get it all done NOW this week, and I find a lot of comfort that you are pushing back against the gut reaction to sprint.

    Last week’s goal: 30 minutes per day organizing biblio, pulling together T&J. I was half-successful. I have a large stack that’s growing bigger of books and articles that I need to make sure of before I start writing again. T&J is for next week.

    Next week’s goals: Pull together all the T&J and see what is there. Send an email to a colleague who should have very valuable ideas to contribute to the project, and see if she’ll read my draft in December.

  16. jliedl permalink
    23 September, 2011 7:50 pm

    It is a marathon but someone’s nipping at my heels every week: do this, do that, prep this, fill in that, add another meeting to the groaning schedule.

    Augh. I got my outline completed, made most of those notes (if you count putting in post-it flags for all the passages I know I’ll need to use, I got the all done but only a few transcribed). And I wrote 350 words. Not 500, but not bad.

    Thursday afternoons and Friday afternoons, if they haven’t been hijacked by meetings, are turning out to be my best writing days. The problem is that I’m pretty well exhausted by Thursday midday and so Friday’s got to be preserved for anything really brain-straining.

    So, if you’ll excuse me, back to that. My goals for this week? I want to get to a total of 1500 words by next Friday. Wishing everyone luck with their marathon experience, especially you, ADM!

    • 25 September, 2011 9:00 pm

      Thanks, Janice — and good luck! I think that’s sort of my problem, too — my heaviest day is Monday, and in some ways, that just kills my week. Our meeting days are MW, and those seem also to be the days students are neediest. So T-TH end up being catch-up days, and Friday is teaching till 3. Makes it hard to find a day I’m not tired!

  17. 23 September, 2011 8:57 pm

    My goals appeared at the start of my 2nd paragraph last week: “My next goals are not directly toward the chapter that is my main goal for this fall, but toward the book as a whole. I need a complete fellowship proposal draft by the beginning of October, and a sample chapter.” Although when I posted I was thinking of trying to work on both, by Monday (RL writing group meeting day) I realized that I could only (barely) manage one thing this week.

    So: I have completed an acceptable draft of the proposal, as of this morning, and sent it to my RL group for comments.

    Next up: revise my most complete chapter for the recommender who needs a sample chapter. I’ll probably send it to all the recommenders, actually, even though only one requested it. Why not?

    I’m going to post chez moi about the pacing-marathon-sports thing, but ADM: I feel your pain.

  18. 23 September, 2011 10:26 pm

    I understand what you are going through, ADM. I have a chronic condition that most likely began because I paced incorrectly and stayed seated writing/finishing my dissertation for hours on end early this year. I can no longer sit at a desk for more than 10 minutes at a time and need to stand or recline to work. So I can’t spend five hours in a marathon of writing like I used to do. This has required a complete readjustment to how I approach my work and how I think. I wish you the best of luck in finding the pace that works for you. Keep the balance of all aspects of your life in check.

    This week’s goals: I read what has come out since I last wrote on this subject and am feeling a bit lost about what to do. The current literature did not cover the topic in the way that I am, but they do have a lot more sources (someone spent 20 years writing the book and has sources not available to the general public). So I don’t know whether to write an article that really focuses on the individual connected to the sources I read or whether to drop the article because I can’t be certain that my arguments would be correct without looking at the other author’s sources (his sources sometimes led him to make completely different conclusions than I made).

    I think I need to sit down and write an abstract of where I think this article can go. I’m going to probably write something longer where I state the other author’s conclusions, the sources used to reach them, and my take on the topic. Then I will winnow it down to an abstract. If I can’t do that, then perhaps I shouldn’t do this article. It is my side project anyway (I’m writing all the time right now) and takes me away from other projects.

    Next week’s goals: 1) Write out my take on the topic with the new work.
    2) Write an abstract.
    This one is contingent on being able to do #2: 3) Send the abstract to my writing mentors and see what they say about whether or not I should continue on this path.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:03 pm

      Taking the time to re-evaluate is good, I think. Is it possible for you to get a standing desk? I keep meeting people who are trying them, and they seem to be a Good Thing.

  19. Sisyphus permalink
    23 September, 2011 11:29 pm

    I have achieved my goals this week. And you know, I would not have pushed myself to work on the article all day today without this group, so these check-ins seem to be working really well for me!

    Previous goals: finish cleaning up middle section; sit down with my calendar and make a schedule along with a to-do list for the article and pace out my semester.

    The middle section looks good, minus a subhead because I can never figure out what to put in a subhead, and I have blogged extensively about my scheduling thoughts over at my place:

    My next goal is to clean up all the bolded stuff in the center subsection (section 4) and put in all the correct transitions and topic sentences and conclusions and stuff. I think it will take me two weeks to finish since it is much more rough than the previous sections.

    The colds at my school are raging out of control now. I hope everyone is taking care of themselves and stays well! Good luck to all!!

  20. 24 September, 2011 2:47 am

    Great post on pacing. This week I finished (except for citations) the Article that Wouldn’t Leave My Desk but did not get the word limit on what I promised here, so that’s the goal for next week: (1) get the article to leave my desk and (2) finish the 2,000 words that I promised last week and this one.

  21. Susan permalink
    24 September, 2011 3:23 am

    I’m sorry, ADM, that life has intervened in such an obvious (and unpleasant) way. I think my pacing is a way of keeping things manageable, and I know I won’t survive this year unless I am fairly regular about exercise. So I’ve been trying on that front. (And I don’t run, or walk, marathons. I just find the semester a 16 week one!) In a funny way, I think that this semester, since I am so over-committed, I’ve been able to be much more protective of time for research. It’s one of the ways I give myself time. (I tell people I don’t answer email on Friday — so even if I do, they don’t expect it.)

    I actually more or less made my goal, and I did it on Friday, not using Saturday to finish, which I half expected to do. (Thus, if I write tomorrow, I’ll move forward! Yay!) I more or less got the historiographical work done, though one book did not arrive from ILL, so I’ll have to go back and weave that in. But I know more or less what that argues, so it won’t do too much harm. Today I wrote about 1300 words, and have got big blobs of “ideas I need to talk about in the next section.” So it’s not quite Dr. Crazy’s method, but I’ve always written notes to myself about where I think I go next. (Not that it always works the way I expect, but, I try.)

    Next week I have to be out of town for two days, and the next section is much harder to write — it’s more original — so my goal for the next week is to read some of the grounding theory, and then draft perhaps 500 words of the next section on theoretical and conceptual territory.

    • 24 September, 2011 6:48 am

      oooh! I find myself in the same situation (except for the out-of-town part) as Susan. So ADM, if you don’t mind, I’m going to revise my goal to match Susan’s: Read at least 3 articles and one book, take notes daily, and write at least 500 good words towards the paper draft.

      I’d like to do more, but this needs to be done, and I’m fairly confident I can do it.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:08 pm

      Susan, thanks! And this is one of the things I really need to start doing. Dr Crazy’s post actually got me to think about what I’m doing in my methods class, and I have my students writing up little, “what I think about what I did” journal entries. Now I just have to remember not only to do this, but to then start off by reading my notes!

  22. Amstr permalink
    24 September, 2011 6:12 am

    [revise and resubmit an article]; goals: 1) make (and limit) reading list; (2) order items on reading list from ILL; 3) read 5 articles, make entries on them in an annotated bib, and insert relevant stuff into draft.

    I’m happy to say, I accomplished all but the last goal. I read the articles, annotated them, and got one put into the draft. I have a bit more thought work on how to incorporate the other 4 and how they change my argument (if they do).

    My deadline to revise this article is Nov. 1, so I really have to get moving. So.

    ***This week’s goals: 1) write argument statement, note where argument is in article, and revise to make argument clear and prominent; 2) outline article, review WYJA on “solving structural problems,” and revise for structure; 3) “read,” annotate, and incorporate 10 sources.

    It seems like a lot, but I am putting my other two projects on the back burner, and this dissertation/article writing is what I consider my part-time job (while raising two jolly kids). I’m finding that my pace can actually quicken up a bit without adverse effect. I usually limit my work to daytime hours, but the next two weeks may need to include some evening work to make the deadline. I do know from experience that two hours an evening for two weeks is about what I (and my family) can handle for increased pace, and I can’t do so much work that I crowd out exercise or basic household duties.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:10 pm

      Amstr, it sounds like you are really good at considering how to fit everything in without going crazy. good luck with getting the extra time in — it sounds like it’s the one part that might be a little more susceptible to OBE.

  23. Viola permalink
    24 September, 2011 8:11 am

    Great post, it definitely gives me food for thought as a young, aspiring academic who isn’t even at PhD level yet. I’m already understanding the necessity of pacing when I’m feeling the burn out not even half way through semester…

    This week I in fact not only did the revisions and went over the 2,500 words to 1,600, I got my entire first draft together and sent that off. It was a fair bit of work but I was fairly proud…at least I was until I had my meeting! Overall my research is good (original!), writing is good (convincing, sophisticated!) but I forgot something so integral it made me laugh – I forgot my overall argument to tie it all together! Usually I’m a write it up at the last minute on sheer adrenaline kinda gal and I’m focused on getting my essay to answer the question because I don’t have time for indulging in too much researching and writing. This time I resolved to really work at it slowly and craft it. Whilst this improved the writing and the research component which traditionally suffered during my manic pre-due date writing, I had forgotten to actually have an overarching argument rather than a synthesis of my research topic. I had spent so much time being meticulous in crafting the language and ensuring my research was original and not (too) derivative I neglected to ensure that my argument – the reason why my research is important – was front and centre. Oh dear.

    So this week’s goal is to not to reread the essay until I have formed a proper argument (it’s all in my head) and then rewrite the paper to ‘market’ my research as my supervisor says! I hope to get this done by the next check-in but I have a coursework paper due and although i have gotten my first draft done today, it is quite horrible and needs serious work. I’m not too fussed though because I think I need a good break from my project and come back with objectivity.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:12 pm

      Ok — can you give us the minimum you think you’ll do, or is this a “I don’t expect to work on it this week” goal (which is fine)?

  24. 24 September, 2011 3:10 pm

    Well, I researched/wrote on Monday and Thursday evenings this week–about 2.5 hours total–and I’m pretty proud of that amount. I can’t write in the mornings (I have a truly obnoxious schedule this semester–8, 12, and 1 MWF, then 11 Tth + the Greek class I’m taking from 1:15-2:30–so mornings are prep/teaching/office hour time, and then I’m usually on campus until 4 or so, despite getting in to the office at 7 or 8. Pity meeee!!!). Um, where was I? Yes, writing in the mornings is out, but I’ve found that the evening hours can be mildly productive.

    Here’s what I did this week: Went back to MS, read the secondary stuff I knew about and some more stuff I hadn’t known about, got completely absorbed in poking around online to figure out what a particular text was, took a bunch of notes, asked a bunch of questions, and found out some interesting (to me) things. I don’t think that the research I’m doing will magically transform itself into an article–I’m too green a paleographer for that–but it’ll be perfectly fine for the colloquium talk, so that’s okay (and the *ideas* should find their way into publishable articles or whatever). Goals: Met!

    For next week: Work on translating the Latin (1/2–I’m giving myself 2 weeks for this one), go through 2 books and incorporate notes into Part 3 outline, maybe starting to rough in the draft of Part 3 as I go.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:19 pm

      argh — sounds like my schedule: MWF 8, 10, and 2; meetings most Mondays 3-4; lesson Thursdays 3-4, therapist and a committee meeting Tuesday afternoons. Sounds like you are making major progress, though!

  25. Dr. Crazy permalink
    24 September, 2011 4:28 pm

    [Finish a chapter draft begun this summer]; 1) Reread everything so far and do light revision/editing notes; 2) Write 3 pages plus the opening “body body” section paragraphs; 3) begin rereading Giddens’ The Transformation of Intimacy; 4) figure out the missing theory piece for the chapter.

    O, I’m not going to lie. The only thing I did was reread and #4. I intend to do some more toward the above this weekend, but the reality is that between being out of town last weekend, doing student conferences for 22 students over the course of two days, grading papers for those 22 students over the course of the same two days, and needing to revise applications for summer funding that are due this coming week that this week’s writing goals fell by the wayside a bit. That said, the applications relate to the project, so they forced me to do some important thinking, and I still did make some progress, so it’s all good.

    Goal for next week: Write 3 pages and reread the Giddens.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:22 pm

      Absolutely. One of the things I’ve noticed this semester is how much grading I have. We have small classes, and I tend to assign a lot of writing. This semester, I also have two very full seminars that require 3000-4500 word papers with drafts and constant check-ins. Hugely time-consuming.

  26. Jennifer permalink
    24 September, 2011 5:11 pm

    I’m checking in really quickly from wedding weekend with the inlaws at the beach. I had a good week and got a lot of my organizational goals from last week accomplished before we left town. Since then I’ve been OBE, but I’m going easy on myself this week and having a little fun with friends and family, since we’re moving far away for a few years.

    I move next week, so my goal is really simple: finish packing/digitizing my office. I’ll be back in full force very soon.

  27. 24 September, 2011 8:42 pm

    On the plus side, taken as a whole I definitely got two good paragraphs written per day (over 3500 good words total this week), so I met that goal. Unfortunately those were mostly crammed into two days of writing rather than spread across the seven days. Honestly, in comparison to my PhD (the last time I had a big empty block of writing time), I’m *thrilled* to be getting writing done every week, and serious work done every day, since I used to go for weeks without doing anything at all. So on a day-by-day basis my pacing stinks, but on a week-by-week basis I’m doing fine. Reading is going fine except that some of what I read this week turned out to be less relevant than I had hoped, but I’m hardly blaming myself for that!

    I’ve just sent off a huge chunk of data to be worked on by a transcription service which will take a few weeks to be completed but will save me hundreds and hundreds of hours. There’s transcription I have to do myself, but this stuff is not it. Hurrah!

    The bigger problem I’m facing is that these two related articles I’m working on are starting to smell a lot more like two chapters of a book, and some of the writing I’ve been doing this week may fit better elsewhere in that book. But I really do need to get some articles out, since I’m untenured and can’t afford to wait another five or seven years to publish this stuff. Since the field I’m in (anthropology) can’t decide whether it’s in the humanities or the social sciences, and thus what its ideal publishing model should be, it’s not even entirely clear that writing another book is in my best interest career-wise.

    This week I am going to, come hell or high water, even if I don’t get that much actual new writing done, put the skeleton together for at least one of the ARTICLES (you hear that, brain, articles, not book, articles!), which exists in my mind but not yet on paper. I’m talking about opening paragraphs for sections, linking core pieces of data together, etc., and putting filler sentences in for the parts of the argument that need future attention. I’ve often found that once I have that framework, that a lot of filling-in can happen almost automatically, and before I know it the paper can be half done or more. Reading and transcribing relating to my projects will give me a useful break, since I can’t write the whole time.

    – Forthright

    • Susan permalink
      24 September, 2011 10:19 pm

      @Forthright, If what you can do is pace by week, that’s what you can do. Oh, and your department should tell you whether they want the article model, the book model, or the grant model. I’ve heard all three as standards in Anthro….

      • 24 September, 2011 10:33 pm

        Susan: Yeah, what they tell me is “Either one is fine,” which I believe is true. Usually preceded or followed by some sort of reassurance that they think I’m a slam dunk. Which is fine, in the department. At the college level and beyond, all kinds of trouble seems to emerge with the book model, particularly when people have books in process / under contract but not out, which makes them seem (to some of the hard science people) unproductive.

        Really my concern is not about tenure, because I have had a book out very recently, along with several articles. I suppose it’s the potential that somebody would perceive me as less productive if I don’t have anything come out in print in the academic year 2012-2013, which, if this is a book rather than articles, might be the case. So right now I’m thinking of articles that can become book chapters eventually … sigh …

    • 25 September, 2011 6:27 am

      Forthright, I can so relate to the *thrill* that you are feeling. For the past few months, people have asked how the work is going, I have just had to groan and say, “It’s not.” But now, it is! Glad to hear you feel the same thrill!

    • 25 September, 2011 9:23 pm

      what Susan said !

  28. Antikate permalink
    24 September, 2011 11:53 pm

    I’m actually feeling a lot more optimistic about things this week than I was last. Part of that is that I allowed myself to shift directions a bit – I was slogging through work that I wasn’t excited about, so I took a step back, reevaluated, and decided to choose a different paper to revise than the one I’d originally started with.

    So, goals for this past week? Sort of accomplished. I did write every day, and I did do lit review, but it was more notes and refresher stuff than moving forward. But I’m happy with where I got, so that’s good.

    Goals for the coming week: Write 1000 words, and read at least two articles from journals that I’m considering submitting to.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:25 pm

      I really like when goals are not deadline-driven, but process/project-driven. These sound like the sorts of thing that end up being encouraging and helpful.

  29. Stemi permalink
    25 September, 2011 12:07 am

    Project Goal: [Complete and send off a review article ]

    Weekly Goal: 1) Reorganize note-taking file to match the new outline; 2) Identify sections that need more references; 3) Add 500 words to outline file (including rough draft writing)

    Goals met: 1, not 2 (not really), not 3. I am the student who keeps showing up to class, but can’t get the work done, and is in way over her head.

    There were not crises this week, not even big surprises (though, a large amount of small ones). I just didn’t make space to make sure this project was prioritized. What I learned: when it’s not in the top two or three daily goals, it doesn’t happen.

    Another thing I learned: the deadline for the special issue (to which the article will be submitted) has been shifted from Nov 1 to Feb 1. I worry that this shift reduced the priority of this project for me. However, I have been telling myself that if I finish it by the original date, I might submit it for consideration at a more fancy journal, and – if turned down – still turn it in to the requesting journal by that deadline. At this point, I still want to keep the same project goal.

    Looking forward: I will revisit the remaining goals of last week:
    1) Identify sections that need more references; 2) Add 500 words to outline file (including rough draft writing)

  30. Salimata permalink
    25 September, 2011 12:22 am

    ADM and others: this week’s post/prompt about how pacing is about knowing about your body works–and accepting that, for the most part. For me this means that this week, I have slept *a lot*–I mean to the point of it being really embarrassing if I told you what time I went to bed each night. Thankfully I knew from past experience that this was something I needed do right now, if I want to get through the next few weeks, and that I won’t be this exhausted for ever, so I’m not beating myself up over it.

    My goals for the past week were modest (keep up the reading and free writing and decide on a plan for the writing), if somewhat vague–so I met them “on paper,” but didn’t work on them every day of the week as I had planned.

    So for next week, I’ll have another “process goal” first: work every day on *this* particular project (I have others with more pressing deadlines, but since this conference paper fills me with such dread, it’s easy for me to push it to the side). Specifically, I will read three more books I need to be familiar with. Plus, write some stuff: if not an actual argument, at least write out a “case study” or some kind of illustration to serve as the empirical/ethnographic core of the paper.

  31. 25 September, 2011 12:45 am

    i did order the rest of my sources related to my primary text (and read them, as they’re short and/or barely mention the text). i didn’t do much else as i’ve been plagued by raging migraines and an out of control sinus infection, a combination of which ended with me in the ER at 2am on wednesday morning.

    my goal for this week is to reread my primary text and start working on focusing my scope.

    • 25 September, 2011 6:33 am

      The ER?! I can’t believe you were able to get anything done at all. That sounds miserable. Hope you are better now.

      • 25 September, 2011 6:00 pm

        it was in fact miserable, haha. the migraines usually didn’t kick in until midday, so i had a few precious moments in which i could read in the morning. trying to participate in my courses, though, went out the window this week. but i’m on day three of no headaches so *crossing my fingers* hopefully i’m done with this for the moment.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:28 pm

      sounds like a good plan, but don’t do what I do and try to power through the migraines. I used to do that, and found that not giving in to the pain and the drugs seemed to keep them going for much longer.

  32. 25 September, 2011 4:15 am

    My week vanished in a haze of OBE, including marathon drives, a funeral, and pet health issues. I had hoped to get something done, but was so wrung out after the driving, news from the vet, family (and associated drama), funeral, etc. that nothing happened. So, my goals for next week are the same: 1) work on chapters 5/7 days; 2) Start writing background of Why Wheels chapter; outline State Sponsored Wheels chapter.

    And thank you for the discussion of pacing and productivity. It’s REALLY easy to let a day, or two, or ten slip away when the final product is so far away.

  33. 25 September, 2011 6:25 am

    [write a solid draft of a dissertation chapter] This week: Read 50 pages of a primary source (novel), the first two chapters of Descartes’ First Meditations, and one article, taking some notes on each.

    I read the 50 pages, read the two chapters of Descartes, and am almost finished with the article. I also ordered a couple of things from ILL. I realize that my goals were modest, but I’m also pleased that they were realistic. Like Forthright, I’m so so thrilled to be getting something done, and modest pacing has been the real key for me. For the past couple of years, I’ve gone weeks (nay, months) without getting much of anything done. Instead of having manageable weekly goals, I’d just say, “I need to get as much done as possible.” Then, I would put everything else first, planning to use the remainder for my research. And since I have a full-time teaching position and two young kids, that meant I never got to the dissertation.

    Setting specific goals has helped me put my research and writing first (sometimes). When my goal was to do “as much as possible,” there was no way to squeeze it in. But when I know I have just an article to read or just one chapter to read, I can stay up a little later or put off grading for one hour, and my schedule won’t be shot.

    For the first time in a long time, I feel like I’m making real progress forward. Thanks everybody, esp. Notorious and ADM.

    Goals for next week: 1) read 50 more pages of primary text, 2) read two more chapters of Descartes, 3) read one chapter of another book (secondary source), 4) and read one article. This *could* be too much since I have a lot of grading a service work to do this week, but I’m going to give it a go.

  34. highlyeccentric permalink
    25 September, 2011 9:34 am

    Heyhey – I went AWOL last week, due to a combination of things involving transportation confusions, time zones, and a bushfire. I tried to drop a note on Notorius’ post, but it got lost since I used openID which goes under my blog title (nakedphilologist). Anyway – I ought to have been able to check in just before things closed (our Monday is your Sunday), but assorted fails got in the way.

    I did do up goals for the week, though.

    First thing is, as of last week, I need to downgrade my project to one chapter only; I didn’t meet my first week’s goals *except* for the one which said ‘talk to my supervisor about deadlines’, but since I did manage that, I’ve got extension paperwork in progress.

    This week I sketched out an outline of both the thesis and the chapter, and tidied up some more notetaking.

    The coming week is a non-teaching week, so I’ll have two sorts of goals.

    Taking a leaf out of Saltimata’s book, a process goal – do some thesis work and some marking each day. I tend to zone in on one or the other, to the detriment of both. That affects my pacing, not only because the middle of the week becomes a blur of teaching, but because when health problems come up (which they do, remarkably often for me at the moment) it seems to be my own work that suffers. So I need to work on mixing the two sets of work, and pacing them both better.

    Writing-wise, I will:
    – mark up this one book I just realised I hadn’t read and need to
    – grab the 2000 words discarded from the last chapter and shape them up into the first part of the new one
    – write a (probably to be deleted) introduction-to-the-new-chapter to go with them

    I would like to do more than that, but, well, we’ll see how we go.

  35. monksandbones permalink
    25 September, 2011 11:22 am

    I’ve now safely arrived in the location that’s going to be the base of my research activities this year, after much pre-departure anguish and a lot of travelling. I was even less productive this week than I predicted, to the tune of TOTAL FAIL. Now that I’ve arrived, however, I need to start rebuilding my ability to focus. My goals for this week are the following:

    1) To complete last week’s goals (identifying relevant subset of sources, figuring out how to best approach data, reading some effective English-language articles for their structure).
    2) To work on the project five days this week.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:30 pm

      yeah — I think most of us plan on working during travel weeks and just forget how much time travel and settling in can take. But rebounds happen!

  36. Merryweather permalink
    25 September, 2011 11:36 am

    Well, I did work a bit on the article this week, and given the week it’s been, I’m pretty sure that without this group I would have done nothing. It has been a mad week only in the very predictable way that it always is at this time of year, when normally research totally falls by the way side. So, that’s good. On the other hand, because I have committed to this group, I’m feeling much more pressure to GET research done, whereas usually I just give myself a break and don’t expect to get much done. In sum, this may be good for productivity but it may be bad for my stress levels.

    Anyway: I DID manage to achieve my very limited goal, which was to map out a plan for getting the conference paper/article done. It reveals that I am definitely going to have to work some Saturdays on the thing, or else I’ll have no chance of finishing it. I also emailed the conference organizers admitting that there was no way I was going to meet their ludicrously early deadline of the end of September for a paper for a conference in December. This week, my plan is to a) work at least 4 hours on the article in total between Monday to Thursday and all day on Friday; b) read the items I’ve got from ILL; c) use this reading and the reading I’ve already done to write a short, argument-focused, literature review.

  37. 25 September, 2011 4:40 pm

    Oh man, I am *so* with you on this post. I did NOT meet my goal this week, and all of the reasons are because I didn’t set a *realistic* pace given my circumstances, some of which were — yup — related to age and health.

    I did manage to Apply Butt to Chair on the one writing session I squeezed in, so there’s that. But I had only that one session, in which I wrote 350 words. So I’m 400 words behind my goal. Gr.

    But here’s what happened. Last week I knew about an Event that would take away Friday, and planned for it. Said event was health-related and, in the general scheme of things, physically traumatic, and I *should* have planned to be more tired and less capable of the mad pace this week. But I did not. Because I forget that I’m not young and/or in fabulous marathon-running shape any more (or at the moment), and I didn’t allow for more recovery time than one would allow for a bad cold. D’oh!

    I’m not going to try to catch up, but I am going write each of my writing days this week, and aim for another 750 words, and for more applying butt to chair. This week I should be a little better off, so I think that’s realistic this time. But in the future, I’m going to cut myself some slack at times like this.

    Oh, and a marathon pacing metaphor is *so* apt here. Having run marathons at different levels of fitness, and knowing lots of different kinds of marathoners, it’s all about setting a realistic end goal (to simply finish, or to finish at a realistic time), planning a training schedule that will get you to that goal, and learning how to set and hold a pace that will accomplish it. Now, sometimes you have to start with step two — how much training can you reasonably fit into your life? — and then set the end goal accordingly. You also have to take into account your starting point. When I trained to get a Boston-qualifying time at a fall 2005 marathon, I’d already run a spring 2005 and a fall 2004 marathon, so I was in super shape, and I knew what my strengths and weaknesses were. Also, I was on leave from teaching. The timing was *perfect*. Now, I’ve gotten out of shape — I hardly run and the last marathon I ran was in 2007, and I’m older — so if I were to train for another marathon, my goal would be simply to finish.

    One of the things that I’ve always appreciated about the marathon as a sport is that it’s not necessarily about finishing time (unless you want it to be) and, unless you’re an elite runner, it’s more about racing against *yourself* than about competing with those other 20,000 people out there. Academia can, ideally, be like that, too. Set the goal and the pace that’s realistic for you.

    • 25 September, 2011 9:35 pm

      Dr Virago, I was actually thinking a lot about you when I wrote the post! That and the fact that I’m supposed to be doing a 5k sometime in the next month, I think, and have not even gone for a short run for three months. So this week, I plan to get to the gym and do at least two half-hour sessions, and see how bad things are. I should be able to at least run the first mile without a problem, and I think should be up to a really slow 5k in a couple of weeks. But it is not going to be pretty. Still, this means I can look ahead to the big town festival’s 10k in May.

  38. nwgirl permalink
    25 September, 2011 4:47 pm

    Goals for last week: Finish dividing diss chapter into two rough chapters. Move the material for the one chapter into Scrivener. And write a rough outline for that chapter.

    I have finished the divisions and realized in the process that I have material for three chapters in this section. I also have a rough outline, very rough but at least something to work with this week. And I will move the material for the one chapter into Scrivener this afternoon. So I have accomplished the goals I set for the week, just a little later than I anticipated.

    ADM, the discussion about pacing is so relevant. I worked very little at the beginning of the week, but thought I would “catch up” on Friday. Instead I found myself exhausted and fighting allergies on Friday. It’s been a really intense, overwhelming start to the fall semester. Like Contingent Cassandra, bedtime is getting later and later. Yet I’m still getting up at the same time in the morning, which means I’m not getting enough sleep. I could do that at 30, not so much at 40, and not at all at nearly 50 hence the complete collapse on Friday. But that was last week. I took a nap yesterday and may do the same today. This week I’m going to focus on getting to bed closer to my normal time.

    Goals for next week: 1). Work on list of sources for chapter – what do I have, what do I need. 2). Work on outline. 3). Write 500 words x 4 days.

  39. Marie permalink
    25 September, 2011 7:02 pm

    This week: Re-re-read original paper. Try to decipher notes from last week.

    Well, this was a pretty good week, all things considered. The paper was read, the notes deciphered and an Intro begun. The week to come is complicated with Other Things, so my goal is to finish the Intro and create an outline that makes sense to me.

  40. 25 September, 2011 8:04 pm

    Hello, belledamesansmerci here. I know it’s confusing, but Blogspot will ONLY see me as belledamesansmerci and WordPress will ONLY see me as Elizabeth Anne Mitchell, so what is a blog-hopper to do?

    Sorry to hear about the health problems, ADM. I am in physical therapy for a shoulder which I shattered in a fall ten years ago–a long, boring story, but I can relate. I just want first place in line when scientists start putting old brains in new bodies!

    So, on to the conference paper. I wrote my first draft summarizing the article for the literature review. Now I have to excise all the snarky remarks I made; why do some academics think that medieval literature is so easy to understand, any modernist can talk about it? Grrr.

    Okay, moving on. The goal of half-hour a day is going well. I get up at 5am to work on the dissertation and other writing, including this paper, before the evil day job begins. Half an hour is a good break, and it is going well. My night life suffers, but then I’m not 20 any longer, so does it really matter that I’m in bed by 10?

    Goals for next week. Continue the half-hour a day; I need to decide whether the paper is long enough for its transmogrification into an article; if not, I need to start finding further examples.

  41. Britomart permalink
    25 September, 2011 8:12 pm

    Last Week’s Goals: Didn’t even come close to completing them. I re-read 1 previously written chapter, but that was it. No writing at all.

    This Week’s Goals: Work on the dissertation intro for 2 hours per day.

    Longer Reflections: Last week I made the fatal mistake of thinking I’d do teaching work first and then work on my dissertation goals. Of course, this was a week in which my students turned in two assignments, and started a new unit for which I had done zero advance lesson-planning. Oh, and then other “immediate” things got in the way – working on the approval process for a course I want to teach next semester, reading and commenting on a colleague’s draft for my in-person writing group that meets on Fridays. It felt like a busy week, but the stuff that should be most important didn’t get done.

    Since setting a word count goal didn’t work for me this past week, this week I’d like to try a “time clocked” goal instead. My real goal is to put my dissertation first, to work on it regardless of whatever else is on my plate for the day. Two hours per day sounds like a paltry amount (after all, if a non-academic saw that she’d wonder who could complain about a 10-hour workweek), but for me fitting it in with my other obligations will be challenging.

    The trouble is, and this relates directly to ADM’s reflections on pacing, that I only have so much energy to spread around. This past week, by the time I had spent all day grading, fielding student emails, cobbling together lesson plans for the next couple of weeks, and working on other emergent projects, I was mentally exhausted and felt I didn’t have much left to give to my own project.

    The one day on which I did get a l little dissertation work done, it was because I mapped out my hours and scrupulously refused to let anything else spill into the time dedicated to the dissertation. So anyhow, that’s my rationale for this week’s goal.

    Good luck to everyone, and for those of you who have been under the weather, I hope you feel better!

  42. 25 September, 2011 8:32 pm

    Hey everyone. Sorry I’m getting checking in at the last minute.

    The marathon/sprint metaphor is something my partner and I have talked about a lot through our whole experience in graduate school. I’m a much better sprinter, but it’s not a pace I can sustain over the long haul. He’s a great marathoner, but doesn’t do as well under tight deadlines. We each work in our own way, and even though the process is at times painful, and I know I may want to be more like him in his marathoning ways, it’s just not my strength. This is also appropriate on a very literal level since I’m training for a half marathon right now and dealing with the fact that I’m slow, but I can do it. Most of this week was dedicated to focusing on the advice I was given last week to “stay on my own mat.”

    It’s easy to compare myself to my fellow grad students, especially since I will be competing with so many of them on the job market this year. It’s much harder to I look at what I’ve been able to accomplish and be satisfied with it or to see what I can improve on without using someone else as my frame of reference. I had a bit of a freak out this week, feeling overwhelmed and not feeling like I was making progress, but I met with my adviser, talked it out, and put in a plan to move forward that will work for me, and that takes my situation into account. In my talk with him I focused on the things that I needed to do, and the progress that I wanted to make, without comparing myself to anyone or anything else. For now, that’s progress.

    Re: the goals for the week.

    1) re-read major texts for chapter and flesh out that part of the introduction.
    I got this done – but only for one work. Which is fine. It’s a theoretically dense work, and there’s been a lot written about it already. What was important was that I got done what I needed to get done and now I’m on to the second major theoretical work for the introduction next week.

    2) re-read primary text and expand the outline for that work
    I did not get a chance to read one of my primary literary texts for this chapter this week. I did, however, expand the outline for the work based on the theoretical texts I’ve been working with and the secondary literature.

    3) add another 1500 words to chapter
    In all I added 2500 words to the chapter, which is great. I feel like I’ve gotten into a good rhythm when it comes to writing even though I feel a little behind on other things – like grading.

    I need to find a balance this week between writing and teaching. It will come, I just have to focus on managing everything and eliminating the distractions.

    My writing goal for next week will be to put together a draft of my introduction to give to my adviser on Friday. This will mean 1) finishing integrating the second theoretical work in my introduction; 2) Editing what I have into a cohesive narrative; 3) Adding a total of 2000 words to the chapter/intro.

    Thanks again for the inspiration!

  43. 25 September, 2011 8:56 pm

    I want to say one more thing about pacing/work capability. When you are tired, ill, emotionally wrecked, or physically traumatized, but feel taking time off will put you so far behind that you’ll be even more stressed and tired, see if it’s possible to (a) make yourself more comfortable, and (b) work in tiny chunks. (A) Sitting at your desk in a normal chair might be too much, but perhaps you can work in a recliner, on the couch, or in bed. Maybe even typing on a laptop is too much, but it may be possible to take marginal notes on a book, to be typed up later. Wear your owl pyjamas and fluffy slippers. Assemble pillows and heating pad (or ice water and fans, depending on the season). (B) Then work in increments of 10-15 minutes, with 10-15 minute rest periods after each work session. Obviously this is not good for those big problems that need 3 hours of clear head time, but you’re not going to be trying to do those anyway when you’re sick/tired/traumatized. OTOH it is very possible to do half a day’s work in a full day by this work-rest pattern, reading, taking notes, grading, editing, writing half a paragraph at a time, and then you’re not so terribly behind. It is important to rest, really rest, between these little sprints, and not do things that will suck you into procrastination mode. Small household tasks (not a big clean-up project) are also appropriate breaks from the work if you have the energy. The point is to do something that does not involve a screen or a page.

    And remember that the best is the enemy of the good.

  44. Scatterwriter permalink
    25 September, 2011 8:59 pm

    Well. Checking in on the late side because, once again, I thought I might get a little more done and have a better report to make. Ha! I should know myself better by now.

    My goal for last week had been held over from the previous week: re-read the Intro and Chapter 1 of my long-put-aside book manuscript. I am happy to report that I re-read the Intro and made extensive notes toward its revision, which I think is actually a better use of my time than simply re-reading and not actively working on revising — my way of justifying the fact that I did not also re-read Chap. 1. Overtaken again by teaching commitments, some service commitments that are ramping up, and — after planning to spend hours on Thursday afternoon in a tea shop that I thought would be very conducive to reading and thinking — waking up that day with a raging fever and a pounding headache that would only stop if I were horizontal with my eyes shut. I made my notes on the Intro as I re-read it on Friday, beginning at lunchtime and continuing until midnight (with breaks to teach my afternoon class, to interact with my family, to eat dinner, etc.).

    I am learning things, though.

    1. I put my manuscript aside for so long that I am no longer married to the prose, and I can cut out the more literature-reviewy bits, and other bits that need to be cut, with no qualms. That’s good because they need to come out.

    2. I dread re-reading Chapter 1 because it’s 81 manuscript pages long and I can’t bear the idea of how long it will take to sort this chapter out. (Yes, I know I need to cut it.) If even I don’t want to re-read it, I guarantee no one else is going to want to read it in the first place. So I need to deal with that chapter as soon as I am done revising the Intro — but maybe in pieces, not all at once, otherwise paralysis will keep me from beginning.

    3. I don’t get my own projects done when class is in session because research is my absolute last priority. I think my priorities look like this: family, health, teaching, service, research — and research sometimes goes out the window. I don’t want to change my first two priorities because I think they’re about right, but I need research to come ahead of both teaching and service if I want it to happen.

    4. Pacing is a problem too. On Monday afternoon I had two hours that I briefly thought of using for research before I decided to work on a teaching-related thing instead. I was counting on a research sprint on Thursday. Then I was ill on Thursday. So I need to figure out how to spread my research out across the week. I still feel like I prefer to work in bursts, but maybe with this many commitments it’s too unrealistic. Also, because revising is so unpleasant (I find),I really need to break the work up because otherwise the awful work can ruin an entire day.

    Goal for this coming week: make the revisions to my Introduction that I identified this past week. Re-read and begin revising the first 20 pages of Chapter 1.

  45. Kris permalink
    25 September, 2011 9:07 pm

    I did my planned number of words which were on the whole not too bad, and a chunk are likely to stay in the final piece. The paper outline is there but I’m already seeing how it will be changed, which is the nature of my outlines right up until near the very end.

    On pacing, another body issue I have is seasonal. I am realizing that during our coldish winters I spend a lot of time asleep or feeling low and not engaged with my writing work. Next year I’m going to work towards building in fallow time in terms of writing during the winter and drastically limit my research commitments during that time.

    In terms of goals for this week, I will finish reading the papers I’ve collected note them and then take the words from the past few weeks and transform them into a front section of the paper that contextualizes the problem I’m writing on. So this week the task is not so much about number of words but finishing a task that will help me feel in control of the project and point the way for future tasks

  46. 25 September, 2011 9:46 pm

    Ok — my apologies to the people who checked in yesterday and today. I am just out of time for responding 😦 I did manage to get one of my goals done — I got stuff into Scrivener. But in so doing, I realized that I am not nearly ready to order ILL things. There are some sort of glaring issues I need to decide how to deal with first. So, this week’s modest goals”

    Read the initial papers again. (I’ve done this, but need to do it more carefully)
    Make clear notes about the awkward issues, and consult with Tenth Medieval, the editor, on which things he things need the most emphasis.*
    Work on an outline and plan for how I want to restructure the article — finish at least one of those things, preferably both.

    *The awkward issues are basically that about 3/4 (maybe 2/3) of what’s written is actual “here is some cool stuff and here’s how it fits into the scholarship and also, how it should make us re-think what we have assumed.” But a significant part is, “here is the methodology I used, and here is how this sort of research shows the strengths and weaknesses of that methodology.”

    This wouldn’t be much of a problem, except that the conference paper that is supposed to be the primary thing to be revised is the heavy methodological part. So

  47. Trapped in Canadia permalink
    25 September, 2011 10:09 pm

    The week started off well enough, but then everything fell right apart. I had to fill in for a professor who had a family emergency and left town for the week, so I was asked to lecture on the Normans in the British Isles, which is not even close to my area of interest and something I hadn’t thought about in the two years since I taught it. The week was taken over by cramming and panicking instead of writing and planning. So, basically, I’m stuck in the same place and my goals are the same as last week. And I’m signing off of the internet right now to go write. Le sigh.

  48. 25 September, 2011 10:33 pm

    I swear. I will be checking in soon. Just another hour of work or so and I will engage fully with the group.

    • Susan permalink
      25 September, 2011 11:17 pm

      I am cheering you on, frogprincess!

  49. 25 September, 2011 11:30 pm

    My actual update:

    Goals for last week: kinda, sorta accomplished in the last 27 hours. I rewrote the introduction to chapter 1; I read the introduction of the book my advisor wants me to incorporate into the diss introduction (obviously ze wants me to read the whole thing, but that’s not happening, nor am I convinced by how the author laid out the book that there would be much value in doing a thorough read for my diss); and while I did not really start on the diss intro’s addendum (as also demanded by the advisor), I tackled another section of the intro.

    My thoughts on the week: I had also made big plans to mark out M/W 12-3 for my dissertation, but that fell through on both days. I’ve been battling a pretty serious bout of exhaustion, made worse I think by the fact that my house’s AC is broken (thanks for the owner who just moved out dillydallying on getting repairs done ze knew were needed, and for communication snafus creating more delays in getting repairmen out to my place). The heat’s not brutal, but the lack of screens on most of the house’s windows (really an astonishing state of affairs in the south and another thing the former roommate/owner never managed to get done) means that there’s no way to cool down the house and the humidity’s out of control. So yeah, I’ve not been sleeping well, and I’ve been waking up more tired and wrecked than normal. It was really all I could do to prep for classes.

    That being said, I really have to hustle with the diss, b/c my mid-October deadline’s non-negotiable. (And if I don’t produce a revised diss intro soon, I’ll be in for another round of mentally taxing drama with the advisor.) But I’m still finding it difficult to juggle everything. The progress I made on the diss yesterday and today has come at the expense of the three hundred or so pages of reading I’ve assigned between the two classes for Tuesday, at least 200 of which I need to read pretty carefully. I’m finding putting together the lectures to be relatively easily done on Mondays and Wednesdays, but the reading is another matter altogether.

    I’ve also been debating getting rid of my off day, since I really don’t have time for it. But if I took it off, I’d crash and burn, so it stays and I continue to worry. I’m not panicked, but I’m worried.

    Goals for next week: finish another draft of the introduction and send it to the advisor; continue working through chapter 1 revisions; start outlining the conclusion; work on the diss on M/W 12-2 and Saturday/Sunday, hours not really important.

  50. amcalm25 permalink
    25 September, 2011 11:55 pm

    Overall project: turn conference papers into article

    Last weeks goal: gather a few source to determine if my “new” idea in terms of project direction is indeed new; write at least 20 mins for 5 days.

    I did collect major sources and managed a skim through. But rereading a section of a text made me think, that I may be have been on the right track to begin with, so now I am in a quandary as to which fork to take again. I may need to seek advice from others on this navigational decision. I need to do some more thorough reading of another text for the historical fork.

    I managed 20+ minutes for 4 days, and 5 if I sneak in yesterday. I was waylaid midweek by a conference abstract that I didn’t realize was due on Friday, I thought I had two more weeks. So I wasted some time fretting about that and trying to cobble together something and then decided that I didn’t really have a solid topic and decided to scrap that conference and plan on a different one with November deadline. But this is a perfect example of how pacing could have made my life/work easier. Had I bothered to write down the due date, I could have had a nice steady run in preparing an abstract, time to look around at the sources, instead of trying to run headlong to the finished product and failing to make the finish line due to a charlie horse!

    We recently adopted a Russian tortoise in my house, actually it lives in a 1st grade classroom during the week, but she has inspired a number of tortoise and hare conversations and analogies this week. Interestingly, tortoises also live an amazingly long time and often have to be added to one’s will. I was pondering the connection between the slow pace of the tortoise and its longevity and can see a parallel to my own life in that racing headlong to get things finished is taking a toll on my health and therefore possibly my longevity, so maybe I need to be more “slow and steady”. Perhaps I’ll adopt Shelby (predictable I know!) as my mascot.

    As to my week 4 goal: continue with at least 20 minutes of writing for at least 5 days and thoroughly read 1 main text.


  1. A post about writing, and being ill, and teaching « The Naked Philologist

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