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Showing posts from 2011

Overwhelmed? Do this.

Ok, maybe you don't have time to meditate for two hours a day.  But if you can take a micro-break and shut your mind down (as much as possible) for even a couple of minutes, you're less likely to burn out. This web page, "Do Nothing For Two Minutes," has no explanation, and, as far as I can tell, no ulterior motive for its existence. I like it, and maybe you will, too.

Academic Exhaustion Syndrome: Four Recovery Strategies

The semester’s over. If you’re anything like the academics I coach, you feel like death warmed over.  Those last stacks of grading got done on sheer will, determination and fumes. And this is before considering your writing deadlines, committee responsibilities, and other demands.  You are suffering from Academic Exhaustion Syndrome.  Academic Exhaustion Syndrome (an advanced, more scholarly state of burn out) is a state of emotional, and physical exhaustion caused by prolonged stress, ending with grading, over the course of the semester and academic year. As the stress continues, you begin to lose interest and motivation to work, you have fantasies of standing up and screaming in the middle of a meeting, and you wonder what temporary loss of reality testing made you decide to become an academic.  This dreaded Syndrome can: Reduce your productivity and saps your energy Make you irritable and have thoughts of strangling an undergraduate Make you feel like you have nothing more to g

You Are The Experiment; Your Behavior is the Data

 Last week I gave 5 talks in 4 days; two to faculty at UC Berkeley and two to graduate students at the same institution.  The fifth was a talk at Stanford to the engineering graduate students.  Although it sounds like a marathon, it turned out to be a perfectly delightful experience, because of the people in the audiences and their enthusiasm for what I had to say.  This is one of the phrases that I ended up saying to them repeatedly in response to certain questions: “You are the experiment; your behavior is the data.” Let me explain what I meant by that.  But first, for you non-science types, let me review with two sentences.  Every experiment involves a hypothesis.  You test the hypothesis by getting data. For example, you wonder which food ants prefer; honey or sugar.  You may hypothesize that they prefer sugar, because ants don’t want to get stuck in the honey.  You put out the honey and sugar, and count the number of hungry ants that run to each food.  Their behavior is the dat

Therapist for Blocked Screenwriters:

This article, Hollywood Shadows: A Cure for Blocked Screenwriters , is a hoot! Two Hollywood therapists use sometimes outlandish techniques, which are really exaggerations of the techniques that we are always telling you about at Academic Ladder, to get Hollywood writers past their blocks. Some of his techniques go waaay beyond what we do. Enjoy!

Stay out of the Comparison Gutter!

Staying out of the comparison gutter is much, much harder than it sounds.  Comparisons come and find you, even when you’re being strong and not seeking them. People, like your “nice” senior colleague, ask you such questions as, “How’s your book going?  Did you know that our other junior colleague just published an article and a book this month?”  Your neighbor or your aunt keeps saying, “My son finished his dissertation last year; aren’t you done yet?” These are the questions that drive academics crazy, and frankly, make them feel really anxious, depressed, or both. By Rebecca Schwartz-Bishir, Ph.D. It is a part of human nature to compare things. Comparisons are helpful: they allow us to take measurements, evaluate for truth, and create expectations. They can make us objective in our thinking, and that thinking can result in beauty and invention. When used to measure our achievements against those of others, however, comparisons can be unhelpful.  They often tap into o

What are you waiting for?

Are you waiting around for something to change before you take scary, but important steps? Get inspired to really live your life and stop being so afraid to step into what you were meant to be. Pretend that you were fearless. What is one quantum leap that you could take that would move your life trajectory forward? Contact a well known academic in your field and tell them about your similar line of research Actually write that article and send it to a valued colleague to read. Then submit it. Realize what you're really trying to say in your dissertation, stake a claim, and come right out and say it. I'm sure there's something you could do. Do it. And watch this video.

Discussion on depression in grad school

There has been an interesting discussion on depression in grad school going on the "Discussions" section of the Academic Ladder fan page.  The initial question was: Do you think that the grad school experience can lead to depression? How and why, in your opinion? I'd love to get more input into what you think makes grad students prone to depression.  Or are they (you)?  I know that I've seen students with depression, whose symptoms went away once they were able to write.  The shame of writers block and lack of progress combined with the critical, competitive atmosphere of academia leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. But that's just my opinion -- those of you who are going through grad school or who have survived it probably have better insight into what makes the experience so difficult. Please put your two cents in!

How to answer your inner critic

In the Academic Writing Club , we ask people about the negative thoughts that are swirling through their preconscious mind, then we ask them to replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts.  Every once in a while, I'm inspired by what people write.  Here is one positive response that I particularly like (published with permission):  "It is there. It is all there. It is a question of emphasis and reorganization of ideas. Just be patient. let the logic emerge and flow through you. Getting impatient and frustrated is not conducive to seeing patterns and gaps. You will do it in good time. Just take a deep breath." It's very powerful to write down your negative thoughts (we all have them -- just pay close attention).  Responding to those thoughts in writing, as if you were speaking to a good friend who just said those negative things, will help you break through those blocks and stop the cycle of procrastination.

15 Tips for Postponing Writing Procrastination

Thanks to my friend and colleague, Meggin McIntosh for providing this great article! By Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D. The Ph.D. of Productivity™ Reno, NV | Heaven only knows that being writers, we can all procrastinate. You could probably generate a whole list of ways that you have procrastinated. But let’s not procrastinate - you're actually reading this article (and using the ideas to help you postpone procrastination). Let us get to 15 tips to help you postpone your procrastination around writing. Clean off your desk. You might think that this is actually a way to procrastinate, and it can be. What I am suggesting here though is the idea that when it is time to write, you have a cleaned-off surface. Notice when you are messing around and only pretending to write. I will make the assumption that you are an adult and that you have the executive control functions required to be a productive grown-up. Given that fact, you know perfectly well when you are fiddling