April 6, 2007

Themes from a professor coaching group meeting

I always learn something from the brilliant professors in my coaching groups.

1.) A deep thought from Despair, Inc.:

Hard work always pays off after time,
but laziness always pays off now.
2.) The difficulty of getting into "flow" in your research and writing, when there's so much external pressure to publish, etc. Paradoxically, you have to let go of caring about what "they" want, in order to enjoy what you really want to be doing for your career. How can you sit down and "dance" with your work in a curious and joyful way (these are my words) if you feel your chair or dean breathing down your neck?

For some people, the answer may be actively practicing relaxation, meditation, or self-hypnosis. It takes a real effort to be present and relax into your work.

3.) Coping with the last stretch of the semester when you're burned out but want to keep researching and writing. Yes, 15 minutes day does work, and it's better than nothing.

4.) Ways of coping with a sabbatical. That might seem like heaven to those of you with a full teaching load, but it's easy to let those long, empty days go to waste. One trick is to alternate tasks so you don't overload one part of your brain for too long. Obviously reading and writing can be alternated, but even more important is to have tasks that use a really different part of the brain. This is one reason I like mindmapping, cardifying, and yes, even looking at pictures.

I revealed for the first time something weird I noticed about myself. When I write my newsletter, I love the part where I search for illustrations. Not just because it's a mindless break. It actually seems to clear my mind, and clarify my arguments. Various members of the Writing Clubs have used similar visual techniques when they are stuck, such as creating "poster sessions" for themselves of their work, drawing diagrams, or putting sticky notes up on the wall with the topic of each paragraph.

5.) When to just plow through and write the book, and when to stop and publish and article based on one of the chapters. In addition to keeping in mind what the book publisher will allow, one of the considerations is whether your department, and your field in general, prefers to see numbers of publications, or values the book above all else. The key is to be mindful of these factors when setting your goals.

Of course, there was much more. Just wanted to let you in on some thoughts that came up today.

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