Theme for the week: decision fatigue.  I’ve seen a lot of reports on this lately; here’s an example, and here are some suggestions for countering it.  This is one reason to write early in the day, so that your willpower is strong and you’re less likely to start doing the laundry or skiving off on the Internet.  It’s also a reason to write at the same time, in the same place, every day, so that you don’t feel like you have to make a decision about what to do now; if it’s that time and place, then you write.  And that’s also what writing assignments, like What Now? plans out over the weekend, are good for; you don’t have to decide what to write today, you just have to write it up.

This is also why, lately, I’ve been grading first thing in the morning instead of writing.  It’s easier to decide what to do about a series of student papers (all those decisions!) when I’m fresh.  If I have a writing assignment for later in the day, and it’s clear what I need to do for that writing task, it’s a better use of my energy to reverse my usual write-first practice.

How could decision-theory help you with writing?

Amstr:  (1) finish Ch2 mashup and send to writing partner; (2) 5 tasks for Ch. 3; (3) start a book for Ch 4.
Another Postdoc: Rearrange sections of paper to accommodate recent epiphany. Add one more paragraph to the conclusion. Begin the bibliography and endnotes.
Bavardess: Work on fleshing out the theoretical framework section of my proposal and incorporate new material; apply to attend February postgrad workshop.
cly: checked in.
Comrade PhysioProf: checked in.
Contingent Cassandra: Work on J article on at least one, even if for a short period of time.
Dame Eleanor Hull: schedule 2 hours of research a day.
Dr. Virago:  *really* finish the draft of the 2500-word essay, which requires re-watching a streaming video of a live performance, as well as writing.
Elizabeth Anne Mitchell: Write at least 650 words on article O. Touch it every day for at least half an hour.
emmawriting:  produce baby. If still waiting, on Monday, create more jobs to send to RAs; next, get over the illogical perfectionistic hangup over Study 1 that’s preventing me from moving forward.
GEW: Four 15-minutes sessions, do the Scrivener tutorial, take a training session on my new computer.
highly eccentric: At least an hour’s writing on at least two days of the week.
historisusan: excused absence, I think, due to a conference.
humming42: continue to write every day with warm up for AcWriMo.
JaneB: look for some low-hanging fruit, then pluck the buggers.
JLiedl:  finish revisions on accepted chapter.
John Spence:  (a) index 20 pages; (b) write up some information about features of the language in the text.
kiwi2: To be brave. To attempt my analysis for Paper Z and spend at least a day on it.
kiwimedievalist: Academic: revise article and resubmit. Non-academic: make notes from books, and plan for NANOWRIMO. Write at least 500 words a day on ideas, themes etc for the book.
Kris: no check in.
luolin88: 30 mins Monday and Friday.
Matilda: do presentation as well as possible.
meansomething: 1) 30 minutes on the lyric essay; 2) 5 12-minute sessions on poems; 3) 30 minutes on a residency application that’s due in December.
metheist: Do the best that I can to get my ideas down on paper. So write something, no matter what or how much, every day.
Notorious Ph.D.: no check in.
nwgirl: a). print out revised chapter one; b). begin work on revising chapter 3 (one hour of work on teaching days and four hours on non-teaching days); c). review remaining two chapters that I had hoped to revise this semester to decide whether I need to adjust schedule; d). review other writing commitments scheduled for this semester.
Pika: get instructions for this smaller proposal from the funding agency website.
Pilgrim/Heretic: 500 words.
Premodern: Return to the book chapter Friday and Saturday; 500 words. Also start thinking about the next essay I need to write by February.
rented life: work on book 3 times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed.
Salimata:  read 1 book and 2 articles I need for conference paper, write notes; plus find/organize older notes that might be useful.
Sapience: next batch of letters done and sent. If I don’t lose power, I want to try and write a conference proposal.
Sisyphus: no check in.
sophylou: think about how to integrate secondary material I read last night (or relegate it to another project!); do enough writing that I’m not ashamed to report here.
tracynicholrose:  I’m not checking in next week as I’ll just be getting back from Montreal. My only goal is to present my paper at the conference and hopefully learn something new.
Trapped in Canadia: OBSandy.
Undine (Not of General Interest): no check in.
What Now?: Three days of writing before school, at least 1000 words. “Prep” the writing ahead of time — either in one fell swoop on the weekend or on the night before.
Widgeon: Three partial research days. Work through primary sources.
Z (Mictlantecuhtli/Profacero): 1 hour in morning and 1.5 in evening, each weekday.

108 thoughts on “Sept-Dec 2012 Writing Group, Week 10 Check-in

  1. Dame Eleanor, the whole “decision fatigue” idea is fascinating; thanks for posting about it.
    Check in for this week: much necessary reading, planning, and brainstorming, but no real writing. Does checking proofs for a manuscript count?
    Goal for next week: 1500 new words.

  2. I’ve known about decision fatigue for a while. However, it doesn’t help when I have more than one major thing that needs to get done but I don’t want to do (how do I get my latin, my writing, and my grading all done before I run out of the ability to make good decisions about my time?)

    Anyway.

    Last week’s goal: next batch of letters done and sent. If I don’t lose power, I want to try and write a conference proposal.

    Check in for this week: I did get 5 more job applications done. Did not get my proposal done, despite not losing power.

    Analysis: applying for jobs almost makes me not want one. I think I’m still suffering from post-dissertation depression, because I mostly just want to spend all day doing nothing. Trying very hard not to let that happen, but it mostly means I do lots of little, unimportant things rather than just stop moving.

    Next week’s goal: finish all the job applications for November. Try again on the proposal.

    1. There is nothing like job applications to stimulate the Inner Critic. Have some Bugge Spray, and celebrate all the small things you are getting done, and the fact that you are still moving post-defense.

  3. Last week’s goal: *really* finish the draft of the 2500-word essay, which requires re-watching a streaming video of a live performance, as well as writing.

    Accomplished: I re-watched the video and made notes on the transcript I downloaded, wrote that section of the essay, and more or less finished the draft other than a working conclusion (though I made some notes for that). So I more or less got it all done. But now I’m 1000 words over the limit, so it’s time to cut, cut, cut!

    Next week’s goal: revision of the draft, including a conclusion and some winnowing of the excess (maybe down 300 words by next week).

    Talk about decision fatigue! I have the *hardest* time deciding what to cut when I go over a word count, and I almost *always* am over. Why am I so verbose?!?! Why can’t I decide what needs to be there and what doesn’t? I need an editor to make such decisions for me. Sigh.

      1. You made my day! I have this problem, too. I chalked it up to confidence, or rather lack of confidence, this being my first book. Not that that helps me solve the problem. But I struggle with it and would love to hear how you dig your argument out. Or is it just a skill that comes with practice?

      2. nwgirl, that’s what I have a RL writing group for. I used to feel I wasn’t much of a writer if I had to rely on other people to work out what I was saying, but then I expanded on my writing-as-mosaic metaphor: sometimes moving the bits around results in a pattern that is upside-down to me but recognizable to the person across the table, and it’s still my mosaic tiles and my efforts in moving them that produce the pattern, even if someone else has to point it out to me. Over time, I have also become resigned to the idea that the main point probably isn’t what I think it is, so I start looking for it in odd places; and to the idea that I am going to have to start over with my former conclusion as the new introduction. Sometimes enough advance planning can stave off these problems, but other times I just can’t see what’s happening in an outline and have to do the writing to see what the whole piece will look like.

    1. I find the sentence editing tips in Writing Your Journal Article (Belcher) to be helpful for those last 100 words or so–maybe more. Getting rid of “and” and a synonym when one word will do, getting rid if unnecessary passive voice, etc. And I always find at least one paragraph that I love that really should get cut. Those are the hardest, but get word count down the fastest. Good luck!

  4. Report: Did achieve work morning and evening M-Th, decided today (F) is my day off this week. Did not achieve 1 hour in morning and 1.5 hours in evening but desire this.

    Goals this week: Saturday through Tuesday, 25 minutes each (considering: election phone banking, major outside speaker visiting, and election). Wednesday and Thursday, 2.5 total hours each.

    Commentary: Actually started writing, it is very difficult, this is the first time I have tried to do anything this original, thought takes a lot of work. Very calming and balancing, though, enlivening.

    Decision fatigue: Well, one good piece of academic advice I got, from my dissertation director, was to have MLA interviews as early in the morning as possible, and definitely not at 4 PM. I think it does all mean that I, like you, should grade first.

  5. P.S. on writing and decision fatigue: I do decide the day before what I am going to write and the more detail there is in that decision the easier it all is. This is important since reasons to put off writing usually have to do with how much energy it is going to take. If one can address this — reduce total number of decisions — it does really help. Brilliant choice of post topic for this group, DEH.

  6. Dame Eleanor, thank you for the excused absence! My conference went well — people thanked me for organizing it — and then I was exhausted. And then I had to finish reading 70 job applications, a manuscript, and a dissertation prospectus. I’ve finished all but the book ms., but that’s for this weekend, and I’m saying that since it’s connected to my project, it will be my reading for the week. On Wednesday I take off for another conference, and will carry with me a book I have to review, also connected, I think, to my project. So I’m trying to move my thinking forward while feeling totally OBE. Keeping my brain engaged with the subject is going to be about as good as I can manage right now.

    As to the decision theory, I’m much better at forcing myself to grade early in the morning, or finish preparing for class: panic usually drives me.

    1. Wow. That’s a lot of big tasks to accomplish! I’m impressed by what you’ve done and wish you luck with the tasks that remain.

  7. Accomplished: I have printed out the first chapter and set it aside to work on chapter 3. I started work on chapter 3. It doesn’t seem as rough as I remember so maybe I can get through this round of revisions more quickly than I did with the last chapter. I may have to re-think my larger goal of revising four chapter this semester. Two maybe three seems more realistic at this point.

    Analysis: Last week was a re-boot, but I ended up having to re-boot my re-boot as I ended up with a sinus infection.

    Next week’s goal: Continue with chapter 3 revisions, working 1 hour on teaching days (3) and 4 hours on non-teaching days (2).

    I try to write first thing in the morning. And I plan out my writing for the week and then fine tune that plan each evening. I even set up my work space in the evening before, esp. when I’ m struggling to focus. If everything is set out when I get up in the morning, it’s less likely that I’ll wimp out and surf the net instead.

    I struggle with decision fatigue especially when my to do list is overwhelming (like it is right now) with grading, letters of rec, thesis drafts as well as my own work and household responsibilities. I made a list of four things to do today. I did get them done, but I had to fight get them done.

    1. I too find lists very helpful, especially if I write them the night before. AND then I apply Dr Crazy’s majority rule of getting most of it done, as a success. Lists help me stay focused and remove the decision fatigue of what to do when I start the day.

  8. Goals: produce baby. If still waiting, on Monday, create more jobs to send to RAs; next, get over the illogical perfectionistic hangup over Study 1 that’s preventing me from moving forward.

    Accomplished: Produced baby! Early Sunday morning, so all other goals are delayed ’till further notice…

    Next goal: Keep self and baby alive. Actually, though, I should come up with tasks to give to RAs too. Later.

    Dealing with being sleep-deprived is good training for useful decision-fatigue-fighting “checklists,” though mine are now physical: Putting things in the right order on a table makes it more likely that I will do everything required. Anything hidden behind something else will simply not be noticed. It’s a good metaphor for academic to-do-lists, though, too….

    1. Welcome to WritingBaby!
      I have trouble working out how checklists are applicable to academic work (humanities work, anyway—labwork would be different), so if anyone has ideas on this, do share.

    2. Welcome, baby! It turns out people have known how to keep self and baby alive for a long time, so I bet you’ll do it. And the physical end of dealing with the baby becomes automatic pilot before long. Then it’s just getting the intellectual stuff going too!

    3. Congratulations!!! There is something about this baby I particularly like, perhaps that someone in the writing group actually produced something alive and with a will of its own.

      Checklists, I do not know how to use them for writing but for life, yes, such as to create space for writing. To-do lists are intimidating since I stuff them unrealistically, but checklists, on the other hand, are sort of relaxing and nice.

      RL writing groups (from upthread), I really wish I had one. I have almost never worked anywhere where it was possible to discuss one’s work with another living being face to face. I need this.
      🙂

      1. I find even a long distance writing partner really helpful. We comment on each other’s writing in email and Word/GoogleDocs comments, and we can always pick up the phone, too.

    4. Congrats on the baby! *throws confetti* As for keeping self and baby alive, the baby will remind you to do that for him/her, so remember to take care of yourself. It’s the old “put your oxygen mask on first” thing, but it’s hard to keep in mind with a baby.

    5. Congrats on producing the baby! That’s one project that certainly builds upon itself in terms of workload. But I agree with Z. It’s very cool that a baby was one of the completed projects in the group. Yay, Baby!

    6. Congratulations on the baby–good timing, too, getting your big goal out of the way first thing of the week😉

  9. Last week’s goal: (a) index 20 pages; (b) write up some information about features of the language in the text.

    Accomplished: (a) indexed 15 pages (b) wrote up some information about features of the language in the text.

    Next week’s goal: (a) index 20 pages; (b) review another possible (but unlikely) source for the text.

    Commentary: I didn’t quite meet my goal this week but close enough. Checking-in does mean I’m keen to have some forward progress to report, even if not a great deal.

  10. Goal: Three partial research days. Work through primary sources.
    Accomplished: I managed the three days, including one in the office where I usually only do teaching/service tasks.
    Next Week’s Goals: One day of reading.
    Commentary: Low goals next week because I will be visiting an ill parent until Wed. I have managed a real decision about the project, though. It’s not a book chapter at all, but an article that I will submit to a major journal who is looking specifically for my subject area! Somehow this decision has energized me to think “big thoughts.”

  11. Last goal: write every day
    Accomplished: 5/7 days
    Next goal: Write every day with plan for 500 words/day
    Commentary: For AcWriMo, I want(ed) to work on a project where I could sit down and just write but three projects I could choose from are all in various stages of editing and research. Writing is thus a slower process than I had anticipated, and I don’t know that I can really come up with that positive yield of 500 new words a day. So decision fatigue was poignant when I found myself devoting way too much energy to figuring out what to work on. I should follow Z’s advice and figure out the night before what I plan to do in the morning.

  12. Goal: 500 words. Accomplished? Zero words, though I did write a really good outline for one section during a talk on Friday (and managed to look like I was enthusiastically taking notes on said talk.)

    So this week was a reminder of how important it is to at least “touch” a project every day. I knew in advance I’d be Overcome By Students, but even so, I should have made more of an effort to spend a few minutes a day on the writing, even if it was only to have the file open. It did feel kind of refreshing to have a few days away from it, but there’s something about writing that feels to me like starting a car in fourth gear – it’s so hard to start moving when I don’t have any momentum.

    Next week is sort of a mix of students and possible writing time, so I’m going to aim for 1000 words (AND at least looking at the file, every day) and see what happens.

    1. Good luck! I also had the experience this past week of losing touch with the writing project in the hustle and bustle of the week, and it really does make it harder to then be able to get something done in a stray half an hour here and there. I’m determined to keep my finger on the pulse of the project this week!

      1. Heh… “finger on the pulse” made me think that it’s more like keeping the thing on a manual respirator, where you have to give it a squeeze now and then or it’s likely to pass out. 🙂

        That might be a more productive way of thinking about it, anyway – not an unpleasant task that is always there, but a little seedling that needs regular watering, or a little flame that needs to be tended, so that paying frequent attention to it feels like a good thing. (I am all about the analogies!)

      2. P/H — for some reason I can’t reply below your note, but I wanted to say that I too am all about the metaphors for writing! Anything that helps me think of writing as something to be nurtured rather than a task master or a burden is helpful. I’ve been known to address the chapter while writing it as “sweet chapter,” as though I’m cooing at it. So, yes, that makes me weird, but I do find it helpful.

  13. Last week’s goal: To attempt my analysis for Paper Z and spend at least a day on it.

    Accomplished: Things went well. Checking in to a writing group is such a great way of tightening the belt and forcing myself to act.

    Next goal: I have a very busy week coming up, with two days committed to a different goal, and probably between two and three days of marking. Ouch. So . . . I will contact my co-author on Paper X at the end of the week about the revisions; draft a 200-400 word webpage; and prepare (revise and update) my portfolio of experience for a job.

    Commentary: I got over the mental block! Yay! I worked for around half- three quarters of a day on my paper Z analysis. I got to a point where I had to go back to the main author and ask her to clarify some stuff, and I now have another batch to go, but I am feeling more confident about this analysis now. So far, so good. I also finished my revisions for Paper X (just one long trudge!) and sent them to my co-author for comments.

    Decision fatigue: Boy, do I get this one! Many thanks Dame Eleanor for this fascinating alert. I am looking forward to self analysis over the next week.

  14. Last week: Three days of writing before school, at least 1000 words. “Prep” the writing ahead of time — either in one fell swoop on the weekend or on the night before.

    Accomplished: Only two days of writing (Parents’ Weekend, the hurricane, and a one-day conference out of town disrupted the week), but still got 850 words written.

    Commentary: This is a heavy grading and exam-writing week (we’re nearing the end of the trimester), so I’m scaling back my goals a bit. There’s a new batch of sources to go through, and I think that’s about what I’ll have brain strength for, rather than much writing. I do have a couple of mini-topics set out to write, so I’ll try to do those before school, but mostly I’m just going to try to get through these new sources (which can be done in half-hour slots, I think), and then get back to the writing the week after, when school obligations ease up temporarily.

    Next week: Two before-school writing sessions, 500 words; get through additional sources.

    And thank you for introducing me to the language of “decision fatigue”! Now I have a name for why I can’t grade essays at night; I can read and comment on them but am unable to assign a grade at all. Makes so much sense! Over the last couple of years I’ve increasingly been working to make good use of time during the day and not even trying to do brain work at night, which I save for rereading books I’m teaching, for exercise, and for mindless tasks, and now I know why.

  15. Last week’s goal: OBSandy indeed! It wasn’t as bad as most were expecting in our state.

    Accomplished: I managed to revise my conference paper, write I don’t know how many lectures, and write two study guides and two exams.

    Next week’s goal: I need to write two lectures and get the conference paper up to perfect or near-perfect, but I won’t be checking in because I’m leaving Wednesday for the conference.

    And thank you for the decision fatigue information! I get overwhelmed by my giant to-do lists, but scheduling specific times for specific tasks at the start of each week seems to help. It takes the decision-making out of the day-to-day schedule and that helps a lot!

  16. goal: 30 mins Monday and Friday
    accomplished: nada
    analysis: OBE.
    My son woke up with a fever on Sunday, stayed home from school Monday and Tuesday. I cancelled my classes on Tuesday. Zeb went back to school Wed and Thursday, but was feverish again Thursday night and home on Friday.

    I’ve been so tired, I didn’t manage to work much even on the days when he was asleep or watching videos most of the day. I seem to have a mild version of whatever he has.

    goal for next week:
    Re-boot. 30 mins Monday and Friday for the article; 30 mins Wednesday getting started on a conference abstract.

  17. Last week’s goals: (1) finish Ch2 mashup and send to writing partner; (2) 5 tasks for Ch. 3; (3) start a book for Ch 4.

    Accomplished: 1) YES!!, 2) nada, 3) finished one, and found a bunch I had neglected to unpack after my writing retreat a few weeks ago.

    Next week’s goals: finish fix-it tasks for Ch. 3 and send to advisor, do some reading for Ch. 4, and tidy office.

    Commentary: Despite some interruptions this week, I did manage to get the draft done enough to send off. There’s still one section that I need to polish, and another paragraph that needs some help. I’m hoping my writing partner has some good ideas for those. I also managed to dig out from under the mess in my office. I returned some way overdue interlibrary loan books (one I just got billed for as if it’s lost), made some photocopies, and did a tiny bit of sorting through the piles, after moving most of the piles back into the office from where they’ve landed in the house. I still have a lot to do on the office front, but I just confirmed this week that my parents are taking the kids for three days before Thanksgiving, so I’ll have a little at-home writing retreat then. (I think they really want me to finish this dissertation soon too.)

    Decision fatigue: I’ve got so much regular fatigue that decision fatigue seems like just part of the package. (I managed to sleep 11 hours one night this week.) I am pretty good about not attempting super complicated work in the evenings, but sometimes when I can set aside all the crazy decision-making of my non-academic life, the writing seems less like deciding and more like channeling the stuff that I’ve already figured out about my argument. It does help me to plan ahead to take the decision-making out of when to work and what to work on. Or how to not be tempted by the Halloween candy.

    1. It sounds to me as though the task lists you come up with for each chapter are a perfect antidote to decision fatigue.

      Congratulations on sending off Ch. 2!

    2. Yay for sending off Chapter 2! And for tidying your workspace and for three days to work soon. To me, it seems that you set up great task lists for each week. You’ve always been a great planner, yes?

      1. I do like planning. Not so much executing everything all the way to the end. I could spend all my time writing course syllabi and teaching only the first half of the course.

  18. Checking in on Saturday, even though it’s technically Sunday! Woo hoo!

    Goals: I had Monday off because I worked an eight-hour Sunday, and I’m very pleased to say that I spent three hours on the article and got through a major block. Incorporating new secondary material without it overwhelming the actual article, and plowing through necessary rereading of secondary source I hate. Trying to give it benefit of the doubt and almost succeeding (is a book I plan to argue against, so I need to be clear on what I’m opposing in it).

    Goals for next week: finish last section of article in order to have a zero draft written. Finish book I am arguing against. If time, and zero draft gets done, start editing zero draft (will need cutting down to meet word count).

    Working on a collaborative history/digital humanities project is giving me a good amount of inspiration. Talking with other scholars, either online or in person, helps me a lot. I mentioned earlier that there’s been an issue with me feeling expected not to identify as a historian, and this weekend I broke out of that and decided I needed to spend the weekend in a state of “I gotta be ME.” Writing job applications is, weirdly, helpful for me because it reminds me of why I went into this field in the first place, and the kinds of things that I really do enjoy doing.

    Decision fatigue: I am such a night owl and hence so bad at mornings that I literally lay out my clothes and set up breakfast the night before. Can make no decisions. Must just go through routine. Decision fatigue + regular fatigue. I can’t do complex work or write tactful emails first thing in the morning.

    Writingwise, I am trying trying trying to keep my focus on finishing THIS ARTICLE without letting myself branch off into interesting new directions, because THIS ARTICLE must be finished and must go out… while trying to make notes on the interesting new directions so that I can come back to them once THIS ARTICLE is out.

    1. You are so right to focus on THIS ARTICLE! It sounds like you’re making good progress. Congrats on getting through the block.

  19. Goals for last week –
    – flesh out theoretical framework section of proposal
    – apply for Feb postgrad workshop

    Achieved –
    – did some more reading for the theoretical framework but not much writing on this section. The good news is that supervisors have now reviewed my proposal outline/ first draft and are happy it’s going in the right direction.
    – Feb workshop was cancelled so I didn’t need to worry about that.
    – also re-arranged my office and tidied / prettied up the garden outside it. This has made a surprisingly big difference to how much time I want to spend in there each day.

    Goals for this week –
    – at least 5 hours writing on proposal
    – tidy up/ edit article abstract

    1. Congrats on positive supervisor response! It’s always encouraging to find out from others that the road you’re taking looks like a good one to follow.

    2. I wish I had a garden-view from my study. It’s rather dark, and I find myself not wanting to be in there. I’m glad you are enjoying your space!

  20. Last Week’s Goal: Rearrange sections of paper to accommodate recent epiphany. Add one more paragraph to the conclusion. Begin the bibliography and endnotes.

    Accomplished: Everything but the bibliography and end notes.

    Next Week’s Goal: Complete the Bibliography and end notes. Smooth over any rough areas of the article.

  21. Last goal: do my presentation.

    Achieved: my presentation done.

    Analysis: I am satisfied the fact that I actually did my presentation, but I deeply understand that I need to re-construct it if I want to make it a publishable paper, and I want to do that. Through some comments and discussions after the presentation, I understood this, and I think I had realised this already during my preparation. So I cannot say my presentatoin was a success, but it was at least constructive, since now I see some direction to go.

    Next goal: starting revision of the presentation; make a revision-writing plan

    1. Congrats on getting the presentation done! And if the presentation gave you ways to move forward with your ideas and argument, I call that a success.

    2. Congrats on getting the presentation done; sounds like you’re reasonably pleased with how it went–I admire how you’re already looking ahead to turning it into a publishable paper!

    3. Thank you for your cheering comments, Amstr and Salimata!
      I first time learned well how it was hard to prepare for a conference when you have young children, but I think it made me realise how small time chunks are precious and good planning is important.

  22. Last week’s goal: 1) 30 minutes on the lyric essay; 2) 5 12-minute sessions on poems; 3) 30 minutes on a residency application that’s due in December.

    Accomplished: 1) Yes; 2) Yes; 3) 10 minutes rather than 30.

    Next week’s goal: Exactly the same as this week’s: 1) 30 minutes on the lyric essay; 2) 5 12-minute sessions on poems; 3) 30 minutes on a residency application that’s due in December (including asking for references).

    Analysis: Belonging to this writing group helps me avoid decision fatigue by tipping the balance in favor of writing when I find the small chunks of time I need. Thanks for the reminder, though, that decision fatigue is a real factor in what I get done, and how, and how well. I don’t know quite what to make of the fact that when I tried at the start of the week to schedule in these little blocks (so that I wouldn’t have decisions to make), I barely managed to do any of them, but when I did them on the fly and unscheduled (making the decision to write as I went), I hit most of my goals.

    I’m in a particularly hairy moment of the term right now, with comments and grades and whatnot, and 17 more papers to grade this morning, but in about 48 hours, things should be much calmer.

    1. Maybe when the little blocks are scheduled they feel onerous, but when they’re done on the fly they feel triumphant, as though you’re accomplishing more than anyone could ever have expected? Just a thought.

      Good luck with the grading and the writing!

  23. Last week’s goal: Write something, no matter what or how much, every day.

    Accomplished: No writing accomplished even though my stress level has decreased. Since the TA is no longer in my class, and I had a one-on-one with my students, the stress and tension have decreased. Most importantly, I have had that major breakthrough of not caring more than the students.

    Because I teach first thing in the morning, my normal great writing time, I have to put it off until the afternoon or evening, and by then, I’m exhausted. I used to be able to get up at 4:30 and write, but my doesn’t like that anymore.

    Next week’s goal: Again, try to write something every day.

  24. Last week I didn’t really have a goal. Instead, I complained about my seemingly endless cycle of non-productivity. Many thanks to luolin88 and rented life for being helpful and encouraging!

    Since I had no goal, I can’t really say what progress I’ve made. I have begun writing in the morning. I also find it much easier to stick to.

    This week has been mostly about job applications. I’ve made some progress, but mostly in terms of writing sections. This week I need to impose or find some sort of structure.

  25. Last week: get instructions for this smaller proposal from the funding agency website.

    Achieved: nope, haven’t done anything about this.

    Analysis: this was an OBE week for me, being overwhelmed with some medical and family issues on top of all the teaching-related business. Am also not quite convinced anymore if my idea actually fits this call, so I may rethink this and set a different second goal for the group. I had a big grant proposal (done) + a small grant proposal (this one) as my overall aim, but I might exchange this second one for a journal paper or two.

    Next week: decide if to keep proposal as a goal (and if so, get instructions) or if I should switch to something else (and if so, decide which journal paper to prioritise).

    1. And that’s a prime example of decision fatigue right there – after all the mess of this week, I seriously can’t make up my mind what would be better to focus on (was trying to decide all day today)…😛

  26. 1. Goal from last week: Write at least 650 words on article O. Touch it every day for at least half an hour.

    2. Accomplished: I didn’t make 650 words, but only about 250. I did touch it every day, even if it was mostly window dressing. Well, to be fair, I did think through sections of it as well, but didn’t get to the words part.

    3. Analysis: Monday was full of Sandy, although I blessedly did not lose power, or any bits of house. Tuesday was a pretty good day; Wednesday set the tone for the rest of the week, by starting the “OMG, it’s nearly November, and I have to have this, and this, and this, and this, and this done by the end of the year.” “This” being everything from the article, to writing annual goals, to a plan to revise a workflow with my staff, to get the house ready for the holidays. In other words, running around like the ADD person I am, panicking at everything.

    4. Next week’s goal: Write at least 650 words on article O. Touch it every day for at least half an hour.

    Decision fatigue was a great topic for this week. I am a morning person, but I will magpie about, given half a chance, so I need to have the “to-do” list done the evening before. I also make sure my fountain pens are all inked up and ready to go in the morning–event hat simple task calls out the magpie in me.

    I spent Wednesday creating a list for home, another for work, and a third for writing. It exacerbated the panic, but it also helped ease the feeling I was forgetting something. I then color-coded things by urgency and importance. This coming week, I plan to pick two things from each list, moving them forward if they are multi-part, or crossing them off with extreme prejudice if they are things like snow tires.

    1. I have one list, but I color-code the items (work, errands, social, scholarship, applications). Also, I use a notebook, so can add something easily to another day’s list. And the notebook is really pretty, so it’s a pleasure to grab for it.

      1. I also tend to use my to-do notebook as a place to record what I did, so that if I’ve had a ridiculously crazy day in which I feel like I’ve accomplished nothing, I can look back and see what I did.

        Of course, that’s only if I remember to write the stuff down….😉

  27. My trick for decisions is writing to-do lists – currently I have an app on my phone which generates me a new list of stuff every day. As long as I check it every few days and remember to add a good mixture of tasks (organisation, writing, etc) I don’t have to make the ‘oh god what do i do now’ decision in the mornings.

    On that note… uh, i wrote some stuff! No article work, alas – but I did draft my scholarship application. And I think I got the ‘two days of the week’ requirement down

    This week: less writing, more planning. Two arbitrarily selected tasks: identify 4000 words for writing samples; skeleton out conference paper.

  28. Goal: work on book 3 times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed

    Accomplished: Read (not finished) several chapters of book D. Worked on book 2 times.

    Analysis: OBE, other events took up planned writing time and those things could not be put off. This coming week should be better.

    New goal: work on book 3 times–specifically making Tuesday, Thursday, part of those times. Continue reading book D. Record as needed

    Decision fatigue: While I’m not an afternoon person and can not do grading, etc then, I do very well at night. I prefer to write, grade, etc then. I do much of my grading late Sunday night because husband always goes to bed early Sundays. Last fall I consistently did the bulk of my writing 6-9pm because I felt best then. All the work BS was out of the way. I have never understood doing anything too serious in the morning. Even when I had an early morning job, I struggled to focus for the first few hours.

    1. I’m a night owl, too. And given no time constraints, I’d rather work from 9pm-1am. Alas. All those Adult Responsibilities get in the way.

      Congrats on getting a lot done, even with OBE. (It looks like you made the 65% success mark.)

      1. Oh if you think I made the 65% I’ll take it!! I always thought I’d grow out of the night owl thing as I got older. It hasn’t happened. The benefit–my husband is a morning person. So I stay up late and have my time, he gets up early when I’m sleeping and has his time.

  29. Last week’s goal: Work on J article on at least one, even if for a short period of time.

    Accomplished: No

    Analysis: I actually gained a bit of time thanks to storm cancellations (but no loss of services at my place), but it was still a pretty overwhelming week. The time off just gave me a chance to notice how behind, and how tired, I was/am. I’ve made a bit of progress on catching up on sleep, and getting back onto a more sensible sleep schedule, but that’s about it (and the latter may fall apart again once evening classes & meeting return). This coming week should be a bit more “normal,” if there is such a thing. It’s possible that I should just give up on the idea of writing until this semester is over, but I want to keep trying to keep/get back in touch with the project, if only to have a head start when I finally have some time.

    Next Week’s Goal:Spend at least a short time doing something on the J article on 2-3 days.

    Decision fatigue is definitely a problem for me, both short- and long-term. As I think I’ve said before, one of the tricky things about being in a contingent position is that it’s very hard to set priorities, since it’s not at all clear what activities will and won’t pay off in the long run (I realize this isn’t always clear in a TT position either, but it seems to be even more true in a contingent one). In the shorter term, routines (which = pre-made decisions) do help, and a semester where I can’t seem to get into any sort of regular rhythm or routine (as is the case with this one) is especially hard, precisely because I have to keep making and re-making decisions about what will get done and when (and what, realistically, won’t get done at all). One set of choices that is narrowing, perhaps usefully: the times of day when I could get out and take a walk (which would help my general state of mind/frazzledness, I’m pretty sure, just as the sleep does). With fewer daylight hours, it may actually be easier to arrive at/keep to a schedule on the days I’m not on campus. So maybe that’s the other goal for the week: get back into a walking/exercise routine (with the walk on Tuesday being to my local polling place).

  30. I wasn’t here last week. Did I miss anything? ;-P

    Sorry about that. Honestly, last weekend rolled around with nothing to report, and I was ashamed. But this week…

    Previous goal: Finish that damn “big picture” reading and writing; start on the “cities” reading and writing

    Accomplished? Well, I FINALLY finished the big picture stuff. And you know, after all that reading, it may not even make it in to the final draft. But it’s helpful knowledge.

    Analysis: I don’t know if this is “decision fatigue,” or just plain fatigue. I’m fucking tired and behind on everything. But if I work on the project every morning (no, I haven’t been!), it’s one more thing to not have to think about.

    Goal for next: 90 minute work sessions every day, though these can be split.

  31. Last goal: schedule 2 hours of research a day.

    Accomplished: partial success. Still staggering along with a one-hour-per-day average, partly because of being sick, partly because of not seriously scheduling with calendar in hand (though if I had, it would have gone by the board because of feeling crummy.

    Next goal: schedule 2 hours of research a day: 4-6 Monday, 1-3 TWTh, 4-6 Friday. I want to plan writing tasks, as well, but the main thing is good topic sentences for the new(ish) draft of the MMP.

    Analysis: so damned tired of coughing. Other stuff going on that makes me feel bad (about work, accomplishments, etc). The only way to deal with it is to keep moving forward.

  32. So sorry for posting late!

    Last week’s goals: Return to the book chapter Friday and Saturday; 500 words.

    Accomplished: About a page of writing…but on the “wrong” thing (the essay I’m more immediately excited about than this chapter). It was a hectic week, with grant applications going out, so at least I managed that.

    Next week’s goal: More applications early in the week. I’m going to keep the goal deliberately flexible this week: I’m excited about this new essay, so I worry that forcing myself to write X or Y words will make it a chore. So the goal is: keep writing! Also, I’m trying the trick that others have talked about here and elsewhere: to make writing the carrot rather than the stick.

    Re: decision fatigue. Yes, absolutely. I’ve found the last few weekends dreadful (because I’ve been chained to my desk) but ultimately quite productive. This weekend, when I had lots to do but no clear schedule, I accomplished very little, because I couldn’t decide what to tackle first.

  33. There’s some minor Victorian novel out there that I read a long time ago, and it’s message was “do the thing that’s next to you.” I think it was specifically related to vocation, with all the characters dithering about what they should do with their lives, but I find it equally helpful with writing tasks. Sometimes when deciding seems to hard, I just literally pick the thing closest to me (often an overdue library book, or a draft that needs the revisions typed up).

    It sounds like you’ve been engaging in productive procrastination. All writing is good writing. Maybe you can use project 2 as a reward–half an hour on chapter, and then time on project 2.

    1. That is an excellent idea. My version of it is “the best is the enemy of the good,” but I think yours might be better, as it avoids the notion that it might be better to do the best if I just knew what it was.

  34. Urgh! Is it too late to check in?

    Last week’s goal: Academic: revise article and resubmit. Non-academic: make notes from books, and plan for NANOWRIMO. Write at least 500 words a day on ideas, themes etc for the book.

    Accomplished: Academic: Re-read article, re-read the reader’s comments, realised reader hadn’t really read article, figured out where to put in her ‘suggestions’. (Why do I assume it’s a her?)
    Non-academic: read some of the books, wrote 500 words the first day, looked up from exam marking and realised that it is now a couple of days into NANOWRIMO, but still haven’t really started.

    Next week’s Goals: Academic: Get this [expletive deleted] article out of the way, hopefully for good; non-academic: write 500 words a day – they may not make the final cut, but just get writing!

    Commentary: This week’s crash was not entirely a result of too much exams, though I did over-do the first two days. On Wednesday, I simply went out into the garden, and completed a lot of chores which had been building up. I call this the “Welcoming In Summer” routine.

    Decision-fatigue is a big thing, and I need to work on laying out tomorrow’s plans the night before, along with tomorrow’s clothes! Lists, and a notebook that is always with me help, but this last week I managed to totally reverse two morning and afternoon appointments, which is a sign I need something more reliable than looking at my notebook…

      1. Actually, I don’t know many interesting ones. The one I usually use is “Bugger” (though the one deleted was probably ‘bloody’). A friend is an expert in compiling really good insults, which I wish I could keep track of. Our current Prime Minister is a few kangaroos short of a back-paddock (obv. an Aussie borrowing), or a couple of sausages short of a barbie…

  35. Last week’s Goal: Four 15-minutes sessions, do the Scrivener tutorial, take a training session on my new computer.

    Accomplished: I did most of the Scrivener tutorial, and I took a training session. I didn’t do four 15-minute sessions, but I did a couple of longer sessions. Yesterday, I spent about an hour looking up articles, and today I broke up the current chapter draft into sections in Scrivener.

    Analysis: The decision fatigue thing is very interesting, and it perfectly describes how I feel when I need to make parenting decisions after a demanding day at work. I feel so guilty when it hurts my brain to answer kid questions or when I can’t decide how many M & Ms the kids can have from their Halloween candy. And this might also be why my daily 15 minute sessions haven’t been productive. I had started doing them almost always at night, late, when I couldn’t really decide how to make the most of the time.

    This week’s goals: Write 1,000 words of Chapter Five.

    Instead of setting time goals, I’m going to set a word count goal, and I’m going to focus on writing rather than reading. I have a LOT of reading to do for the chapter, but I think I need to go ahead an write what I can and then establish a clear reading plan once I get the basics down. I have a lot of friends doing NaNoWrimo (crazy people), and so I’ve decided to set a goal that seems somewhat crazy but still maybe doable. So I want to write 8,000 academic words (mostly for the chapter). And I’m also going to write 10,000 words of a novel. See? It’s a little bit crazy.

    1. Congrats on accomplishing! I thought I would use the sections concept in Scrivener a lot, but it turns out, I usually just draft in one big chunk. If I’m doing a revision, though, I often split the zero draft up into chunks and then cut and paste and write in one new document.

      My favorite thing about Scrivener is the split screen view (mine’s always vertical), and the second favorite is having all my notes in the same program as my document, so I can see them right next to each other.

      I like your crazy goals! Go for it!

      1. I haven’t really got the whole Scrivener thing down–especially the notes and index cards, etc.–but I’m working my way there.

        I’m also trying to figure out how to use Dropbox to unite iAnnotate and Scrivener. I love iAnnotate, but I also like the idea of all of the articles being in Scrivener. Trying to figure out how to create an awesome system!

  36. Goals: read book and organize notes for conference paper

    Accomplished: NO!

    Analysis: Sorry for being late! This week was the worst so far: I was sick for most of it, the kids for part of it, and the only thing I did do, besides being sick and tending to other sick people, was teach my classes. So now I’m hugely behind with grading, and plan on doing that first. Once the end

    Decision fatigue: It’s totally true for me that when brain power (and physical energy) are running low, I just do the things that are “must-do” without really thinking about it–such as go to class and teach. For me, those are the non-negotiables, and writing is far away from being such a non-negotiable for me! Alas. This writing group is helping me to realize at least that writing is far from being high enough on my priority list, in practice–it’s one of the first things to fall by the wayside. Yet, strangely, even checking in after a week of no progress on writing whatsoever, the checking in itself feels as something of an accomplishment because at least I got to confront this, and to re-assert that I need to move it up on the priority list.

    This week’s goals: repeat from last!

  37. I know we’re into November, but one of the reasons October is Exploding Head Month is because of the tendency to get sick mid-semester (or have one’s kids get sick, or both) alongside all the other obligations and due dates. It’s just overwhelming. We certainly seem to have a theme going here, with a lot of us feeling that we’re barely getting by, but with the group being a salutary reminder that (to paraphrase Camus) writing exists, and it’s important. Or, in the words of a well-known medieval military historian, “I have other professional obligations.” We’ll keep trying, keep moving forward, keep thinking about small goals and small changes, or crazy goals and big changes (depending on circumstances and temperament), and we will get there, one sentence at a time if necessary. So, stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, and imitate the action of a tiger!

    A domestic tiger, if necessary, the sort that curls up on your desk or on your lap and keeps you at work because you don’t want to disturb the cat . . . .

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