Careers: September 2005 Archives

The Tomorrow's Professor mailing list is a wonderful resource for new and old faculty and graduate students. Here's a gem of advice from TP#661 that I found resonated to the concept of "dashing" yesterday:

PUBLISH AND FLOURISH; BECOME A PROLIFIC SCHOLAR

The myth persists that prolific scholars are born, not made, but research suggests otherwise. Much is known about how to become more prolific-and any scholar can.

These steps will show you how.

Step 1. Write daily for 15 to 30 minutes. Many scholars believe that writing requires big blocks of time. They're wrong. Research shows that scholars who write daily publish far more than those who write in big blocks of time. The problem with big blocks of time is that they're hard to find. In contrast, when you write daily, you start writing immediately because you remember what you were writing about the day before. This leads to impressive production. In one study participants who wrote daily wrote only twice as many hours as those who wrote occasionally in big blocks of time but wrote or revised ten times as many pages (Boice 2000:144).

....

Step 4. Post your thesis on the wall, then write to it. When you sit down to write, take a stab at describing what you are going to write about. Don't make this difficult by trying to write the perfect sentence. Just jot down a word or a phrase; you can develop it later. Treat this as a working thesis: You can and should change it later. Better theses will almost invariably arise from this writing process. Eventually, you will want a short, memorable sentence that tells your reader what is at stake, what problem you are trying to solve, what claim you are making, or what your result or conclusion is. Just assert your point; don't burden the thesis with trying to prove it-you have the rest of the paper to do that. Post your thesis on the wall. Then define, refine, and write to your purpose. Keep coming back to your thesis. Work back and forth between your thesis and the rest of your paper, revising first one and then the other.

...

Step 12. Kick it out the door and make 'em say "No." You are almost ready to send your paper out, but two obstacles remain: perfectionism and fear of rejection. Expect rejection and plan for it. Select three journals for every manuscript. Address three envelopes-and stamp them. By choosing three journals, you have a long-term plan for your paper. If your paper is rejected at the first journal, you are prepared to send it to the second journal without the usual delay. And, keep your perfectionism in check. You may say that your paper is not really done. It could be better. That's true today, and it will be true 10 years from now. It's tough to know when "enough is enough." As a writer, you must find the balance between "making it better and getting it done" (Becker 1986: 122). You've written it. Trusted colleagues have read it. You've responded to their criticisms-it's time to kick it out the door (Becker 1986: 121). Artists are encouraged not to over-paint a !
picture, and bury a good idea in a muddy mess. And so it is for writers: don't overwrite your paper and bury a good idea in a muddy mess (Becker 1986: 131). Don't worry-if your writing needs more work, you'll get another chance. Anonymous reviewers are not known for being over kind. Your job is to write it and mail it. Their job is to tell you if it will embarrass you publicly. You've done your job so make 'em do theirs: Kick it out the door and make 'em say "YES!"

The ever-so-useful 43Folders site has an excellent article on how to beat the procrastinating blues - running a dash (doing timed short spurts of activity):
Procrastination can drive most of us into a spiral of shame that’s as mundane as it is painfully personal. We know what we should be doing, but some invisible hang-up keeps us on the line. Unfortunately, the guaranteed consequence of procrastination is growth in the scale of the task you’ve been putting off—as well as the anxiety that it creates. All the time you’re putting something off, your problem’s getting bigger—both in reality and in your head, where your colorful imagination is liable to turn even the most trivial item into an unsolvable juggernaut that threatens to overwhelm you. And that means extra stress, more procrastination, and the music goes round. My favorite tonic for procrastination—which I have mentioned in passing previously—is what I call a dash, which is simply a short burst of focused activity during which you force yourself to do nothing but work on the procrastinated item for a very short period of time—perhaps as little as just one minute. By breaking a few tiny pebbles off of your perceived monolith, you end up psyching yourself out of your stupor, as well as making much-needed progress on your overdue project. Neat, huh? (read more at 43Folders)
This advice is useful for both grad students who should be working on their dissertations as well as faculty who have a ton of miscellaneous projects that they should be doing (EHEM...). We know who the guilty parties are. :-)

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This page is a archive of entries in the Careers category from September 2005.

Careers: August 2005 is the previous archive.

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