"A meek endeavor to the triumph" by Sampath Jayarathna

Sunday, August 09, 2015

[Monday Motivator] Assess & Adjust - July 20, 2015

This is an excerpt from the Monday Motivator Program of Center for Faculty Development and Diversity. Please find the original document here. The National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity is an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, post-docs, and faculty members.

Doesn't it seem like yesterday that we were drafting our summer plans and trying to decide what type of support systems to put in place? If you've been following the Monday Motivator Series this summer, you have many weeks of daily writing under your belt and you've survived a multitude of resistance to writing including disempowerment, hyperactive inner critics, unclear goals, and the fear of success. As we head into the back end of summer, it's time for us to practice one of my favorite strategies: assess and adjust.

Assess Your Summer Progress Thus Far
At this point of the summer, it's incredibly important to pause and assess your progress. This is not an invitation for you to beat yourself up over what didn’t get done. Instead it's an opportunity for you to honestly evaluate the effectiveness of your new writing habits, the scope of work that can realistically be accomplished before the fall term begins, and the patterns of your resistance to writing that have emerged this summer. I typically begin my assessment by pulling up my summer plan and then answering the following five questions:
  1. What goals have (and have not) been accomplished so far this summer?
  2. How consistent have I been in my daily writing routine?
  3. When, where and how has my resistance flared up?
  4. Is my current support system effective and if not, what am I willing to try?
  5. How do I feel about my answers to the previous questions?
If you have been consistent throughout the summer in updating your progress each week in your plan, you will very likely feel that an enormous amount of work HAS been done, even if it's not quite everything that you imagined back in May. So let's appreciate all the work that you have accomplished and reflect on the moments that your resistance flared up (and what it looked like when it did). This will help you to identify some important patterns. For example, this summer I realized that my resistance is strongest when I am just about to send something out. I get scared of what my readers, reviewers and/or co-authors might think of my work, so the final stage of completion is when things have turned ugly around my house. That’s great! Every piece of insight we gain about our resistance patterns makes it easier for us to manage our bodyguard in the upcoming weeks. And finally, if your support system fell apart, that’s also perfectly fine -- it’s all data for your decision making moving forward.

What Worked And What Didn't Work?
Now that you have data about your summer productivity so far, you can begin to analyze it and use it to make decisions about how you will spend the rest of your summer. It’s important to start off by identifying what HAS worked well for you. That list will help you to clarify what practices to build into your schedule for the next few weeks. For example, if morning writing works better than evening (or vice versa), then build your schedule around your optimal writing time. Next, identify what is NOT working. For example, if your voluntary support system fell apart, then consider experimenting with a different type of support system (and it may be time to experiment with paying for the support, services, and accountability you need).

Make Necessary Adjustments
You’ve assessed and analyzed, and now it’s time to revise the last part of your summer plan! When you’re ready, just follow the same steps you took for creating a summer plan the first time around: 1) list your writing goals, 2) outline the tasks necessary to achieve each of your goals, 3) map the tasks onto each week, 4) commit to executing your plan on a daily basis, and 5) set up whatever support and accountability system will help you move forward day-by-day and week-by-week. Thankfully, planning gets easier every time that you do it.

Reconnect With Your Mentors
Now is a great time to set up meetings with your mentors in the coming weeks. You can share with them all of your progress and achievements (mentors love to hear good news) and you can discuss your fall semester plan to get their feedback. I find these meetings can serve as a motivator for finishing up the last of your summer goals so that you can have a strong report of the tangible tasks you've completed during the summer months. And for whatever items didn't get accomplished, you can ask your mentors for concrete advice and support. Having structured exchanges with your mentors will not only elicit their valuable wisdom, advice, and feedback, but it also communicates the message that you are a serious, organized, and productive scholar who has clear goals and makes concrete progress towards achieving them.

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to:
  • Write every day for 30 – 60 minutes (why stop now?).
  • Pull out your summer plan.
  • Answer the reflective questions provided above and congratulate yourself for all of the work that DID get accomplished.
  • Analyze your answers and figure out what IS and is NOT working for you.
  • Adjust the remaining time in your summer plan in a way that responds to your needs and builds in some new experimentation.
  • Set up a meeting with at least one of your mentors to discuss your summer progress and your fall research and writing plans.
I hope this week brings each of you a spirit of gratitude towards yourself for all the things you have accomplished this summer, a sense of curiosity about your own patterns, and the renewed energy that comes from assessing your reality and adjusting to make things better.

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