"A meek endeavor to the triumph" by Sampath Jayarathna

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

[Monday Motivator] Saying 'No' At Mid-Career - September 28, 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.

Sociologists have tested the hypothesis that women do more service than their male counterparts at mid-career and found significant gender gaps in both service work (women do more of it) and advancement to full professor (men are more likely to advance). While working the same number of total hours, men spent seven hours more per week on research than women, who were investing that time in service and mentoring. I often work with mid-career faculty members (mostly women) who are overwhelmed with service requests, over-functioning on departmental service, and feeling exhausted, angry and resentful about the work. And yet, when asked why they keep doing more service, I hear the same thing repeatedly: "I can’t say no."

Given the twin realities that mid-career women (especially the "nice" and "helpful" ones) get more service requests than their male counterparts and that saying yes too often draws time away from the very activities that lead down the path to promotion, it seems to me that one of the most critical skills for success at mid-career is ability to say "no” clearly and confidently and to remove the phrase "I can’t say no” from your professional vocabulary.

What Keeps You From Saying No?
If you’re someone who is over-functioning on service to the detriment of your post-tenure pathway, don’t worry! There’s no shame in acknowledging it and moving toward an exploration of why that is your reality. In other words, if you know you should say "no” and you need to say "no” more often, then the most important question is what’s keeping you from uttering the magic word?

I’ve observed three types of factors that keep mid-career faculty (especially women) from saying "no” more often, more confidently, and more strategically then is necessary to pursue their post-tenure path: 1) Technical Errors, 2) Psychological Blocks and 3) External Constraints.

Technical Errors
Sometimes mid-career faculty have a vague sense that they should say "no” more often and that their physical and emotional exhaustion can be traced directly to service overload. They are not however, putting any conscious effort into actually saying "no.” This can be due to a variety of technical errors including:
You literally don't know how to say "no" in a manner appropriate to the context
"Yes” is your default response (and you feel must have an extraordinary reason to say "no”)
You have no idea how much time "yes” takes
You haven’t recognized the connection between the time required to fulfill "yes” commitments and the time you feel you’re missing for truly important activities
You don’t have a clear and consistent filter to help you decide when to say "yes” and when to say "no”

The great thing about technical errors is that they are easy to fix! If you don’t know how to say "no,” then practice (here are 7 Simple Ways to Say No). If "yes” is your unconscious default response, try making "no” your default response for a while and see what happens. If you don’t know how much time a "yes” takes, start tracking how long each and every "yes” costs you. As soon as you start realizing that "yes” is a commitment to a unit of your most precious commodity (time), you’ll get much more selective about how, when and to whom you give it away. If you aren’t clear about the linear connection between the time you’re giving away and the time you don’t have for truly important activities, start holding a Sunday Meeting each week. And if you don’t have a clear filter to decide between "yes” and "no,” either develop one or create a human filter (i.e., a service mentor, a buddy or an accountability group) to help you while you are building this muscle.

Psychological Blocks
Fixing the basic technical errors will be helpful, but more often than not the reason you’re saying "yes” too often is that that there’s a little something deeper going on and it requires a different process than a tip or trick. The goal of identifying psychological blocks is to become aware of why you feel compelled to say "yes” so often and then experiment with different beliefs and behaviors in your decision making. The most common psychological blocks to saying "no" I see among mid-career faculty are:
You’re a pleaser (you're more concerned about people liking you than you are about meeting your own goals)
You’re trying to be super-professor (trying to do a little of everything but not doing any one thing well)
You’re a perfectionist
You feel overly responsible for things that aren’t entirely your responsibility
You believe everything will fall apart unless you do the work
You’re overcompensating and/or trying to prove you belong
You always put other people’s needs before your own

Unlike technical errors, psychological blocks are not immediately fixable with a new skill. Instead, resolving them requires an ongoing process where you first and foremost become aware of how you feel when you receive a request. And until you can gain in-the-moment clarity about what to say "yes” and "no” to, don’t respond on the spot. Once you have some time, ask yourself why your first impulse is to say "yes.” Once you can identify how you’re feeling and if any of the common blocks are occurring, check in with a buddy, mentor or support system to discuss the costs and benefits of saying "yes” or "no” to a particular request. This process will help you to experiment with saying "no” more often, develop a clear and consistent filter for your decision-making, and lead to a more equitable and balanced service load.

External Constraints
You can do all the inner work possible and yet sometimes circumstances outside of your control force you into a situation where your "yes” is a sub-optimal but necessary response. For example, someone died and you’re the only person with substantive expertise who can step in and teach their graduate seminar halfway through the term. This happens to everyone at some point if you have a long academic career, so negotiate the best possible circumstances for your "yes,” get the support you will need to make the "yes” a realistic possibility, and lean into your network. It’s also critically important to adjust your expectations about what’s possible during those times in order to be focused on moving your agenda forward.

The Weekly Challenge
I know this is a delicate topic, but this week I challenge every mid-career reader who is feeling "stuck” to:
  • Reflect on your past academic year and gently ask yourself: Do I have a problem with "yes”?
  • If you determine that you are over-functioning relative to your colleagues, take 10 minutes to identify what keeps you from saying "no” more often.
  • If it’s a combination of factors, pick one step you can take to move forward this week.
  • Write every day for at least 30 minutes. It’s the very best insulation you can provide yourself for the unexpected moments of external constraint.
I hope this week brings you the desire to explore your habits around saying "yes” and the willingness to take the first step in a new direction.

[Monday Motivator] Just Say No - September 14, 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.

One of the most frequent and difficult pieces of advice I received as a pre-tenure faculty member was "just say no." I always felt frustrated by this advice because (while well-intended and correct) it is far easier said than done, especially for under-represented faculty. This difficulty is due to the fact that being the only _____ in your department means you will receive a disproportionately high number of service requests from all across your campus in the name of "diversity." That additional service will neither be rewarded, nor serve as a substitute for published research (at a research-intensive university), nor will it offset lackluster teaching evaluations (at a teaching-intensive institution) when it comes time for your promotion and tenure decision. While "just say no" is important advice for all tenure-track faculty, it is essential for under-represented faculty who are challenged to say "no" more frequently, and to a broader range of campus leaders, in order to have the necessary time to excel in the areas that matter most to promotion: research, publication, and teaching.

I continue to struggle with the "just say no" advice, but I have improved over time. The keys to making it work are: 1) self-awareness about why you feel the need to say "yes" so often and 2) developing a process for evaluating and responding to the never-ending stream of service requests you receive. Here are the six guidelines that Tracey Laszloffy and I suggest in The Black Academic's Guide to Winning Tenure Without Losing Your Soul.

1) Avoid Saying "Yes" On The Spot
Whenever someone asks you to do something, avoid saying "yes" before you’ve had time to consider the request. Try to buy some time by saying something like "Let me check my calendar/workload and I'll get back to you," "I'm currently overwhelmed, so I need to think seriously about taking on any additional service commitments" or just "I'll email you tomorrow." If you’re consistently holding your Sunday Meeting, then one look at your weekly time map will make it clear whether (or not) you have time available to accommodate any additional requests. 

2) Estimate How Long It Will Actually Take You To Complete The Request
I keep track of how much time various routine requests take so that I can be informed when I make decisions. For example, while a search committee always sounds like an exciting and important opportunity to meet new scholars, shape the future of the department, and enjoy a few free dinners, it’s also an enormous time commitment. Specifically, it takes 70-80 hours of my time from the initial meeting to the receipt of a signed offer letter. An independent study = 15 hours, an article review = 6 hours, an "informal talk" to a community group = 5 hours. Your time estimates may be different than mine but what's important is connecting any request you receive with actual hours of labor. And if you don’t know how long something will take, don’t guess – ask your colleagues, peers and/or mentors (then multiply by 2 to correct for academic’s tendency to underestimate the amount of time tasks take to complete). 

3) Consult Your Calendar
Like most of you, my calendar is jam-packed and the further we get into the term, the less time I have available. When someone makes a request, ask yourself: what specific day and time do I have available to complete this task? Not in a general sense, but literally what day, and what period of time are available in your calendar for this activity? Given that you’re not going to compromise your daily writing, research time, or class time, this often makes the decision clear and easy. If you can't schedule it in your calendar, then you don’t have time to do it. 

4) Ask Yourself: Why Would I Say "Yes"?
For a long time, "yes" was my unconscious default response. I automatically responded "yes" and thought I had to have a special reason to say "no." Then each term, I ended up spending too much time on service, got exhausted, and became angry, resentful, and inter-personally unpleasant. Finally I started asking myself: "why do you keep saying yes all the time?" For me, it was some combination of bad gender socialization, wanting to please people who had power over me, trying to avoid the punishment I imagined would occur if I said "no," overcompensating for other aspects of my work where I felt less confident, trying to correct longstanding historical and structural inequalities at my institution, single-handedly making up for all the systemic failures my students had experienced in their academic career, and seeking to nullify all negative stereotypes by being super-minority-faculty-member. With all those intentions operating under the surface, no wonder I kept saying "yes" to every request or alternatively, feeling intense guilt, shame and disappointment on the few occasions I said "no." Thankfully, once I became aware of why I said "yes" so often, I was able to develop a new criteria for evaluating requests and flip my default upside down. Now my automatic response is "no" and I require a special reason to say "yes" (and don't worry, there are still plenty of those!). 

5) Figure Out How To Say "No" And Do It!
There are so many ways to say "no "and I am always shocked by how easily people accept "no" for an answer and move on to find someone else to accommodate their request. You could say "no" in any of the following ways:
"That sounds like a really great opportunity, but I just can't take on any additional commitments at this time."
"I am in the middle of _________, ____________, and ___________ [fill in the blanks with your most status-enhancing and high profile service commitments] and if I hope to get tenure, I'm unable to take on any additional service."
"I'm not the best person for this, why don't you ask ______________."
"If you can find a way to eliminate one of my existing service obligations, I will consider your request."
"No." [look the asker in the eye and sit in silence].

6) Serve Strategically
Finally, the best advice one of my mentors gave me was to be strategic about my service. That means, you want to determine what percentage of your tenure and promotion evaluation will be based on service. It doesn’t have to be perfectly precise, but whatever the percentage is, use it as a guideline for how much time you can spend on service each week. If service only counts as 10% of your promotion criteria, then spending anything more than 4-6 hours per week on service activities means you’re over-functioning in that area. The percentage will be different according to your institutional type and culture, but once you know approximately how much time you can spend on service each week, then say "yes" only to the things that fit your broader agenda or make substantive sense for you to participate in.

Learning how, when and why to "just say no" isn’t easy. It takes time, practice, and clarity. But doing so is an important part of making time for the things that really matter to your long-term success and keeping you from getting burned out while on the tenure-track.

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to do the following:
  • If you feel overwhelmed by service commitments (or aren't happy with your research and writing productivity), patiently ask yourself why you say "yes" so frequently.
  • Gently acknowledge that the reality of life on the tenure-track is that you will ALWAYS have more service requests than time to fulfill them.
  • For one week, say "no" to EVERY new request you receive (just to see what it feels like).
  • With each request, let "no" be your default response and wait for a reason to say "yes".
  • If that seems too crazy, then at least commit to reviewing your calendar and existing tasks before saying "yes" to any new commitments.
  • Re-commit yourself to at least 30 minutes each day for your writing.
  • If you haven't created a strategic plan, it's not too late.
  • If you want to go deeper into the Art of Saying No, why not download the webinar recording? 
I hope this week brings you insight into the reasons why you say "yes" so frequently and the strength to say "no" often, confidently, and without guilt.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

More updates about new Sony A6100/A7000 possible release date Sep. 11

Here's some more news about the soon to be announced (September 11) new Sony E-mount camera. News source sonyalpharumors. See my previous post for more details of previous possible features.

UDPATED POST: I got two anonymous sources sending me two different A6100 info. So either both or one of them is wrong, or we have two different cameras coming:

Source_1:Sony A6000 successor will be announced on September 11. A6100 will support UHS-II SD cards with a maximum write speed of 173 MB/s. It will have a new 24 megapixel sensor with 15% better ISO performance. There won’t be 4K video recording capability. There won’t be a silver version anymore, only black.
Source_2:just saw your latest post and want to say that a6100 or a6000II will have 4K 100mbps but no full readout like a7rII s35 mode. 32mp but not 24mp BSI sensor, and yes with 15% better noise performance. price is unknown yet. It will also have a larger T* viewfinder 0.75x

Sunday, September 06, 2015

[Monday Motivator] Facing Resistance to Daily Writing - August 31, 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.

In last week's Monday Motivator, I encouraged you to consider blocking out at least 30 minutes every day for writing and suggested you treat your writing time with the same respect you would a meeting or a class. As always, those two seemingly simple suggestions resulted in my phone ringing off the hook and my inbox overflowing!

The outpouring of response only re-affirmed my belief that daily writing is difficult because what seems like a simple act -- sitting down to write for 30 minutes every day -- brings forth all of our "stuff" (whatever that "stuff" may be). This past week alone, daily writing brought out fears of success, fears of failure, debilitating perfectionism, inner-critics on steroids, rage over institutional inequalities, and painful ambivalence about whether (or not) some of us want to be academics.

Today, I want to acknowledge that daily writing can be incredibly difficult and resistance is to be expected. Anytime we try to make a change in our behavior, we are guaranteed to face resistance which most frequently manifests as procrastination, avoidance and/or denial. That resistance is perfectly normal, practically universal, and you are not alone in your fears, anxieties, and time constraints. If you struggled to write every day last week, that's okay. This is a new week and a new opportunity to enter into open and honest conversation with your resistance.

Some of us experience resistance as a loss of energy that leads us to give up on daily writing. Then later, we feel guilty about breaking yet another promise to ourselves. Let's take a totally different approach to our resistance this week by acknowledging it, being curious about it, figuring it out, naming it, and then sneaking around it. In the process, let's also be gentle with ourselves because guilt, shame and self-criticism aren't useful and they aren't going to help any of us write, publish and/or be productive scholars.

This is a new week, so when you experience resistance, I suggest you try three things. First, acknowledge that you're feeling resistance and name it. Even if it's only identifying the feeling ("I just don't wanna write today!") or the behavior ("I must check Facebook before I start writing!") that's keeping you from writing. That's a great start. Second, find the smallest amount of time you can stand for daily writing and show up. If you can write for 5 minutes every day this week, that's a success. If all you can do in that 5 minutes is physically pick up your manuscript and walk around your office snuggling it, that's progress! Third, in that small amount of time, re-connect with what you love about your project. You may hate 30 different things about it, but for now try remembering what you love about it. Doing just a little something and loving it will help you tiptoe around your resistance, the energy and connection will return, and you will be moving forward on the pathway to establishing a healthy and sustainable writing routine.

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I challenge you to do the following:
  • If you haven't created a semester plan yet, do so now. If you need motivation, go ahead and listen to our Every Semester Needs a Plan core curriculum webinar and check out sample semester plans.
  • Re-commit to your writing time this week.
  • Block your writing time out of your calendar.
  • If you don't have a calendar, try google calendar or go buy a simple and cheap one ASAP!
  • If you experience resistance, acknowledge and name it.
  • If you're struggling, reduce your time to the smallest amount you can actually stand, then set a timer, and get started.
  • Remember what you LOVE about your work.
  • If you don't love anything about your manuscript, gently and lovingly ask yourself: why am I doing this?
I hope this week brings you the curiosity to engage in conversation with your resistance and a deep reconnection with what you love about your current writing project.

[Monday Motivator] The Sunday Meeting - September 7, 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.

I've spent a great deal of time in the past helping people to create their strategic plans. While doing this, it's become clear to me that many people are great at making a list of goals, but remain unclear how to connect their goals to time, and how to make their plan work on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis. In other words, a strategic plan is unlikely to be useful if it is only a statement of goals that won’t be touched again until the end of the term. Instead, I encourage you to see the process of creating a strategic plan as one where you identify WHAT your personal and professional goals are, outline HOW they will be accomplished, and WHEN you will do the work. From that point, the real secret to making a strategic plan come to life is to use it on a weekly basis as the foundation for planning out your week. One of the simplest and most transformative strategies that I have seen graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and new faculty put into practice is what I call "the Sunday Meeting." As with all strategies, you may want to try it out for a few weeks, see how it works for YOU, and then adapt it to your particular needs, workload, and lifestyle.

The Sunday Meeting is quite simple: devote 30 minutes of time at the beginning of each week to planning your week. It doesn’t have to take place on Sunday, but many people begin preparations for the week on Sunday night. What’s important is that it’s in place before your week begins. The purpose of this weekly planning time is to make sure that all the things that contribute to your LONG-TERM SUCCESS get done and that you don't get distracted by seemingly urgent (but unimportant) tasks throughout the week. During your weekly meeting time, try the following five steps:

STEP #1: Create Your Skeleton (5 Minutes)
The meeting starts by blocking out all of your commitments for the week: research and writing time, classes, office hours, and meetings, etc… You should also include non-work items that you are committed to a specific time and place, such as child-care pick-up, date night, and/or Zumba class. If you haven't tried it yet, you may want to schedule your writing time first thing in the morning (before checking e-mail or Facebook, prepping for classes, and/or responding to everyone else's needs in your workplace). Your commitments form the skeleton of your week because everything else has to be fleshed out on top of them.

STEP #2: Brain Dump (10 Minutes)
Write out all your to-do items for the week including the short term tasks you need to get done, as well as the strategic tasks associated with your long term research agenda (these should be listed by week in your strategic plan). Many of the new faculty members I work with categorize their to-do items under the headings "teaching," "service," "research," and "personal" to quickly assess the relative length of their to-do tasks and to determine whether their lists are aligned with their priorities and how they will be evaluated for promotion and tenure. The purpose of this step is to: 1) reconnect you with your strategic plan on a weekly basis, 2) get everything out of your head and onto paper, and 3) to put you in a position to control your week (instead of your week controlling you). The brain dump can cause either relief or anxiety, but no matter how you feel about it in the moment, go on to the next step.

STEP #3: Introduce Your Tasks To Your Calendar (15 Minutes)
Here's where it gets ugly! Turn back to your calendar for this week and assign each of your to-do items to a specific block of time. This will require you to estimate how long your tasks will take, prioritize what’s most important, and commit to actually doing specific work at specific times this week. Inevitably, you will have the same devastating realization each week: you don't have enough time to complete all the tasks on your to-do list. Breathe deeply. Having more tasks than time is the perfectly normal reality of academic life. No matter how frustrating it is, it's far better to deal with that reality at the beginning of the week then to walk blindly into that realization at the end of the week.

STEP #4: Decide What To Do With Everything That Doesn’t Fit
Knowing that you have more tasks than time, consciously choose how you will spend your time this week. You may need to prioritize the tasks on your list and I suggest using the criteria by which you will be evaluated for your next step. For example, if you're on the tenure-track, use the criteria for tenure and promotion as your guide.

For the tasks that don’t fit, you have many different options! You can:
  • delegate
  • lower your standards (especially for non-critical tasks)
  • compromise
  • renegotiate deadlines
  • ask for help
  • let some things go
Step #5: Commit To Executing The Plan
Of course, the best-laid plans can be thrown into disarray by unexpected circumstances and daily chaos. But having a clear plan and genuinely committing to its execution are essential to moving forward each week, will help you to easily say "no” to additional request during the week, and will assist you in being far more productive than you would be operating on crisis management each day.

The Weekly Challenge
This week, I want to challenge you to do the following:
  • Take 30 minutes and try having a Sunday Meeting. If you want to spend a bit more time and walk through this with me, download February's training on this topic by clicking here.
  • If you still don't have a calendar, it's time to acquire one (it doesn’t have to be fancy and you can even download and print my free and simple time map as the most basic way to get you started).
  • Gently acknowledge that having more tasks than time is perfectly normal for academic life. It is not an individual shortcoming or personal flaw.
  • Review your calendar and tasks before saying "yes" to any new commitments this week.
  • Re-commit yourself to at least 30 minutes each day for your writing.
  • If you haven't created your strategic plan, it's not too late.
I hope this week brings you the willingness to try a Sunday Meeting, comfort in knowing that you are not alone in having more tasks than time, and the creativity to make conscious decisions that are in line with your priorities.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Sony A6100/A7000 has a new backlit sensor and RGBW pixel array.

More news about the soon to be announced new Sony E-mount camera.
1) Sony is preparing the next step in video quality and experience
2) This is an interchangeable lens camera with
– Best in class low light performance (backlit sensor and RGBW pixel array)
– internal 4k video recording with full sensor readout in 60fps
– extremly fast autofocus system

The built-in “RGBW Coding” function which adds W (White) pixels to the conventional range of RGB (Red-Green-Blue) pixels has realized higher sensitivity, enabling high-quality shooting with low noise even in dark indoor or night settings.While the addition of W (White) pixels improves sensitivity, it has the problem of degrading image quality. However, Sony’s own device technology and signal processing realizes superior sensitivity without hurting image quality.

Possible release dates: There is the IFA in Berlin (Sept. 7) and the IBC in Amsterdam (Sony press day on Sept. 11).