Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Success" meme

Okay, so dhawhee tagged me for this one: the task is to identify the five things that I do every day that contribute to my "success"--a word that I feel compelled to place in quotes, as I'm not sure that I'm exactly a frequent flyer on the success express.

But for my purposes I'll define success as whatever it is that got me a done dissertation and a pretty good job, and whatever it is that keeps me writing and submitting and publishing and presenting.
1. Like dhawhee, I'm a list-maker, and I make one nearly every day. This isn't to say that I get everything on that list done every day--far from it--but it calms me down and helps me focus.

2. I pile up projects. That doesn't sound like a recipe for success, but I've found that I get more done when I have more stuff to do. Take my reading group, for example: who has the time to read four scholarly books unrelated to her research in the course of a semester teaching a 3-3 load and going to three conferences? Totally not me. But because I have that obligation, I've met it. What would I have done with that time otherwise? Frittered it away on the internet or course prep.

3. Relatedly, I put off course prep until the last minute. I get my grading done promptly and I'm pretty good about getting handouts and assignments made up in plenty of time--but planning what I'm actually going to do in front of the class the next day? Best to do that at 10 p.m. the night before. Or 11 p.m. Otherwise, what need take only 30 or 60 minutes could well suck up three hours.

4. I goof off a lot. Seriously. On days when I'm working at home--and especially if I don't have plans in the evening--I get up at 10 or so, spend a couple of hours on the internet, take a shower & put myself together. . . and then putter around the apartment until 3 or 4 or even past dinnertime. I've come to the conclusion that I really need that time to be totally by myself, just doing mindless, pleasurable things, in order to free up mental space and relax.

5. In between that goofing off, though--and tending to teaching and administrative tasks--I try to get some scholarship done every day. This I always schedule in manageable chunks: two hours here, an hour there. I can work very intensely for short bursts, and if it's an especially good day, I may have two or three such bursts. What's much harder is to make myself work for 6 or 8 hours at a go. . . and in the long run I figure that an hour or two of work, nearly every day, is much better (and much more likely to happen!) than setting aside one or even two days a week that are theoretically totally devoted to writing and research.
So, uh. . . check back in two or three years, why dontcha, and let's see if those habits have actually gotten me somewhere.


Hieronimo said...

Does it count as getting "somewhere" if your daily blog readership has expanded to the tens of thousands?

Anonymous said...

Holy crap!!

Flavia said...

Ummm. . . whose daily blog readership is in the tens of thousands? Or even thousands? I'm in the low to mid hundreds, yo.

(And who would want for theirs to be that large? I think I've have to stop blogging just from the sheer weight of expectations.)

gwoertendyke said...

i am utterly behind three of these and do them myself: prep class last-minute, spend goof-off time with myself and don't feel even the tiniest bit guilty about it, and write/do my own scholarship even a little bit everyday. i am extremely busy and do work better under lots of pressure (i think, i've actually not had a choice before) but i welcome a time when it isn't all that pressure-filled. i guess i'm getting old.

the lists i do not do because they add to the clutter which makes me crazy and i never follow them anyway. i admire the list-makers though, especially the list-maker-followers.

cheers for sharing, aw

Inkhorn said...

When I first arrived at State U, I was handed a manual for junior faculty members. I think the author's name was Boyce or something like that. It must be around somewhere, though I can't find it; I never read it, but my very earnest colleague, hired along with me, not only read it but also tried to live it. The one thing I remember her telling me was that the central piece of advice there was: do 30 minutes of (research) work every day. It doesn't matter how much you accomplish, it just matters that you sit down and do a bit every day. At least that's the line. On the model of those 15 minute per day workouts, I guess. Get tenure -- or, rock hard abs.

Hieronimo said...

Flavia: not yet you don't, but my point was that by following the "get up at 10 and spend a couple hours on the internet" plan, in a few years' time, your blog will have expanded to dominate the -osphere.

Flavia said...

Inkhorn: Hmmm. Tenure. . . or great abs? How to choose?

And Hieronimo: yeah, in rereading your first comment a short while ago I realized that I'd misunderstood it. But my point remains: I wouldn't want a readership that large even if I were capable of doing what it took to get it. I enjoy blogging and I'm immensely gratified that there are people who want to read what I write. . . but I regard my readers as an especially wide group of friends and colleagues with whom to share wacky stories or get advice from. What I do here is intimately related to my research and my teaching, but it's definitely secondary to them (not to mention a number of other hobbies and interests); I'd give up blogging if it seemed to be getting in the way of those other activities.

(But for now, I think that blogging falls under point #2, above.)

Inkhorn said...

Maybe tenure comes *with* rock hard abs. Although, looking around State U, ...

Also, I totally want to endorse the thing about minimizing class prep time. That's crucial. My feeling is that people can get caught up with prep, and that sometimes it becomes a way of avoiding the much scarier issue of Das Book. And, in my experience at least, there tends to be an unclear relationship between prep time and success in the classroom. I'm pretty convinced that my best class plans have been formulated with one foot across the threshold of the classroom.