Dissertation defended. Edits done. ETD submitted. Done. (Oh, and I passed, by the way)
For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been working and dissertating from home. My assistantship with my department ended, and although I did secure some part-time employment, it was all computer based so I worked from home. Every day I had to find the motivation to get up and do some actual work, whether that was writing my dissertation or doing work-related items, I had to force myself to get into that mindset.
Working from home…and being motivated every day was hard.
There were days when I wanted to lay in bed all day. There were days when I wanted to binge watch all of Netflix. There were days when I didn’t want to shower or put on real pants. There were days that those things happened. But how does that help me? Aside from the fact that everyone does need some down time…doing those things didn’t move me any closer to my goal of graduating. But I pushed through, and while it wasn’t easy, I did learn a lot, and I did finish. Finally.
So I want share some of my tips on managing the work/life balance when work and life are happening in the same space. Whether you are working on your dissertation or just working from home, the struggle is very real! These tips are what got me through the last 6 months.
Tip 1: Dress the part! You’ve heard this. I know you have. We all know we should do it. Get up and get showered and get dressed like you’re going in to the office. Or at least put on jeans. Or real pants. You can do this. It will cue you to be in “work-mode”. It sets the tone for the day. Sweat pants are for watching TV and being a bum on the couch. Yoga pants are for yoga. Put on your big-girl-work-pants and do work!!
Tip 2: To-Do list your day. Write down what you want to accomplish. Use a planner or a schedule or just a piece of paper, but set some goals for the day. It will help you become focused and it will also feel really awesome when you get to check off an item. Start with little things like “Shower” if you have to. I use the Bullet Journal system (more on this in another post) and instead of putting a check in the box, I fill it in. This way, if I’ve made progress on an item I can halfway fill it in, to show that I worked on the task but didn’t complete it.
Tip 3: Have a designated work space. Again, you’ve heard this. Don’t work where you sleep. Don’t work where you relax. Don’t work where there are distractions! We know this. It’s easier said than done. Fortunately, I do have the space in my home to have a designated “office”. Technically it also serves as a craft room, but I keep the desk fairly clutter free so I have space for my laptop, books, and of course my To-Do list. Wherever your space, make sure you set it up for your work each day. Even if you are using your dining room table, make sure that you’ve got things cleared away, and your workspace defined so you can focus.
Tip 4: Time yourself! No, I don’t mean work as fast as you can. After reading a lot of news articles and blogs on productivity, I decided to try working in increments. The advice is to work for around 48 to 90 minutes, and then take a 12-17 minute break (This depends on which article you read.). Using the timer on your phone or any other timing device can help you break up your day and keep you from getting super-bored. I used the 90/15 minute ratio. It also allowed me to shift from doing my work-work to working on my dissertation. I didn’t feel guilty for watching a 5 minute funny video on youtube…because I’d scheduled that break. Find the ratio that works for you and stick to it!
Tip 5: Leave the house. Seriously. At least a few times a week, leave your house. This could be to go outside and exercise, putting on real clothes and going to the grocery store, or my favorite, going to work in a coffee shop. By nature, we are social creatures. Being home alone, by yourself, all day long, all WEEK long, is not good for the long-term. Even if you don’t talk to anyone, go outside. Switching up your environment will also refresh your brain and generate new ideas, moving you closer to your goals with work or with your degree.
For me, working from home is coming to an end as I am getting ready to start my post-doc. I’m excited to join the real world again on a daily basis, but I’m glad I did have this opportunity to work from home temporarily. I learned a lot about myself and my work habits. A lot of these I will carry over into my new job. Especially the Bullet Journaling and the timed breaks.
Do you work from home? What do you do to stay focused? What roadblocks have you found when trying to stay focused? Share your tips in the comments!
SoMe [That’s Social Media, folks!] Tips and Tricks
This blog is posted in conjunction with our poster at the NACTA conference.
Tanya and I are in the CALS GTS program together and have a mutual love for teaching excellence, (me in Ag Ed, her in Nutrition), social media (need to track us down? Check our Twitter feed, blogs and email, info linked at the bottom), lifting weights, and coffee!
So without further ado, here are some of our favorite Social Media tips!
- Check the #!
- Ok guys. I’m (Courtney) going to own up to this one. I was posting a picture to Instagram of my awesome tomatoes that I grew in my container garden. I was super proud of them and naturally I wanted to add some #’s and share the gardening love! I used #’s like #virginiagardens #gardening #containergarden and…. #growyourown. FYI…one of those is not for vegetables…I’ll just leave it at that. But the point is, check the hashtag. If you’re going to engage with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media that uses a tagging system make sure your tag is representative of what you intend it to be. You will probably be fine with hashtags you generate for your specific course like #ENG2040 for an English class, but still it would be a good idea to check first! It’s possible another tech-savvy educator is already out there and tweeting away!
- Write SoMe objectives using Blooms Taxonomy.
- Want to assess understanding, while also having students work on being concise? Have them summarize a journal article in a 140-character tweet. It’s certainly not an easy task to do!
- Need a refresher or Bloom’s Taxonomy Action verb cheat sheet? Several exist, but to help you get started, here is a link to one: http://www.teachthought.com/learning/249-blooms-taxonomy-verbs-for-critical-thinking/
- For some really amazing tips, check out Techbytes who makes AMAZING graphics like the one seen here
- Don’t assume your students are familiar with the SoMe platform(s) you are asking them to use. Take the time to walk them through setting up an account, learning the lingo, and posting to the platform before the official “grading” period begins.
- Post regularly
- Before taking your social media in to the classroom you need to be able to commit to engaging with social media on a regular basis. Lead by example for your students. If you’re having trouble remembering to post, set a reminder in your calendar or write it in your planner. Set a goal for how often you should post.
- Next, consider how often you expect students to post. Is it twice a semester, twice a unit, or twice a week? Set realistic expectations based on how influential you expect social media to be in your course.
- Post relevant articles or popular press
- If you’re not sure what to post, find an article or news release that relates to your course. Comment on an article you read recently. Find a blogger who discusses your topic and follow them. They certainly won’t mind you promoting their blog to your class!
- Be an example for your students
- In all that you do on social media, remember that you are an example for your students. You are also putting yourself in public, so consider your social media account to be an extension of your professional presence online. Show your students what it looks like to be a professional. You can even incorporate appropriate social media behavior in to class discussion, highlighting appropriate posts and emphasizing how many potential employers WILL look at your online presence and make a judgment accordingly.
- To help keep the posts and conversations professional, while also respecting your students’ privacy, we feel it is best to develop a social media policy up front. Create this document with your students. If your school has a code of conduct, use that as a starting point!
- Finally, we will all make mistakes as we interact on Social Media platforms. Your students may tweet inappropriately. You may publish an inaccurate blog post. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes keep you – and your students – out of the conversation. Acknowledge these errors, lapses in judgement, etc; learn from them; and move on!
- Network with other professionals
- Follow other people in your field! Follow The Chronicle and other academic accounts. Share their posts to your account! You can make some really amazing connections just by spending a few minutes a day on social media
- Tanya here: I have to admit, I was very anti-social media for quite a while. At one point I even deleted my personal FaceBook page because I just didn’t see the relevance. However, after getting annoyed with all of the misinformation on-line related to nutrition and exercise, I decided to start my own blog. From there, I began writing a nutrition column for a popular running blog and was quickly “encouraged” to GET ON TWITTER! So, I did. Reluctantly. However, this has been one of the best decisions I have made for my professional life. I have made connections with other dietitians, graduate students, and even some of the TOP researchers in my field simply by putting myself out there on social media. In 2012, my on-line presence resulted in an invitation to the Gatorade Sports Science (GSSI) Satellite Lab in Bradenton, FL as part of their Sports Fuel Expert Summit. Not a bad way to spend a few days! [Link to that post here: http://dinedashdeadlift.com/2012/07/26/gssi-lab-visit-new-product-alert/]
- Promote your own work
- What else is social media other than self-promotion? Don’t be shy! Promote your blog. Tell people that you’re excited about your conference presentation. Let everyone know your article is going to be published in the Journal of Awesome Educators!
- Maintain an online presence – Control what is out there
- The biggest thing for you as a growing professional and for your students is to control what is out there!
- Your on-line presence is going to build itself anyway. Deliberate and purposeful engagement on SoMe platforms lets YOU drive it. I remember as an undergrad when FaceBook first came out, administrators, faculty, coaches, all told us “Make sure nothing bad comes up when your name is “Googled”. I don’t think that’s enough anymore. Now, I think it is imperative that you be easily located on on-line searches, and are known as having a positive and professional presence!
- I’ll be doing a post soon about Google-ability. Stay tuned for more on this!
- Should social media use be mandatory in your course?
- Great question – and one you can probably answer better than us! Know that the likelihood of having students engage as much as you would like if it is NOT mandatory is slim. You’ll perhaps have some adopters, but don’t expect your students to automatically create a dynamic online community without incentive (e.g.- a grade) from you. That being said, think about the time you can devote to reviewing the SoMe contributions. If it is an integral portion of your class, then go ahead and devote the time to it and make it mandatory. If you’re just dabbling, or it’s ‘just for fun’, then spend less time with it and make it an option. With your purpose in mind, along with the realities of the associated time cost, you can then think about organization, tracking, and assessment
- Organizing, Tracking, and Assessing SoMe in your course
- Organization: Consider how you will organize your requirements for students, how the social media will be organized in the context of your course, and how you will utilize all of the data generated through these communications!
- Tracking: If you’re utilizing a platform with hashtags (Instagram or Twitter) several options exist for tracking that hashtag. (Here’s one example). If you’re having students blog, you may not have time to read all of their blog posts every week. This could be a chance to grade based on the bigger picture. Each week, browse the comments – if you see a student post that they are confused about another student’s post, go in and see what that student wrote about. Offer guidance as needed. If a student was particularly engaged in class, check out their blog post. Chances are they wrote something phenomenal, and you can comment as such – and share as an example with the rest of the class. Using Pinterest? This one may be better assessed at distinct time points throughout the semester.
- Assessment: Just like you have criteria –and perhaps a rubric – for other assignments in your course, create one that is specific to your purpose and platform of choosing so you can more objectively assess student’s use.
Want to get in touch with us? Here’s the info one last time:
- Tanya Halliday
- Courtney Vengrin
As I’m coming to the final stages of my doctoral program I’ve thought a lot about what I wish I had known when I first started. Over the next few weeks I’m going to try and share some of these thoughts with you all. Today’s tip is probably my favorite. I’m going to share with you my organizational system for my dissertation literature.
First off, I wish I had thought of this as soon as I started reading relevant literature. But life doesn’t work like that. The good ideas only come when you’ve got a problem. But thankfully I found a solution and I’m going to share it with you so maybe if you are just starting your graduate career, this will help you out.
Also, before we go any farther, let’s be honest…I’m a data-geek. And an organizational nerd. I like Microsoft Excel. I like clean lines and tidy folders. My desktop is barren. Everything has a label and everything has it’s place. If this is not your mindset then that is fine. I am not saying this system works for everyone out there or that it’s the most perfect system ever, I’m just saying it’s mine, and I like it.
Let’s get to it, shall we?
The reason I do things way I do, is not for any academic reason. It’s because I’m poor. I have no fancy programs. Therefore, I use what the computer gods gave me. And that would be Zotero and Excel. (Pretty sure all the gods rejoiced when Excel came in to being. I know I did.)
Basically, I take my document/book/article, (and for the purposes of adding something to look at in this jumble of words…we will use the latest SOTU’s, because it’s a public document and something we can all somewhat comprehend) and code it. Yeah. Like qualitative research. Coding. And I’m more of a quant girl…but hear me out. You’re basically doing a document analysis. You have to read and sort through hundreds of articles. There is too much to fit in your head. It’s just too much. You HAVE to take notes. So why not be systematic about it and code them?
So let’s look at the latest SOTU and say we want to write a paper on presidential stances on inequality and social justice over the last 30 years. Think about some keywords: Poverty, race, socioeconomic status, women, minorities, wages…and so on. Keep this list handy as you read. It’s not your limit, it’s your starting place. With your dissertation this list would be your topics and relevant words. As you read, this would be where you highlight the topics relevant to your study. Here’s a basic example I did in a word document with a SOTU. (I do the same thing with paper and highlighters)
Then, once I’ve coded my document, I take my quotes and codes and stick them in Excel. I also number each quote I pull (meaning the order it came in on the journal article) so that if I want to sort it IN ORDER I can, so the first document I input and the first quote would be 1. Now moving on to the second document I continue the numbering, for sorting purposes. Then the next column I put the APA bibliography information. Next I put the quote in or a summary of it, and then the last column or sometimes two are codes.
This is hard to explain…let’s use some pictures. The first image is the codes and information being input in the order I read them. Sometimes it’s also nice to include the page number for reference. Also notice the use of the second code column.
Here, we sort for the codes alphabetically, so all my codes for race are now together. This way I can see all the information relevant to the topic of race, and begin to shape my paragraph that relates to this topic. Notice there are two different SOTU’s in this example, 2014 and 2015. I can see who I need to cite and write up my thoughts!
I really like this system and I kind of do my qualitative coding in the same way. Being able to sort the columns and pull all my quotes on one particular topic together is really helpful. I realize other systems and applications have great tagging features and you all know that I’m a huge Evernote fan, but this just works for me.
If you really like this system, feel free to grab this free Dissertation Literature Management System and enjoy! I would appreciate credit if you do discuss it publicly but I can’t guarantee that I’m the first to come up with this method.
How do you sort through all your dissertation literature? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment down below!
At first I wanted to be on the side of the faculty. They couldn’t seriously be turning away a student who had made an appointment. Right?? Ok so maybe he didn’t have an appointment and just wanted to wait to see someone? Maybe the student had said something off camera that was perceived as harassing to the faculty?? I went through all the possibilities.
And then I went to Twitter. The evidence (if we are counting social media as evidentiary support) there suggests this is an ongoing issue. A huge issue. How can our students be successful if all they hear is “I don’t have time for you”?
I thought back on my own experiences as an advisee. At one institution I attended I had basically the same experience as these students. I was assigned to an advisor (this person rotated, I don’t think I saw the same advisor twice) and I was to show up for a 10 minute appointment once a semester to have my class sheet signed. I remember once asking for help in deciding which classes were appropriate for my future goals and the advisor at the time telling me “Well, you should probably take something” and signing my form as they dismissed me. I’m not even sure it was filled out.
I’ve often wondered if I would have a different career path if I had had better advising. I think at the very least I would have gotten where I am a lot quicker. I spent two years between my bachelors and masters just taking random classes at a different institution because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or what I could do with my bachelors in Biology.
Thankfully in graduate school I have had several wonderful advisors and mentors that were willing to take their time to meet with me over the years, both in my masters and doctoral programs. I found overall that the university I attended for graduate school was more supportive of its students than my undergraduate institution. Advising, academic assistance, and other student services were heavily advertised and encouraged. I think some of this is due to leadership within the university and some of it is the culture of the faculty and staff.
Overall I think that graduate students tend to have much better advising experiences than undergraduates, which is sad. Students should be supported throughout their academic career, period. In some cases, advising for undergraduates has been relegated to computer systems! How is this helping our students when they have actual questions? Sadly, the tenure process does not place much emphasis on advising and therefore not all professors see the importance in spending time working with students one on one.
I am (thankfully) involved in a program designed to prepare future faculty for their teaching roles and an emphasis is placed on advising. We invite in guest speakers that have been recognized for excellence in advising, we discuss advising issues, and stress the importance of helping our students, both graduate and undergraduate. I realize I am fortunate to have this experience, but shouldn’t more faculty be prepared to advise and assist students? Shouldn’t we be going into this career path assuming we will need to help our students out and make time for them?
College life comes with a barrage of choices as well as complications. Students may jump in to a course that is too difficult, or become distracted by extracurriculars. Advisors are the front line of defense to help a struggling student. They are the ones that are notified when a student is falling behind in class. Advisors are responsible for helping that student correct their course and find success. We need to reward and celebrate the advising aspect of the university system. Often students are not sure what classes to take, what their future opportunities are, or how to reach their goals. Advisors play a vital role in not just answering questions, but encouraging students to pursue their academic goals. If we want quality graduates, then we need to provide our students with quality advising.
We were all students once. We need to remember what it was like to have a poor advisor…and do better by our future students.
So how do we fix this? I think the first step is for the university leadership to emphasize the importance of advising. Encourage advising training for faculty, provide support when faculty aren’t sure how to advise students. Prove that advising matters to the university. This also means increasing the importance of advising in the P&T packet. As (future) faculty we have to take it upon ourselves to emphasize the importance of advising if there is not an existing supportive culture. You might be the only one spending their time this way at first, but it will be worth it in the long run. Who knows, you could find your next research assistant by taking a few minutes to meet with a student. At the very least you’ll probably keep yourself off of youtube and out of the spotlight.
This is my dad. My best friend. I’m a daddy’s girl through and through. I had my first tool box when I was just 3 years old. And not one of those cheap plastic ones with fake tools. No. I had a legitimate little metal box and a little apron with real (albeit tiny) screw drivers and a measuring tape and my own carpenters pencils. The good kind that don’t roll.
Years were spent following dad around the shop, sometimes around job sites (mainly our own house as he built it from the basement up). I used to sit in the basement (His workshop and office of the construction company) and pretend I was the salesperson at the hardware store. I would sell him his own tools back.
I also followed dad to his job as a professor at a local university. He would take me to his office (seen below) and let me “grade papers”. (Write on extra pieces of paper with a red crayon) Eventually deciding to pursue my PhD and become a professor one day, just like dad. I’m currently just a dissertation away from my doctorate. Thanks, in part, to his inspiration.
Now that dad has retired from both academia and his construction company he spends time gardening, hiking and running 5k’s. He started running at the age of 70. I’m so proud of him. Who else can say their dad does that?? Not many people. In 2014 he placed 2nd in his age group in the Knoxville 5K. He’s seriously amazing.
My dad is incredible. If you’ve met him you know this. He’s the smartest person I know. He can talk for hours about Plato, pasta sauce, and about welding. He’s also the kindest and most understanding person in the world. He’s always been there for me. He’s always been one of my biggest cheerleaders and he’s taught me so many important life lessons.
He is my hero.
On April 26 we found out that dad has cancer. My whole entire world was turned on its side. I still don’t think it’s fully registered. Partially because I refuse to accept this. My dad is too strong. He is too healthy.
He. Will. Be. Fine.
His cancer is possibly treatable with surgery. He will be having surgery on May 28th. And hopefully that will be the end of it.
I am willing it to be the end of it.
I have told some people but not everyone. I haven’t really found the words. I still don’t have them. But this will be a part of my life and it’s taking time away from things like blogging. So I thought I would try and talk about it here. Because it’s life. And these life things happen whether we are expecting them or not, wether we are prepared or not. We have to adjust.
I’m trying to adjust.
I hope this is just a minor adjustment for dad and that he can get back to his garden and his races soon. I’m staying positive and optimistic. We have a wonderful surgeon and there is a 50% chance that this kind of cancer can be totally cured with surgery.
I’m keeping my eye on that 50%.
So, blog-friends and real friends who read this…that’s what is going on in my life right now. Thank you to everyone who has been checking in on me and asking if I’m ok and how dad is. It helps. It really does. Just knowing someone else outside of our family cares and is thinking of us is very comforting.
Well, it’s about that time.
I’m slowly starting to head towards the light at the end of the tunnel. My advisor gently suggested it’s time to start applying for jobs.
But it’s alright. I prepared for this. I’ve slowly been updating the CV. Brainstorming locations I’d like to apply to. Making lists of job hunting tips.
Let’s take a look at the CV shall we?
Here’s the old copy (some information redacted) from 2013:
It’s kind of outdated. Chunky. Blocky. Boring. I realized during this process that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reconsider my formatting. Modernize a bit. I looked around at some templates and ended up stealing one from a friend. (Thanks Dr. A)
Here’s the new version:
I know this may seem like a silly little change, but it is important to have your CV be easy on the eyes, so to speak.
Also, the CV should be adjusted to each job you apply for.
Listen to me one more time.
Adjust. Your CV. For EACH job.
Ok not literally each job…but in general that’s a good rule. If I’m applying to basically the same job at two different places, then I won’t tweak it much. But I will at least look at it.
So what do you adjust? A lot. Organization, your bullet points, highlighted experience. Add, rearrange and delete the information that best showcases your skills for that particular job. For example, I have a varied skill set. I’m a classroom educator and I’m also an evaluator. If I’m applying for an assistant professor position in an education department, I move my teaching experience and publications forward, higher up in the CV. If it’s an evaluation related position, then my evaluation experience comes up in the ranks. Make sure the potential employer can quickly see the skills you have that relate to the job. Don’t make them dig!
The same goes for the cover letter. For academia it is critical that each cover letter be specifically written for each position you apply for. This is an absolute, non-breakable rule. Yes, I do copy a few paragraphs or lines if I’m applying for two assistant professor positions at two different colleges. But I change a lot. Each job description should have a set of required and/or preferred qualifications.
Reiterate them in your cover letter. However do NOT say “I see that you want someone that knows quantitative analysis”, rather state your experience with that particular skill. For example “During my graduate studies I have utilized both qualitative and quantitative data analysis in educational research projects”. Add context to their requested skills. If they are looking for “social science research” then phrase your cover letter using these terms. Reflect what they want in your cover letter. This is the place where you can elaborate on your CV. Talk about specific experiences. Explain why you’re the best candidate for this position. And always, always, thank them for their consideration.
Here’s a little infographic to help you remember:
Are you job hunting too? What are your post-PhD plans?