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Workin’ for a Livin’*

June 30, 2017

Ahhhhhh, summer.  The time when we’re supposed to get a reprieve from our coursework, student supervision, or other administrative duties and get some actual research done.  That is, that’s the case if you’re in academia and have students to consider.  If you’re on the research side of things, maybe you’re off to the field this summer, or putting together an exhibit, or writing up your research from last year.  Or you’re an independent scholar who doesn’t get a break from your paid work to write.  The point is, there is so much time away from admin in the summer that we cannot but help be super productive in other ways.


Well, that’s meant to be the point, anyway.

Around HARN towers, it means a lot of other things.  For some of us, it means lots of painful fun children’s events from school carnivals, to zoo trips, birthday parties, summer school shenanigans, swimming lessons and more.  For all of us, it’s more admin, more paperwork, more prep for next term.  I think it also means a break—any kind of break.  We really do need mental and physical breaks from the work we do for most of the year.  Taking a vacation, a mini-break, or simply spending a few days on the couch with some tea and a good book—or seven.  It is the 20th anniversary or the Philosopher’s Stone, you know (Go Ravenclaw!).

As for the writing, writing, writing we are all expected to do, we never get as much as we’d like.  What do you do to combat this?  One of my favorite tools is the Pomodoro technique.  I did learn about this from this post, and I love this woman’s blog in general.  She has a lot of practical tips for being productive while “only” working 40-hour weeks.  Granted, those hours are packed.  But if we say we work 60-80 hours per week, do we really?  But I digress…

Pomodoro timers are basically a customizable time-management tool that you can set for as much work/break time as you want.  Ideally, you do 25 minutes of work with a 5 minute break.  That’s as much as science says our brains can handle.  I try to get 5 Pomodoros of writing in per week.  Even during the semester.  It’s hard sometimes, but I consider “writing” to be any sort of activity that helps my research move forward.  Sometimes, 1 Pomodoro is looking up sources and ordering them (our tiny engineering library here does not carry a lot of books in my field…).  Did I create words for a count?  Nope.  But I did some activity that will allow my project(s) to move forward.  Writing in this way reminds me a bit of exercise—seriously, you have 30 minutes a day to do this, so quit putting it off and just do it.  If you have trouble finding a time to write because of meetings, appointments, other commitments, try thinking of it as an appointment in itself that you just cannot miss.  I do this with writing as well as exercise.  (Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when people ask for a meeting at a time I have set aside for a run or a Pomodoro of writing, I tell them that I have a meeting scheduled for that time.)  There is also a project call Shut up and Write which has specific online workshops on Tuesdays for this purpose.

In the hectic summer, these practices help me write.  What are the practices that get you writing?

In summer

On top of writing, this summer, here in HARN Towers (Midwest US), I am having some renovations done to the house (the contractor is in my garage looking at some supplies AS I WRITE actually), leading a study abroad group to Nicaragua, trying to edit a couple of pieces of writing, edit other people’s writing, and prep for 2 new classes next term.

Ahhhhhhhhh, summer.

*I mean, Huey


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