Planning: Not Painful

Planning requires that you’re organized. Planning is not painful, yet we often see lots of mocking around planning. Well, maybe I do. Let’s get to it. I am referring to strategic planning, which is important to any unit, department, faculty, campus or business for that matter. However, it is also helpful for personal goal setting. I believe in lists and planning. I have different journals or online tools for work and projects.

I have a special, leather journal for a book that I’m writing. I only handwrite in this journal, given the book’s topic. I keep the handwriting for important projects where good notes are needed. How do you plan? Which tools do you use to help you, as you plan and organized? I like coffee or tea, while I think. And, I’m a big fan of Silk Road Tea. I include a photo from their store.

Time Management: Todoist and Other Tools

A new year is here. I’m updating this post. Which apps are you using for time management or productivity? I’m still using Todoist.

I have previously blogged about how much I enjoy my job and offered advice for students and others about time management. Like most people I am juggling multiple deadlines, projects, and trying hard to get stuff done. How I have done this over the years has varied. Last Fall, I downloaded a few apps that worked like glorified lists and some were useful and fun.

A fun app that I used for a short period of the Winter was Carrot. This app gamified my productivity and rewarded me with praise when I accomplished lots and punished me with insults, when I fell behind. Of course, I wanted the accolades and not the missives from Carrot. I see that there is a Carrot exercise app, but I have not interest in that. I have since deleted Carrot, as it was not really an effective app for my use at work.

carrotone carrottwo todoistone todoisttwo

My productivity changed drastically by my immersion with Todoist. At first I was using lightly; however, I started to increase my use as I got more busy with the demands of teaching, administrative work, and service. Where was Todoist, when I was a grad student? I have talked about productivity apps with my TS 300 students, and students in my office and I keep on referring them to Todoist. It is important that I note that I am a Type A person and enjoy apps of this nature. Todoist keeps me organized.

What I like best about the Todoist is that I am able to manage projects with different deadlines, integrate the app with my Outlook, and look long-term at projects or deadlines. I also like the way in which I can prioritize or share projects. I am not using the priorities as much as a I did at the start; however, it is useful for me to track what I am doing and what is coming up for me. Did I mention that I also like the look and feel of the app? I’ve bought other productivity or list apps and used them for a day or a week, and most of them were not intuitive for me or aesthetically pleasing. Developers will smile here, as they think of the app experience. I need the app experience to work for me. For all of these reasons I am an evangelist for Todoist.

Dear Professor: My Parents are Lost at Sea and I Need an Extension

I have revised this post. Today’s Fri Fun Facts is about keeping it real. I give lots of advice on the Fri Fun facts and today it’s about not crafting elaborate stories in order to get an extension on work. During the last several school years I am seeing that the grandparents are safe and not dying at the high rates that they used to and this might be related to how clear my syllabus is about providing proof. And, the proof about a death in the family usually is from the service—the funeral home or church typically puts together a program for the service. This might seem like an onerous request, but I find that it has kept many grandparents safe! In the last three years, I have stopped asking for this and have met one on one with the student who needs an extension. I just do not have enough mental capacity to ask for the proof. I need to come from a place of trust, and take my student’s word.

I am giving some quick advice about due dates and managing your time. In case you’re wondering, I did get a student email about parents lost at sea. I contacted tthe Coast Guard. The student was embellishing and did not get an extension. Today, I likely would not contact the Coast Guard–who has the time? I offer some advice, though.

1. Manage your time well. In my courses the paper assignments are included in the syllabus, so from day one the students know what the assignments are and when they are due.

2. If you’re in over your head, make an appointment or come to your instructor’s office hours. I’ll be honest, I do think that I am more likely to be more flexible when a student “owns” their education and sense of overwhelm and talks to me face to face and asks for an extension. I do not always give the extension, but I think I am more apt to weigh the request differently than a last minute email.

3. Rely on resources around campus. At UVIC the library has an assignment calculator and students can type in the due date and a schedule is calculated that helps students organize their time. Attend class, go to tutorial, office hours, and schedule the time to conduct research and writing time.

4. Re-read points 1-3. I cannot emphasize how much guidance you will get from your professor if you ask for it. There is a reason why I had 8 hours of office hours this last week and that there was a line up–I care and I’m here to help. The only way that you’ll get guidance from your professor is if you talk to her/him.

With this—I ask that you finish your term on a high note and organize your time before the final exams begin. Good luck!

Disclaimer: This post has nothing to do with any of my current courses or students. It is merely the time of year when a post of this nature is appropriate. Again, this is not about my current class! You are rocking it.

Finish the Term Strong: Redux

This post is all about suggestions for student success. As a former Undergraduate Advisor and an instructor, I am supportive of student success. I have one more week in the term and due date are looming, but I realize that many of my colleagues have one to two more months left. This post will speak to some suggestions for how students can finish the term strong

1. Go to class

2. Read the syllabus

3. Go to office hours

4. Review points one through three

Seriously, I am not kidding about the above as they are extremely important to student success. As I told a group of librarians today, I might as well say that the sky is blue; however, it is key to emphasize the obvious. There are moment when we need reminding about what is the obvious Beyond the absolute obvious, I also suggest that during the last part of the term that students manage their time well. Now is the time to focus on ending on a high note. It is to easy to finish with the best that you can do in that moment, but that will not make you stand out above the others. I encourage you to become a hermit during the last week or two as you write your papers.

What else can you do? You can visit your Writing Center and then ask if your professor is willing to chat about your draft or to review your draft. Please note that most professors will not copy-edit your draft. Please remember that your professor may have 30-400 students that term, so don’t be too hard on your professor if they are only willing to chat about your paper. If you have a Teaching Assistant, by all means go to her or his office hours. Own your education. Take charge and act like you care. Acting like you care about your education and success really does count for something.

My last words of guidance are about reading the assignments and following directions. I am always surprised and frustrated by the number of students who do not read the syllabus and think that this is not important. A student approached me recently saying, “This is a 12 point font.” I responded, “Yes, it is but it is not Times New Roman 12 and is a huge font. Please review my syllabus.” Following directions is the first part of an assignment and reflect attention to detail. Good luck with the last few weeks and your papers and final!

Graduation is a mere two months away and I can’t wait to sit on the stage and witness this momentous event. Until then, I send positive energy to my students as they wind down. Finish the term well!




Welcome Back

Welcome Back to the new school year! We all start off the term with high hopes of losing bad habits and starting anew. I know that I do. My big issue is my continued effort to have better work/life balance. For students, balancing courses, work, and their personal lives is also an issue. I am going to suggest that keeping a schedule in a calendar (analog or digital) is key to staying organized. I know that I have previously suggested that you organize your study time. It is worth repeating.

Every Fall students contact me and ask me, “How should I study?” My answer is usually the same, but the first thing that I note is that this is what I see the strong students do. Not all of us can cram and have success. I know some can do this, but I am not speaking to them. I suggest that you place study time in your calendar and that you guard this. Then, note all your due dates and place time for research and writing in your calendar. Once you have done this, think about your work schedule and what is really manageable for you. I also suggest that each day you set up time to read. I like to divide my time by hours. One of my mentors used to be a lawyer and he is now an academic. He sets up his time in 15 minute increments. The billing method from the law firm endures! What this also does for him is that he can block out multiple blocks of time for a project.

Once you have your study time figured out it is important to also add down time. Note time for coffee, walk around the building, and take a break. Keep to the break time, though. Do not let it turn to taking the entire afternoon off, as you will pay the price for this if this becomes part of your pattern. I am not suggesting that you turn into rigid Rita, but that you keep better track of your study time. You will be surprised with the amount of time that you can have if you are better with your time management. With this, I wish everyone a great term. I am going to try to keep to my deviceless Monday evening and set some time to read.


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope that 2013 bring you joy, happiness, and good health. What else do I hope for with this New Year. Sure, I can say world peace, a cure for Cancer and AIDS, and for the government to really take action with the Fiscal Cliff/Idle No More Movement. And, I truly do wish for all of the above, but this post will instead focus on what I hope for my students in this new year.

The 2012-13 school year is essentially halfway through and I hope that first year students learned how important time-management was during their September term. I also hope that all students realized that office hours are priceless. You might have to queue up and wait for five or fifteen minutes–but those meetings with your Teaching Assistant or Professor really is worth the wait. I have never heard a student tell me that it was a waste of time to see me or one of my Teaching Assistants. In fact, I get follow up emails, note cards, or tweets thanking me for suggesting that we meet or that they met with their Teaching Assistant. So, dear student, please take advantage of our availability!

I also send the gift of reading the syllabus to students. This means highlighting due dates and the instructions for assignments. This is a rich You Tube video about Reading the Syllabus. This made me laugh! Oh, wow. How many of us have had one of these moments?!  There is also a Facebook page about Reading the Syllabus. In all seriousness, the syllabus is the contract between the professor and the student. We expect students to read and review the syllabus.

Get into the library. Attend a workshop about research or citation. Learn how to use the databases and get outside of your Wikipedia or Google comfort zones. Learn other better ways to conduct research. The vast  majority of you are not yet skilled at researching and could use a workshop or two to hone these skills. The A students are the ones who have taken the time to use databases and dig deeper. Do not be embarrassed -go speak to the Reference Librarians and your academic mind will be blown.

My last wish for 2013 is that students stay healthy and this includes their physical well-being and mental health. I feel terrible when a student gets hit with a serious illness that turns their term upside down. I also feel for the student who is dealing with mental health issues and is having a really difficult time. I am not a medical doctor and I certainly am not a mental health professional, so all I can do is be supportive and suggest the health center or the counseling center. Remember, when you’re having a tough time, don’t be embarrassed -contact your professor. We are here to help and it’s much better if we are in the loop.

Happy New Year!

janni 2012

Who Was I Kidding?

My last post was one after a family crisis and I really thought that I was back in the saddle. Ha! I am still catching up and feel like the proverbial hamster doing her run. Things are getting better, but I am behind. Behind with my research, emails, and other work-related things. But, I will say this, after these last two months, I am so happy for my good health and that of all my family members.

What did I learn during these last two months? Well, I learned that I had two types of friends: those who really wanted to help during my family crisis and those who only wanted to know what was happening. You can guess which ones I now prefer. I also found out who I could count on and it hit me the other day that many of the most dependable, selfless people I know right now are people who I first “met” on Twitter. These people have become some of my closest friends in real life and I have to give a deep thank you to Twitter for connecting us. I also know that others are colleagues from work, who have become close friends. And,I consider myself lucky in this respect.

It also became apparent to me that some students lack any semblance of compassion and were absolutely heartless in their expectations and demands–even though they knew that I had a family member in the hospital for two weeks. I was frustrated and saddened to have met with such harsh expectations and comments. But, I have to remember that some students really do not care about anything else but their assignments and their lives. I learned a good lesson with this–that some students do not want their professors to be human. And, well, I might have an invisible S for Superwoman on my chest, but this term that pesky Kryptonite brought me down to Earth. Hopefully next term I can do the usual 4-10 day grading turn around, but it didn’t happen this November or December!

I am back in the saddle, but not cinched in or seated properly! That’s life, right?

Time Management: Own It

If I could give students some advice this time of the term it would focus on the importance of time management. Sound time management should pervade all aspects of your life right now. Students are on a specific schedule with classes, tutorials, and paid work. You add to this the need to study more and time to think. Thinking time is time to strategize about assignments and writing.

It’s really hard to schedule writing time, as you might have the time window, but not be in the writing mood. Use that time to research, mind map or outline your paper. Then, when you are ready to write you will have a plan for the next step. I realize that it’s hard to “schedule” writing–trust me–I really do understand. One of my mentors told me to try to write a page everyday and this was excellent advice. For undergrads, I suggest that managing your time means that you set up time almost rigidly for studying and planning for the term.

As I have suggested before, use an assignment calculator. UVIC has a great one that I emphasize (I use this term and others might say recommend or nag) to students. It’s a great way of setting up mini-deadlines for the research process. Another important thing to do is to schedule down time, sleep, exercise, and eating properly. You can’t function at your best consistently if you’re not taking of yourself. I like to say that a major part of being a student is managing your time well and demonstrating that you can start and finish a project–this includes coursework. Please don’t be too surprised if your instructors aren’t too sympathetic when you ask for a deadline and note that you have other assignments due around the same time. We are well aware of this and will most likely note that students have had the due dates noted in the syllabus weeks or months in advance.

Managing time is something that everyone needs to do well. Teaching is a major part of my job, but I am also advising, sitting on various committees, chairing the Academic Women’s Caucus, sitting on Senate, and working on different professional organizations or boards. I use Outlook and appreciate its functionality to invite other Outlook users to book meetings. My point here is that my schedule is like a well-oiled machine. Try to do the same with your schedule–stay on top of it. Stay focused. Highlight due dates, go to class, read, and meet with your instructors.

Pink says, “We’ve had a shit day…” This is going to happen to all of us, but try to lessen it by managing your time better.

Boundaries: Saying No

I have had a hard time saying no. This is the nature of one dozen years as adjunct or sessional faculty–what many refer to as the New Faculty Majority. Now, I’m about to start my fourth year as tenure line faculty and this will mark the fourth year out of fifteen when I shut my door. My door is only open during office hours. I make no apologies for this. I am open and available for consultations during my office hours or appointments. Truthfully, a senior colleague insisted that I shut my door to get my work done. To this day, I thank him for his honesty.

Likewise, I’ve  become better at allowing myself to take a vacation. This means not responding to student emails and more importantly not feeling guilty about it. Of course, I never got the sheer volume of emails previously. This changed when I got my tenure line job and was also made an Undergraduate Advisor. Students need advising year round. The department where I work has assigned other faculty during my vacation, but that doesn’t stop the emails from trickling in. Perhaps it helps the deluge!

This May I started an email to myself where I remind myself of my professional declines. I cannot do everything and anything. I note my achievements via my CV, but what about those moments when I protect my time and sanity and say, “no.” Well, I have an email to self that shares my no accomplishments. I started this in May and I’m only at 18, but each one of these declines allowed me to spend more time on teaching, advising, myself, and work/life balance. So, I suggest that we remember to celebrate boundary keeping and those moments when we must politely decline.Don’t get me wrong–I say yes to lots of meetings and opportunities. I do believe the department head would concur that I am a good citizen in the department and for the faculty at large.

But, the department head has also encouraged me to say no more. I’ve had colleagues who have a printout that read: Just say NO within their field of vision as a reminder when they are on the phone. Oh, that reminds me to add another point. I’m at 19! And, I am also reminded me of themes at Breathe Now, a conference that I co-coordinated with Janice Mansfield, Angela Rafuse-Tahir, and Yukari Peerless. Many of our speakers noted that it’s important to take time for yourself–breathe. Say no, when you need to!

Fri Fun Facts~ Planning: What Works for You

We officially at that point of the term that many of my students will wonder what happened to their Reading Break. They just had a week free from classes and hopefully relaxed and worked. Some did. Most did not get as much done as they wanted to. This is normal. Today’s Fri Fun Facts is related to planning the rest of the term.

1. If you haven’t done so already–get out your syllabi and highlight the due dates for your papers. Then, go to the Assignment Calculator. This will help you gauge your time.

2. Get focused. Now is the time to meet with your Teaching Assistants and Professors. Ask questions about the papers or other assignments. Get a better idea about their expectations. What are they really looking for with the paper/project?

3. Eat, sleep and exercise. It sounds easy enough–but you have to stay healthy.

4. Go to class. You will hear lectures and important information. Your participation today could turn out useful next year, when you ask for a job reference or letter of recommendation. Your Professor might remember you better if you were in class.

Overall, my words of advice–plan.