Here we are, gearing up for another fast-paced fall! Lately I have had a number of conversations about how to manage transitions. For the parents on this list, our kids are entering a new grade and perhaps a new school this year, and many of us have new roles ramping up at work as well. Here at ZSFG, we’ve had a massively disruptive innovation - implementation of a new electronic health record, EPIC. At this time of year, change is in the air, and it can test our resilience.
I hope that August finds you rested, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle the real new year- September. This month’s musings stem from a recent lunchtime conversation with a lovely colleague. She was talking about how to streamline her life to enhance her effectiveness. (As an aside, I’ve noticed that this topic seems to be top-of-mind for the most productive people I know!) She asked me what action has most improved my productivity in recent memory, and my own answer surprised me – returning to dance classes.
Time away has led me to reflect on some of the basics of work. I recently listened to an episode of the podcast HBR Ideacast called “Basic Competence Can Be a Strategy.” It is based on professor Raffaella Sadun’s study of private companies that demonstrates that the vast majority do not meet minimum standards for competent management. Many of her observations hold true for academia as well, and I love the idea of doubling down on competence…
Hope this message finds you in full spring mode! My dear friend and walking partner Diana talks about the “hundred days of May,” because there is always so much going on! Between holidays/family birthdays, the end of the school year, the push to get work done before the summer, and conference travel, I feel maxed out, and I bet you can all relate.
Hope this message finds you thriving! I’m looking out the window at the rain and wondering when it will start to feel like spring. This month’s theme is inspired by two recent meetings with mid-career faculty, who are in the position of being asked to do many more things- mentor a junior person, give a talk, teach a class, take on a new project or role- than are humanly possible. Talking with them forced me to crystallize my framework for deciding whether to add something new to my plate. I’ll walk you through questions in the picture, with a recent example from my own career decision-making.
Hope this message finds you well, perhaps emerging from the winter tunnel. This month I want to share some recent thoughts about how to manage the unexpected things that collide with your best-laid plans. Sometimes an unexpected opportunity comes along- it could be a funding opportunity with a short turn-around, an invitation to give a talk, or a special issue in a high-impact journal that fits with your work. At other times, your bandwidth shrinks, because you or someone in your family is sick or needs you, or maybe a collaborator or staffer leaves and you have to figure out how to get the work done. I struggle with this myself, and have made lots of mistakes in trying to reconcile plans with reality. I’ve organized these ideas by timing- what you can do to prevent surprises from breaking your plans, what you can do in the moment, and then how to look ahead when you see that a disruption will be ongoing. I would love to hear more strategies from all of you!
I am writing this email from the snowy comfort of a ramshackle cabin in the woods near Lake Tahoe, and I hope all of you are likewise recharging at the year’s end. It is an opportune time to reflect on the new ideas and practices I tried last year and deciding what to focus on in the coming year. Below I share my best lightning hacks from 2018- each one is easy to implement and has significantly improved my work life. You can think of them like (purely secular) stocking stuffers from me to you!
September snuck up on me. The new (school) year is upon us, and it’s a perfect time to reflect on our progress and set some goals. If you’ve ever dipped into self-improvement books or articles, the topic of goals is confusing and overwhelming. Should you make “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” or SMART goals? Or perhaps goals should be discarded in favor of “Implementation Intentions”?
For these purposes, let’s consider a goal to be, as Merriam-Webster would have it, “the end towards which effort is directed.” For example, writing daily is not a goal, it’s a (good) habit. Successfully disseminating your study findings is a goal, and writing every day is the habit/ action that fosters reaching that goal. With that in mind, let’s set some goals:
Hope you are all having a wonderful summer! Today I want to share some thoughts on time and energy. Many of you have heard me talk about the work of my friend and colleague Dawna Ballard, PhD, a communications scientist at UT Austin. Even if I have told you about her mind-blowing re-conceptualization of time, please keep reading! I have some concrete strategies for acting more in concert with our natural rhythms below.
It’s the start of summer! Vacations and sunshine can mean a lovely slower pace, and it can also be harder to get work done. Continuing the basic productivity theme from last month, let’s talk about when you sit down at the computer to work- and realize 20 minutes later that you haven’t even started. Whether it’s Pinterest or online shopping or Twitter or email, it’s easy to lose time online. I’m going to give you a very simple strategy to avoid procrastination- the Pomodoro Technique.