February 15, 2013

Writing Group Week 7: distracted living

Something interesting popped up on Twitter today that changed what I wanted to talk about this week. Evidently, a professor is claiming that sleep-texting is becoming an issue. Mind you, there haven't been any studies  done on this; she's basing her claims on anecdotal evidence. But sleep-texting? Really? I may be somewhat addicted to my phone (can you blame me after five years of a truly terrible phone when I lived in Canada??), but I love sleep a lot more than my phone. I love sleep almost as much as I love my dog. Combine the two and I'm so happy. Days when he cuddles up with me for a nap are my favorite days.

Anyway, that article, while annoying, did get me thinking about how the world is so connected and how addicting that connection can be. Some people can't make it through a meal without texting, tweeting, checking email, or whatever. There's a constant fear of missing out on something, anything. I'll admit that I can be bad about this, particularly when I'm struggling to write and even more so when I'm grading because, ugh, I'd rather be doing just about anything than grading. Vacuuming is better than grading. I used to have days that I had to force myself into a corner and handwrite because I can't be trusted to be on the computer and not get online, checking my email 600 times in an hour. That's not as terrible as it seems because the editing process is built-in when I then have to type it up later. I've also found it really helpful to go somewhere without wifi to work, though it's getting harder and harder to find such a place these days, even where I live in the sticks. So, I thought it might be helpful if we shared our best strategies, cool little applications, etc. for avoiding distractions like the never-ending barrage of email, the wonderful blogs that a lot of us write, or the awesome timesuck that is all the wonderful kittehs (Colonel Meow is my favorite) and oh, the puppies! on the interwebs. (Don't forget to check out the pandas and penguins if you click on that last link. Never forget the penguins!)

I personally have forbidden myself to check my email until I review my daily goals, which helps set the precedent for the day that email is not the most important thing. I've also been using David Allen's inbox zero idea from his seriously life-changing book Get Things Done. Maintaining an empty inbox has meant, for me, that I no longer have this overwhelming crush of emails that linger in the back of my mind all day, every day. For my arch-nemesis, the internet, on particularly bad days when I'm just too weak to stay off of it myself, I have come to love the internet blocker, Freedom. There are other internet blockers (usually with free trials), but this is just the one I've been using because a fellow Mac-user recommended it. It's saving my dissertation.

So, what about you? Any particular favorite techniques, applications, or drastic measures (who was it that escaped a writing weekend in a cabin?) you've taken to guard your oh-so-precious writing time? Is sheer willpower enough for you or are you, like me, a potentially distracted writer?

Roll call!


Amanda@ladyscientist: (1) Finish looking at the issue (2) Schedule my whole week with writing time and experiment time.

Another postdoc/living academically: no check-in

Amstr (writing account): 1) make notes for diss reorg., 2) see if I need to pull from intro to avoid repetition between intro and Ch. 1, 3) write for 4 hours (work more than this on other stuff, but at least 4 hrs. dedicated to writing)

Bardiac: do something, anything

Contigent Cassandra: take out sources/models for main project; look at them; plan

Dame Eleanor Hull: Increase to 1.25 hours a day officially (I think I'm already there). Do the companion-piece revisions on Tuesday; prep for them on Monday (make sure I have the right books etc). Start checking the other chunk of translation and work on that for at least 1/2 hour, 3 times. Transcribe 6 lines of IPM. Keep reading/outlining MMP-1 and MMP-2

Danne: 1) write at least a page of notes a day. 2) Spend 3 hours a day on research 3) Use new tracking system. 4) If a positive answer is received from the new uni, take a day off for reading and celebrate

Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Read Chapter One of Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article

emmawriting: left group?

Good Enough Woman: no goal set

heu mihi: Start again. Keep trying. 5 hours. Write or fiddle with the MS on 3 days. And try, at least once, to *not* prioritize teaching, service, etc. over research. Just once.

humming42: edit conference paper

Jane B: MSc paper: rough-drafting the interior bits (methods and results) by the end of the week plus making a list of the figures and things to do for the rest of it.

Jason: 1000 words-to draft; 2 hours with analytic sources; 2 hours reconsidering Ch. 4 outline; writing group post Friday

Jodi: 500-1000 words

kiwi2: To revise the introduction for Paper X (again!), redo my tiny bit of analysis. Another 15 hours work on the exotic synthesis. Perhaps if I break it down a bit more to: a) read and take notes on 5 of the relevant documents and b) incorporate these notes into the rough structure.

kiwimedievalist/zcat_abroad: no check-in

luolin88: time:15 minutes MTWTh, 30 minutes Friday. task: plan and revise

Matilda: finish the paper

meansomething: 1) Four 12-minute sessions (Sunday, Monday morning after teaching, Tuesday morning before homeroom, and Thursday after lunch). 2) One book ms. submission

metheist: 3hrs on T/R and a total of 1000 words

nwgirl: 1). Finish GT section; 2). Work 2-3 hours on non-teaching days and 30 minutes each on three teaching days; 3). Check-in with writing group.

Pilgrim/Heretic: 2,000 words

profacero (Z): find files and write the abstract and write my first page; word count goal 500

rented life: no check-in

Susan: no check-in

tracynicolrose: Draft abstract(s) for Toronto conference; 4th of 4 (level 1) analysis memos for MS paper; do some reading for Methods paper

Zabeel: 1. Proof read Appendix 1; 2. Plan revisions for chapter 6; 3. Do first 5 pages of ch. 6 revisions

87 comments:

  1. Goals: 1. Proof read Appendix 1; 2. Plan revisions for chapter 6; 3. Do first 5 pages of ch. 6 revisions

    Achieved: Yes! Even managed first 10 pp!

    Analysis: The end is in sight, and that's where the motivation is coming from. Can I keep it up? Who knows...

    Goal for this week: Two further sections of ch. 6 finished.

    Comment: A pertinent issue, for me and (I imagine) for everyone. I like your characterisation of random internet browsing as a weakness; and of course, it's a real time sapper. I use Freedom, too, and it's the only thing I've found which really helps. More generally, though, we distract ourselves for various reasons, and these might be interesting to investigate, too. My internet use tends to get worse when I'm lacking in energy, or when I'm facing something I really don't want to do. So if I'm struggling with a difficult paragraph next thing I know Safari is open and... The frustrating thing is of course that I know I do it and I know how much time I waste and yet I struggle to break the habit. This could be characterised as a kind of procrastination or lack of self-discipline or something; but perhaps it's also part of the thinking / working process. On the former, Kelly McGonigal's The Willpower Instinct has taught me a lot; in terms of the latter, I've recently been trying to be realistic about how long I can work for at different times and to find more productive ways to distract myself. If I'm drifting off a bit, I try to get up and do something (change tasks, go for a walk, take books back to the library). This sometimes works, but often doesn't, and of course it tends to be least successful in those times when I'm most lacking in energy, which is, of course, when the problem is most prevalent. I'll be interested to see what others have to say on this.

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    1. Thanks for mentioning McGonigal's book. I took a look on Amazon, and ordered a copy; looks like useful food for thought/observation of my own patterns, if nothing else.

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    2. Yes, thanks! I checked it out and I'm ordering it on my next payday.

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    3. Great accomplishments! Changing tasks can be really helpful. When I was dissertating I had the good fortune to have a carrel in the library, so that was a big help in isolating myself. But when tempted by the internet, I would get up, walk downstairs, and walk a circle around the library. I need to get my butt off the couch more these days.

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    4. Thanks for the info about the McGonigal book. Definitely on my shopping list.

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  2. Congratulations on exceeding your goal! Woohoo!

    "The frustrating thing is of course that I know I do it and I know how much time I waste and yet I struggle to break the habit." - Yes. Exactly this. I wasted almost my entire day yesterday because I couldn't get into writing mode. There are all kinds of productivity gurus who will tell you to take a break if you aren't being productive, but that break should be something productive - even if it's taking a walk to clear your head (the clear head being the product, of course). I'm good at taking a break; I just haven't nailed making it a productive break. That's when the problems really start because if I take a break to check my email or facebook or whatever, it quickly spirals out of control and an hour or more disappears just like that.

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    1. Jodi, I have the same problem with email or facebook breaks--they go on too long, and they are not productive. I try to do things like knit, or walk to the bank or the post office. Since my day job is all computers, all the time, computer breaks are no break at all.

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    2. Knitting breaks are a great idea! Thanks for the suggestion.

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  3. Goal: find files and write the abstract and write my first page; word count goal 500.

    Achieved: sort of. Found files, wrote abstract for the book but not the article, can see the abstract for the article though, did not write the first 500 words.

    Goal next week: NEH and one other application, 1 professional e-mail important, faculty activities report (scary), abstract for article and send to conference, those 500 words or more. I have the 4000+ that I had gathered together, but I need more to give it contour. AY. I will try to do all this, pretending I am a "man" (definition of man: someone not guilt ridden, someone confident, someone who can just keep on going since they are not being tortured as punishment for working, someone who believes they have value, someone who thinks what they do has value, someone who thinks it might bear fruit).

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    1. I think I will try thinking as a "man" this week too - there is power in pretending to be powerful. . . Do you find you achiece more when you think like this?
      Kiwi2

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    2. The idea of pretending to be a man is a really interesting one and seems to be a hot topic this week. The Thesis Whisperer just published a post on academic assholes that definitely touched a nerve on the interwebs. It's a good post; if anyone wants to read it, here's the url http://thesiswhisperer.com/2013/02/13/academic-assholes/

      Have you tried thinking like a man before? Has it had some sort of magical effect on your productivity? I'm interested to see if it works for you.

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    3. Oh, I am fascinated by this. What a cool idea! Off to read the article...

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    4. Wow, that is a lot on your plate! I'm interested too in this idea of thinking like a man. Hmmm. I tend to employ imaginary forces like a couple of angels who go wrap their wings around things and people for me to silence them. That's my crazy woo-woo though!

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    5. I like the idea of "thinking like a man." I always feel so guilty when I say "no" especially if the reason for saying "no" is that the activity/meeting/whatever would take away from my writing time.

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    6. I've been realizing that some of my teaching struggles are centered on the fact that I have a student whom I think is judging me as not as good as other instructors. I have started to think that he might be making this pre-judgment (it started on the first day of class, it seems) because I'm female. Then it really hit me that I'm the only woman in my department who teaches lit classes at our community college. If he is judging me, then he has a bias. If he's not, then I'm feeling insecure unnecessarily. And, after, talking to my colleagues, it's clear to me that that don't have this insecurity. Either way, gender is at play, and I think maybe I'm going to start "teaching like a man."

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    7. That's a rough situation and one I've been in before. I guess you could say my reaction was sort of man-like, in that I was a bit more aggressive with him (in stark contrast to the other students, with whom I was my normal self) and didn't let him get away with anything. It worked for me, so hopefully it will for you, too.

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  4. Distracted by panic and anxiety; I use the Internet to manage this; am trying to learn to just say no to panic and anxiety.

    Otherwise I am fine, a good concentrator, possibly because I do shortish sessions and schedule in breaks. Not to do this is very destructive.

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  5. Last week’s goal: To revise the introduction for Paper X, redo my tiny bit of analysis. Another 15 hours work on the exotic synthesis. Perhaps if I break it down a bit more to: a) read and take notes on 5 of the relevant documents and b) incorporate these notes into the rough structure.
    Accomplished: Mostly missing in action. . . I redid my tiny bit of analysis, but no writing.
    Next goal: Same as last week: work on the exotic synthesis. Break it down to: a) read and take notes on 5 of the relevant documents and b) incorporate these notes into the rough structure. And, touch it every day, even for 5 minutes.
    Commentary: I was travelling for most of the week, and out of my routine. Quite a lot of time was taken up on a family matter, but even more than that I was thrown by the different demands of not having a proper workspace where I could settle. This is going to be a challenge as I will be travelling quite a bit this year; clearly I need to work out how to get into my writing zone when I am elsewhere, and perhaps not sleeping that well.

    I write best when it is quiet around me, and I feel quiet. Things I do to assist this include: writing on the weekend in my office, when very few others are around, and I don't get interrupted (I don't much like going to work in the weekends, but my work computer is in the living room and hence lively weekends mean little writing!); schedule specific tasks to achieve as I am a goal orientated person - hence I love writing groups like this one; shut the door at work and pretend I am not there for a couple of hours in the morning, or sometimes in the late afternoon. This works really well if I have a project I am enthusiastic about. My greatest difficulty is working on projects I am not enjoying. In this case, having a collaborator to talk the project through and bounce ideas around with, can help - somehow I have to find a way in. Scheduling in walking breaks helps my mind relax and think tangentally.

    Kiwi2

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    1. Another walking break-taker! Clearly I need to give this a shot, even on days when I'm on campus the whole day.

      Traveling can be really disruptive on writing. I've always found it really hard to write when I'm not at home. The only exception to that has been on summer research trips, when I have a flat for the summer and it's basically a new home. Hotels and hostels never work for my writing, but I wish they did. If you figure out a solution, let me know!

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    2. I find hotels and hostels great writing spaces, but have never thought about why. I do try to create a good space with drinks, snacks, music or silent tv for background. I have not thought about why that works for me, except that it's like a secret hideaway.

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  6. Last week's goal: 1) Four 12-minute sessions 2) One book ms. submission

    Accomplished: One 12-minute session. And the ms. is prepped but not put into mail yet.

    Analysis: Oh dear.

    Next goal: same thing: 1) Four 12-minute sessions 2) One book ms. submission

    Before the internet, I'd often read the whole newspaper before I could settle down to work. It's always something. Right now it's mostly the demands of work. I'm actually still a little distracted by receiving a stressful email from a grad student earlier. I've already responded, but I feel vulnerable because my emails push to my phone and whenever he responds, I will see it. I would turn off those emails but I know others whose emails I need to see will be writing me while I'm traveling this weekend.

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    1. See? The joys and perils of being connected! I had to get rid of my work email on my phone and I'm trying to stick to a very strict rule about only checking emails at certain times during the week and no work emails at all on the weekend, unless students have an assignment due and send freakout emails asking for help. It's really hard to do and I'm not always successful, but it has helped to at least give me weekends to focus on myself and my writing.

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  7. Last goals: finish the paper

    Achieved: well, other than conclusion.

    Analysis: I've revised the structure and argument, then I need to revise conclusion. So, I think I have done something, but there still some time to go. It has been long way to come, and still some more.

    Next goal: finish the conclusion and check footnotes and style.

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  8. Last week's goals:
    time:15 minutes MTWTh, 30 minutes Friday
    task: plan and revise

    Accomplished:
    Tues 45 mins reading and notetaking; 30 minutes of the same on Friday.

    Analysis of what worked and didn't work:

    Tuesday reminded me that once I get started, I have momentum. I have been overwhelmed by the need to figure out what I'm doing with the article, so I jumped back into reading the theoretical essay that indirectly inspired the project.

    I struggle when reading to limit my notetaking to the parts of the source that are relevant to my project. Otherwise, I can spend the whole semester taking copious notes without doing any writing. Then again, if I don't take enough notes, I end up spending a lot of time going back to look for a passage I vaguely remember. It helps to know what I'm doing, of course, so for me it's probably a good idea not to do too much reading before starting to write.

    I forgot to mention last week that I dealt with the work/life issue by dropping the night class (finding a sub and going to part-time) so that for now it is merely a huge life issue.


    Goal for next week:
    15 minutes TWTh; 30 mins Friday
    Finish the reading and notetaking on Important Theory book and revisit my outline

    Comments:
    I am not good at avoiding Internet distractions. I've been fighting procrastination long enough, though, that I know that the problem is more me than the medium. I have to have enough energy to remember and use the strategies I have for getting started on writing instead of something else. I did make an effort some of the past week to take productive breaks instead of losing myself for hours in pure escapism.

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    1. Good for you for dropping the night class and getting re-inspired! It's always nice to get that crucial inspiration back and help you get writing again.

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  9. Last week's goal: take out sources/models for main project; look at them; plan

    Achieved: took out sources/models (models, really); took quick look; realized there's a lot of variety in the approaches people take to this task (which is to write a contribution to an "approaches to teaching x"-type volume); also began reading through prospectus the editor had shared with contributors; began planning.

    Analysis: this was actually only one session, and not very long, but it was a good start, and got me into the mindset of thinking about the project, how it will be structured, what I need to do (including some research) to complete each section, etc.

    Goal for next week: do additional planning (a rough outline with estimated word counts for each section would be a good outcome); begin research (i.e. locate/take out sources) for at least one section, and maybe more. Get into a M/W/Sa morning writing rhythm.

    Comments: Like Zabeel and several others, I tend to think that internet procrastination (and other forms of procrastination, is/are as much symptom as cause (like meansomething, I used to read the internet way too thoroughly in pre-internet days, and when, during my first diss-writing year, I decided I was spending too much time on that and canceled all but the Sunday NYT, I found myself paying an inordinate amount of attention to the catalogues that came in the mail). On the other hand, it doesn't help that the context for reading on the internet is so similar to the context in which we do more productive things (I rarely read the newspaper, or catalogs, at my desk). So yes, I think the internet may exacerbate the problem of getting tired/frustrated/bored (which are pretty closely related in my experience) and looking somewhere for distraction. McGonigal's book, which I just looked up on Amazon, and I will probably buy or borrow a copy.

    What helps? For me, writing in the morning, before checking email or anything else, helps a lot (at least for me, it's a lot easier not to open a browser at all than to open one and not explore further, though I'm pretty good at the latter when I'm feel rested and generally on top of things). Taking walks, or just getting up and doing something (dishes, laundry, sorting/taking out recycling) for a few minutes rather than wandering the web also helps (though those tasks can occasionally suck me in, too; on the other hand, one can think while doing them). And getting into the habit of working on the project regularly works -- just as getting into the habit of exercising regularly (which I also need to do, again) helps. I actually enjoy both writing and exercising. I think it also helps that I've now had the experience of enjoying both, and getting back to both after a hiatus, and know I can do it (though I'd say that the getting-back-to-writing is getting easier, and the getting-back-to-exercise a bit harder, as I age). I haven't faced a tenure deadline,and so could be wrong about this, but I think the experience of writing the diss. may be the most miserable writing/research experience that many scholars experience, because so much is up in the air, and out of your control, and you don't have the experience of having done it before (or at least of having done a bunch of things for the first time, and having a sense that it will work out).

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    1. And now I'm off to contemplate "thinking as a man." One thing I'm noticing this semester, when I've been more on top of things than last, but not perfectly so: I seem to find it incredibly energy-sapping when I fall behind (even just a bit behind) of where I feel I should be on various sorts of projects (usually those that, like teaching or service/committee work, which I don't do in my dept., but do do at church and as part of a professional association), and energizing when I'm meeting my own sometimes-too-high expectations. It definitely helps to power through and tie up the loose ends that are irritating me, but it would also help to be bothered less by them, if I could figure out how to do that.

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    2. "the experience of writing the diss. may be the most miserable writing/research experience that many scholars experience, because so much is up in the air, and out of your control, and you don't have the experience of having done it before..." - It's like you are in my head right now (and for the past few years).

      Being more energized when you're meeting your expectations v. being a sloth (that's me, anyway) when you're not is a fantastic observation! Why does it work that way? It's so true, yet so unfair.

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    3. I wish I knew; it is, indeed, unfair.

      As far as diss-writing misery goes, all I can say is that it does get better (but, at least in my case, it took a while, and, much as I wish I had a tenure-track job, I'm not sure my recovery would be as complete if it weren't that research/writing has been very much a matter of choice rather than necessity for me for some time. That's somewhat complicated by the feeling that I need to publish to be viable as a job candidate if/when I become on again, but it's a different experience from the tenure track, or at least the tenure track at a research-intensive university).

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    4. A large part of my problem, other than being easily distractible by puppies, kittens, and penguins, is that I've found other threads of research that I want to pursue. I'm tired of my dissertation. Everyone says that natural and that's when you know it's your time to finish, but I'm so tired of it that I just can't even stand looking at it. Those new, far more interesting threads of research all stem from the dissertation, so writing it and constantly being reminded of what I really want to be working on but can't is annoying at best and painful at worst. I need to learn to channel that annoyance into productivity, in order to get to the new research. I know this; I just haven't been able to do this, although that seems to be changing.

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    5. The energy sapping thing, that's so familiar, but I'd never put a name to it.

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  10. Apropos of the suggestion several of us have made that the underlying problem is tiredness of various kinds, not what we do when we're tired, here (courtesy of Profhacker;s weekend reading roundup) is an article arguing that humans work best in 90-minute bursts, and probably no more than 3 of them in a day: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/10/opinion/sunday/relax-youll-be-more-productive.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all& . The author also suggests that figuring out to relax effectively in between is as important as figuring out how to concentrate on work when one is working. It sounds a bit like an ad for his company at the end, but, at the very least, it offers food for thought.

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    1. Oh, I just read that article, and I like it so much. I worked hard last semester to incorporate more exercise into my day, which by chance happened to package my work into something closer to 90-minute blocks, and holy cow did that make a difference. It's been a long struggle, but I'm getting better at making my work time more productive and my 'off' time more 'off,' rather than doing half-assed work all day and feeling too guilty about it to stop and relax.

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    2. That's a fantastic article. I'm going to incorporate that into my goals this week, both the 90 minute blocks and the mandatory refresh.

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    3. A friend sent that article to me earlier this week, the day after I had had a wonderfully productive 90-minute writing session. The whole idea of rejuvenation is wonderful as so important in our culture that worships busy-ness.

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    4. We really do worship busyness, don't we? I'm struggling with allowing myself to rest right now. I accomplished all my goals for today and even got ahead in my marking schedule this afternoon. It was the perfect time to take the rest of the day off to recuperate and to prepare for the stress of this week (marking tests, meeting with students to discuss their primary source analyses, and teaching WWI which I find very difficult). But I can't relax! For six hours now, I've felt like I should be doing something. Luckily, I have this writing group to keep me busy today. :)

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  11. OK, check-in time. Goal: 2,000 words. Accomplished: yes! (I actually was so desperate to stop for dinner that I hit something around 2,005 and stopped mid-sentence. But it'll give me someplace to start tomorrow.)

    Next week: dare I try 2,000 more? My original plan this semester was to do 1,500 a week, which I've mostly managed, but I'm still a bit behind from having lost the beginning of the year to Events. It'd be nice to get closer to catching up. Onward!

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    1. Congratulations! Someone once said to stop writing when you had momentum and knew what you were going to say. That way it would be easier to come back to the next day. (Perhaps it's in Bird by Bird? I can't remember.) I think mid-sentence accomplishes that!

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    2. Yes! I thought it was Hemingway, but then I couldn't find anything on the internet about him saying it and, since I'm sure that's where I read it, I convinced myself it must have been Lamott.

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    3. That really does work for me - if I neatly wrap up a whole section and stop, I lose all the momentum, and it takes me forever to get started on the next one. (Usually I try to at least complete my sentences, though!)

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  12. Last week's goal: 500-1000 words

    Achieved: Yes, if just barely. I've got 502 words right now, mostly written this morning. I'm going to write later on this afternoon, too, so I'm hoping to add to that. I don't even want to think about how many of those words were little notes to myself of things to add. Yeesh.

    Analysis: I actually forced myself to write a little bit every single day. Thursday, as I said above, I spent a lot of time distracting myself on the internet because I was struggling and the only other option, besides writing, was grading and, as I said, I'd rather vacuum than grade.

    Next week's goal: I need to step it up some more (although I have tests to grade), so I'm going to shoot for 1500-2000 words to finish revising the introductory chapter. Incorporate 90 minute work blocks on TWRF. Monday won't happen, unless I count meetings as work, which I should because they will be brutal.

    Commentary: The article that Contingent Cassandra shared really struck home with me. As I said, I am great at taking breaks, but rarely do I find them relaxing, refreshing, or productive. That usually only happens when I take my adorable dog for a walk, but MWF I'm on campus and without his cuteness to boost my state of mind. It also reminded me of this post on working more that I think I shared with a previous iteration of this group. http://tinyurl.com/bvystxn The author basically agrees with the premise of CC's article and argues against exactly what I tend to do - take crappy breaks that don't do anything to help me rejuvenate, instead of working hard and enjoying the breaks that will then refresh me to work better. It's such a struggle, isn't it, trying to balance work and life? I look at people who seemingly have it all together and wonder how they do it. Sometimes I think they just have a better game face than I do.

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    1. I would be very much willing to bet that it's more about the game face. :)

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    2. I'll be eager to hear how your 90-minute blocks go!

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  13. This week was a writing failure, well for the writing for this project. I did teach all my classes, do two other projects for the department, and skied a lot.

    Goal for next week: this paper has to be drafted by Friday, or I need to withdraw from the conference. Hopefully, I'll finish this pile of grading, and two smaller piles, and be all prepped for a couple days of classes, and then do better.

    Thanks again for this wonderful group.

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    1. Good luck with the grading and getting the paper done.

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    2. Yay for skiing a lot! Maybe that was just the rejuvenation you needed to bang out that paper this week. Good luck!

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  14. Last goal: Increase to 1.25 hours a day officially (I think I'm already there). Do the companion-piece revisions on Tuesday; prep for them on Monday (make sure I have the right books etc). Start checking the other chunk of translation and work on that for at least 1/2 hour, 3 times. Transcribe 6 lines of IPM. Keep reading/outlining MMP-1 and MMP-2

    Achieved: Very little.

    Analysis: OBE. Am going to put off the companion-piece revisions till spring break, because the next couple weeks have stuff piling up.

    Next goals: One hour a day. Start checking the other chunk of translation and work on that for at least 1/2 hour, 3 times. Transcribe 6 lines of IPM.

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    1. You definitely have a lot on your plate, so hopefully taking a break from the companion-piece will let you refocus. Good luck!

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  15. Last week's goals: Draft abstract(s) for Toronto conference; 4th of 4 (level 1) analysis memos for MS paper; do some reading for Methods paper

    Accomplished: Drafted 2 abstracts for the Toronto conference; completed 4th level 1 analysis memo for MS paper

    Analysis: Still no reading for the Methods paper. You would think I hate reading for all that I put it off. However to get one of the abstracts done I needed to do some additional analysis. I also did some extra analysis work on the MS paper and met with my co-author to confer on the rest of the analysis plan. All-in-all it was a decent, but not stellar, week spent on writing.

    Next week's goals: Read for Methods paper; start edits on BE findings; revise LM and TS papers for submission

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  16. Last week's goals: 3hrs on T/R and a total of 1000 words.

    Accomplished: only about 350 words, but I'm actually OK with that number because I got some ideas written down. Poorly written gibberish, but still words. I have really struggled to get my chapter 4 hook, but I think I almost have it. Also, I had to run around this week on T/R signing a new lease. I live in a college town and leases are coming due. So, I am leaving my crazy basement for a new basement in a town seven miles away (also a college town). The positive of the new basement? I am two blocks from the coffee shops and health food store. . . and smaller hills.

    Next week's goals: Write 7 page conference paper.

    The deadline to submit the paper is now at hand so I am forced to write it.

    This week's topic: I am obsessed with checking blogs, news sites and email throughout the day. Perhaps worst of all, I tend to have my foreign TV shows on the computer while I work. What does work for me is when I go to the coffee shop, work in my office on the weekend, or go to the office around 5am and turn on some trance music. I have a learning disability so I need to have quiet with white noise going on.

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    1. White noise definitely helps. Good luck with the conference paper!

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  17. Last week’s goal: Edit conference paper

    Accomplished: I would say “order” rather than “edit,” but done. I am still waiting on the conference program to see if I can make this presentation—I’m not sure I can cancel or reschedule one of my classes if I get scheduled for a Thursday panel.

    Next week’s goal: Apply for travel funding. During winter break, I set a list of weekly deadline and have been able to abide them with some degree of success. I’m looking forward to this task because it serves two purposes—in the process of asking for funding, I have to sketch out the rationale for my summer research project. I’ve been looking forward to working on that project, so I hope that will encourage/enable me to make this a priority.

    This week’s topic has yielded an engaging discussion thus far. The internet distraction that troubles me is Twitter, but I have found that when I realize I’m checking it obsessively, I can close the window and get to work. I have really not done much productive, steady writing for the past couple of months due to your generally ongoing overwhelm, and expect I’ll have new bad behaviors to manage when I have big projects to take on. Mostly it’s good to know that we’re all in it together, at one time or another.

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    1. I've said it before, but Twitter is a major timesuck. It's not just the constant news and comments coming through that I don't want to miss, but also the relevant articles that sometimes feed my blog. Wonderful and wasteful all at once!

      Good luck with the funding app!

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  18. Last week's goals: 1). Finish GT section; 2). Work 2-3 hours on non-teaching days and 30 minutes each on three teaching days; 3). Check-in with writing group.

    Accomplished: 1). Still in progress; 2). done; 3) done.

    Analysis: This section (and as a result this chapter) are starting to take shape in a way that makes me happy. That momentum helped me stay on task this week despite the busy week and a wicked cold.

    Next week's goal: Finish GT section and maybe even the chapter.

    Interesting topic and interesting discussion this week. I have the same problems with Internet distractions. I haven’t found any one solution that works. The distraction problem is worse when I’m tired and struggling to focus. I like the coffee shop idea that some have mentioned, but unfortunately the only decent coffee shop is usually overrun at all hours of the day. Definitely need to pick up a copy of the McGonigal book that was mentioned.

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  19. Last week's goal: I forgot to set one on my first post, so I came back mid-week and said that I would get up early two mornings for reading and then write for two hours on Friday.

    Accomplished: I did my early mornings of reading. I only wrote for 60 minutes on Friday, but I did about 350 words and got to a good stopping point.

    Analysis: Although I wish I had more time to work, combining two early mornings with two hours on Fridays may be just enough to keep me going with sufficient momentum. The quality of the work is, however, not great.

    Next week: Two early mornings of reading (an hour each), two hours of writing or article searching on Friday.

    Commentary on Topic: The Internet doesn't cause too much trouble for me. I have found that ever since having kids I don't procrastinate quite as much because, if I do, I'm totally screwed. I used to procrastinate more when long stretches of time lay before me. Although I still get distracted, it's usually only for a few minutes, and it's usually when my brain needs a little break anyway. Sometimes it's more serious than that and I blow an hour or so, but not too often. And sometimes, if I'm grading, the occasional digital distraction is the only thing that gets me through.

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    1. Congrats on keeping up your momentum this week! I'm definitely finding I can waste long stretches of time when I've got a 5 hour block. I usually manage to get started the last couple hours because I realize I've got such a limited time. When I had less allotted time, I did tend to be more disciplined. Anything over a three hour stretch is asking for procrastination. (Remember all those seven hour Saturdays at the coffee shop when we'd get so little grading done?)

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    2. Sorry I missed your goal from last week. The spreadsheet update must not have been saved. Good luck keeping up the momentum!

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    3. @Amstr, I was totally thinking about those grading days! I could have gotten it all done in three or four hours at home. But the seven hours with you were much more enjoyable! :)

      @Jodi, Oh no worries. I figured my goal would fall off the radar. I just wanted to make sure I posted it. I realized I hadn't posted it when I thought about what I needed to do. The posted goals really do serve as a rudder for me.

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  20. Amstr here:

    Last week's goals: 1) make notes for diss reorg., 2) see if I need to pull from intro to avoid repetition between intro and Ch. 1, 3) write for 4 hours (work more than this on other stuff, but at least 4 hrs. dedicated to writing).

    Accomplished: notes and 1 hour of work.

    Analysis: OBIllness. My son was home all week sick, my husband two days, and I was in bed most of the week as well. I only got work done because I forced myself to go to a coffee shop in between a coffee date and school pick-up on a day my husband was home. I was too tired to be out, but I'm glad I got at least a bit accomplished. I do think I have a good direction for situation the chapter in the critical discourse, so I have some semblance of a plan for the week ahead.

    For next week: 1) re-read/mark-up intro, 2) move stuff from intro, chapter draft, and conclusion into the right documents, 3) write 3 paragraphs on the critical theory. (Bonus: more writing.)

    Topic: I did the cabin retreat in the fall, and I've been feeling lately like I need another, or I at least need to revisit the lessons I learned there: turn off internet, work first, schedule in short work times and breaks for walks. I'm having a mini-retreat this week by taking the kids to my parents for a couple days. Ski week is messing up my work schedule. As for distractions, I did watch an entire season of Gossip Girl this week, so I think I need to reinstate my "no movies/shows during the day" rule.

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    1. OBI, a season of Chuck's shenanigans, and you still got all that done? I'm impressed. No doubt you'll get even more done with the kids away for a bit. Good luck!

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    2. I agree. Amazing accomplishments. I bow to your wow.

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    3. A friend of mine who's up against a book deadline recently spent three days binging on all of the episodes of Parks and Rec. You are not alone.

      Ski week?

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  21. Last week’s goal: Read Chapter One of Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article.

    Accomplished: Nada, zip.

    Analysis: Overcome by bad medical news. I heard back from one test on Monday morning; it won’t kill me, but it does involve surgery, sigh. I had a test Tuesday morning for a different problem, and heard back Wednesday morning. Again, not death, nor surgery, but medication and a specialist, sigh. On Friday, I heard back from a third test for a different problem. Not death, not surgery, but a biopsy.

    So essentially, I spent the week feeling sorry for myself. I’m over it now.

    Goal for next week: Read Chapters One and Two of Wendy Belcher’s Writing Your Journal Article.

    Topic:
    I find email and the internet rabbit holes that suck me into the Depths of Moria with all its balrogs. I have to turn off the email alert at the day job, because the little snippet that comes up lures me into checking what the rest of it says. I check three times a day, for a total of five minutes each time. Of course, sometimes the email leads to a response, but I make those part of the tasklist, rather than dashing off a response immediately.

    While writing, I mark things that I need to check with a nonsense phrase that is easy to search in a word document, so that I don’t go digging for some quotation from the Vulgate, only to resurface after looking at pretty manuscripts for several hours.

    I also have an extensive playlist of music that soothes but does not distract.

    I haven’t completely figured out how to conquer the “meh” or the “too tired to be productive,” but I do tend to clean up both paper and electronic files when I am braindead.

    I certainly need a lot of help in this area; I appreciate all the good ideas in the comments.

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    1. What a week! I'm so sorry about the multiple medical tests and related diagnoses. Sometimes it seems like all "meh" comes at once. Take care.

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    2. Hugs to you as you work your way through your healthcare issues and the requisite appointments and procedures. Those things provoke anxiety and consume so much time. I hope everything goes smoothly.

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    3. I'm so sorry you're having to go through all of this! Take care.

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    4. Thank you for your hugs and support. It's anecdotal evidence that the life of the mind isn't enough, but I'm already plotting what to do during my enforced time off. :)

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    5. Oh, dear; that's a lot at once. If things come in threes, maybe you've fulfilled your quota for a while?

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  22. Goal: 5 hours; write on 3 days; prioritize writing over teaching etc. at least once.

    Accomplished: Not 5 hours (I won't even say how little), but I did do some writing on 3 days and made it a top priority once (for half an hour). And lo! The article has a little more shape to it.

    Next goal: Same thing (start again): 5 hours (including reading); 3 days; prioritize writing on one day.

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    1. I'm amazed how much good spending even a little bit of time can sometimes do. I think it gets our brains working on the problem, even when we're not officially "writing."

      Of course, there are also times when we (well, at least I) need a good block of uninterrupted time to step back, take stock, figure out what the heck is going on, and untangle the snarls that can form as the result of too many quickies with the draft. For me at least, figuring out where I am in the process -- and, therefore, whether short visits to the draft will do much good, or just leave me discouraged, and the draft more tangled -- is a considerable part of the battle.

      Delete
  23. Last week's goal: Finish issue and schedule week.

    Achieved: I finished editing the issue (yay!). But the scheduling was abysmal. I didn't get it done until Tuesday/Wednesday.

    Next week's goal: (1) Schedule/outline experiments (2) Write shareable draft of preliminary data for Advisor's grant application, (3) Look at fellowship app requirements.

    Topic: Leechblock! It's a add on for firefox. It allows you to block specific sites for set amount of times and days. It works fairly well for me. I find that I'm less productive if I completely block the Internet because ere are articles I need to look up or add to my list.

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    1. Congrats on finishing the editing!

      StayFocused does the same sort of thing as Leechblock, I think. You can pick the websites and the amount of time you want to allow yourself to spend on them. It's an extension for Google Chrome, if anyone uses Chrome.

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  24. How did it get to be Monday already?

    Unstated goal for last week: Write about 1,000 words of the article.

    Achieved: Nope, nothing, nada.

    Next week: If at first you don't succeed, try again. 1,000 words of article

    Topic: Hmmm. Having just wasted 2 hours on the internet, and once again having nothing to show for the day, I really, REALLY need to not check emails. I tried setting up a separate profile on my computer, which would limit a) internet access, and b) all my games. This would have been a great idea, but anything I've added since I set up that profile shows up on it, and when I try to hide it in a folder, I'm told I don't have admin access. So, I fail at the whole technical thing... I think I will try to not check email until after I've done a set time of writing. (This might get complicated as I am about to start an extramural course.)

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    1. Good luck this week! I, myself, need to get off the internet right now and get back to finishing my lesson plan.

      Delete
  25. Last week: 1) write at least a page of notes a day. 2) Spend 3 hours a day on research 3) Use new tracking system. 4) If a positive answer is received from the new uni, take a day off for reading and celebrate

    Accomplished: 1) Mon 3, Tue 1, Wed 2, Thu 1, Fri 3. 2) Accomplished Mon-Fri (I was away on Saturday). 3) Did so, and will go on using it for a while. 4) Still waiting.

    Analysis: Since I wasn't teaching I had a pretty good week. I decided not to bother with any teaching-related task which felt a bit strange but was a relief. I could have spent more time on research but also needed to get some rest I think, so I read and wrote some fiction.

    Next week: 1) write at least a page of notes a day. 2) Go on spending 3 hours a day on research 3) Finish the book on space I'm reading 4) If a positive answer is received from the new uni, achedule a day off for reading, and celebrate.

    Commentary: Interesting topic. As others have said, I struggle with distraction more systematically if I lack momentum and self-confidence. I do limit my work time and find that only 6 hours (often four 1.5 hour sessions) daily can be really productive in the long run, and that enjoying regular breaks makes it easier to stay focused on a task. When I have the whole morning to myself, I try to stay clear of email until right before lunch.

    Another article that could be of interest: http://www.locusmag.com/Features/2009/01/cory-doctorow-writing-in-age-of.html Other writers (such as Nalo Hopkinson) get a lot of work done in very short bursts. That can be useful but, in my opinion, cannot replace longer periods of focused work.

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    1. Congratulations on meeting your goals! That's another very interesting article. It seems to be a recurring theme, huh?

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  26. Last Week's goals: 1) 1000 words-to draft - ACTUAL, 600 + 250-freewriting
    2) 2 hours with analytic sources - ACTUAL, 1
    3) 2 hours reconsidering Ch. 4 outline - ACTUAL 1 (all I needed, but there's a followup that I should have tackled with the other hour)
    4) writing group post Friday - ACTUAL, um...

    A mixed bag week. There are about 2 hours of useful miscellany that don't show up here. Overall this was a better week than the previous (up to 45% from ~10%), but I've lost the momentum of the first few weeks.

    Next week: 1000 words-to-draft; 2 hours with analytic sources; 2 hours Ch. 4 markup; writing group post Friday.

    On topic. What works for me is to have 1-3 discrete tasks that are timed. This is why my goals here are mainly expressed in wordcounts or time spans. If I can, I work away from the computer (leave it behind if going to a coffeeshop, shut off the monitor and turn to a different section of my desk). I'm going to look into Freedom, since there are some things that just have to be done at the keyboard.

    I know we're supposed to be doing it all for ourselves, but I would love to have an external ass kicker forcing my nose to the grindstone sometimes. That would take a lot of pressure off me. :)

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    1. I'd love an external ass kicker, too! Don't get discouraged by the loss of momentum. It happens to everyone. That's what this group is for - to remind ourselves of that and maybe have a cheerleader or two on our side.

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  27. Late late late! Sorry. Been grading and feeling sorry for myself and sleeping this weekend and Not Coming Here. Oops bad co-host - thanks Jodi for keeping things afloat this week so ably.

    goal for the week: MSc paper: rough-drafting the interior bits (methods and results) by the end of the week plus making a list of the figures and things to do for the rest of it.

    accomplished: most of the methods.

    analysis: switching to this paper was a good plan, I actually feel like I want to work on it. BUT... well, there was the teaching, and the endless queues of students with homework issues (counting the weekly homework towards their grades ensures that they do it, but also fills my days with their woes), and my admin job came up again, and a not really bloggable family problem which is not at all life threatening and no-one is going to be disinherited or anything but grieves me, and the stress over a... hmm, say disagreement... with my head of department (which I don't think he's even thinking about but my mind keeps squirrel-in-a-barrelling about it whenever I'm not distracted by immediate things) all came together and stole most of my writing time. And I'm sleeping badly which messes up writing time. Spent the weekend marking homeworks and reading 'mind-candy', rather than writing, but I am now on top of homeworks until Friday and so...

    goal: do 30 minutes of research related stuff on Tu, W and Th sometime during the day when I'm at the office rather than leaving it to the evening at home, which should be (at least in part) My Time. Sometimes More Than Nothing is all you can hope for...

    topic: I am innately distractable. That article is true for me - I am capable of deep, immersive concentration for 60-120 minutes, but then I need a complete change. And I can only do it 2-3 times a day. This is totally not compatible with my current job. Also the internet is such an easy, accessible distraction, and since we are all supposed to be Student Centred checking email is pretty much work, right? and so it goes.

    My recent particular vice has been playing games - simple ones that take 2-5 minutes per round, but which I can't. stop. playing. I've set up the parental control in my antivirus software to block those sites on my home computer, so if I absent-mindedly click through to them it tells me I'm not allowed there. It's mostly working... I'm more prone to wander away from the computer altogether now, but that's not entirely a bad thing.

    I tried downloading Freedom for PC. It came with a trojan. Keep your virus-checkers up to date folks!

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    1. Oh no! I'm so sorry about the trojan!

      Sometimes you just have to write the day or the week off as a loss, do what you can to get re-motivated, and then get back to it. Yesterday, I was so productive; today, I sucked. My entire class did not do the assigned reading over the weekend, despite being scared by Friday's test. If I was worried about failing a test, I would have reacted by doing MORE work, or at least doing the assigned work, but that does not seem to have sunk in for them. It put me in a bad mood for the entire day, as did three students who did not show up for three different meetings. I couldn't focus on my work because of these meetings and my annoyance, so, tonight I am having a glass or two of wine and going to bed earlier because I'm exhausted. Tomorrow is a new day, right? Ok, rant is over!

      Oh, and as someone who just spent 35 minutes playing solitaire on my phone, I understand the addiction! I just wish I could break it.

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  28. This popped up in my Reader feed earlier today. It has some good app recommendations for helping you focus (StayFocused, Focus Writer, etc.) or reminding you to take breaks, like Time Out, which I'm testing out today. So far, I like it!

    http://www.gradhacker.org/2013/02/18/getting-more-done-in-less-time/

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