Dissertation Real Talk

One of the hardest things i've had to do in my adult life (and certainly in graduate school), is write a dissertation. I recall all of my over-confidence about how I'd be just amazing at this, how it would take me no time, how I would definitely be done in a year...

Well, here I am on July 10, 2018. I started writing my dissertation 7 months ago in earnest, and I have no not finished a single, solitary chapter. Typing that out makes me feel a variety of emotions, from shame, to guilt, to crippling anxiety. Mostly, I just feel like I want to go back in time and tell that over-confident first, second, and third year PhD that was me that I was wrong, wrong, wrong.

So, if you're going to write a dissertation, I have a few protips for you. My dissertation is examining the construction of the Celebrity authors in American periodicals from 1850-1910. While obviously. that's humanities based, I do believe this advice may help anyone from any discipline:

1), At the end of your exams, if you have exams, you're going to be exhausted -- mentally, emotionally, and spiritually-- and you need (and deserve) a break.
Planning for this break is key: Schedule your exams in such a way that you are able to take some time off from school to just decompress and take care of yourself. The stress and anxiety of exam prep (plus, if you're anything like me, the months and months of less-than stellar self care) will catch up with you and you will crash, crash, crash -- hard. Give yourself the gift of a break.

2. If you have not already realized this, getting your PhD is like asking the universe to bring it-- and sometimes that means everything will go wrong. 
You'll get mono... twice. You'll cut your finger and need surgery. You'll discover you have Major Depressive Disorder and Anxiety. Your apartment will be in a fire. (yes, all of those things happened to me, plus some).All the problems you have in life-- in your relationships, in your mental health, in the way you deal with stress-- will compound, amplify, and become horrifyingly real on a level you cannot escape. These things will make it hard to get through your program sometimes, and if they emerge when it comes time to write a dissertation, it will be difficult to fake motivation to write. Know that we all go through this, in some way. No one's crisis is bigger than someone else's. Treat your peers with care and love and know we're all in this together. As a friend has reminded me many times, Grad School takes a Village. It's true. Find your village. Know you're not alone.

3. Remember how when you were in classes it was second nature to get the work you needed to get done and you were so good at it? Well, dissertation isn't at all like that. Sorry.
It's like the first time your parents let you stay home alone. You have all this freedom and you don't know what to do with it. Even when you make a schedule with your director (and i highly recommend this), you think to yourself "ah, what's another day on the couch/by the pool/lying in bed/sobbing," etc. Days become weeks and weeks become months. You will even write blog posts to get out of working on your dissertation. You will clean to not work on your dissertation. You'll gladly dive into your taxes to avoid your dissertation. The lack of schedule is both liberating and awful, because it's now up to you to hold yourself accountable. 

4. If you realize early on that your committee isn't going to work for you, be your own advocate and make the needed changes. 
Luckily, I have a committee I really like, but I know people that have been in bad situations and muscled through as a matter of course. That doesn't help anyone and only hurts your process. If things don't feel right, then figure out how to get a new committee (or change a member that isn't helping you achieve your goals). Your future self will thank you. 

5. Your dissertation will take more time and money than you think.
Writing is hard. Research is hard. Thinking about writing and doing research is hard. Part of what took me so long to start was a feeling that I didn't know all the things i needed to know (I realize that was my own limiting belief), and so I kept researching, and researching, and researching-- in that process I came to realize all the materials I would need to either purchase (like access to archival materials) or pay to physically access. I don't know about you, dear reader, but my stipend barely covers my rent-- meaning I have to work on the side. I don't recommend that, but if you have to, you have to. And that means everything takes longer and is harder. Build the realities of your life into your production schedule -- and if you need to change things, change them.

6. No, you are not a hack job, and yes, you can do this.
In the process of making these tips (of which I realized I have many -- so expect another blog post in the coming weeks when I'm procrastinating) I realized that I have to mention the number one tip: believe in yourself. You can do this. is it hard? Absolutely. Is your first draft awful? Yes! But remember that you will get through this, you deserve your PhD, and you can write your dissertation. And it will be good. I promise. I believe in you.

I'll probably do a bit more chronicling as the summer progresses, as it makes me feel more accountable. Any tips you want to share about the writing process or being a Dissertating PhD? Share them in the comments! 

Cultivating Creativity: Using Publishing to Create Agency and Identity in the Writing Center

This past weekend, I presented with my co-editor, Corey Cummings, on publishing and creativity in the Writing Center. We are editors of our center's multimodal creative magazine, Off Center  (second issue coming at the end of this month!and our in development podcast, Interlocution. Our PDF of our Powerpoint is linked here.

Our center launched a multimodal, online-based creative magazine in 2015 to serve our campus community with a goal to celebrate communication, creativity, and the development of artistic voices.  In our presentation, we talked about both "traditional" magazine-style publishing and podcasting, offering an overview of relevant literature and research, our own center's approach, and the way that you can launch similar endeavors in your centers.  We detail how publishing and identity are linked, how art therapy and reflection are integral to the development of creative identity and reflective purposes, and how sound is a full-bodied experience. 

 From our PowerPoint: A slide on Writing and Identity

From our PowerPoint: A slide on Writing and Identity

 From our Presentation on why using sound

From our Presentation on why using sound

As a follow up to our presentation, we wanted to link to a few resources that can be helpful to creating a magazine or podcast at your center:

Canva: A useful took for creating social media posts, some magazine layouts, and basic graphics.  Free and some subscription-based services. Great for those with little or no design background. 
Adobe Spark: Another great tool for social media posts that is user friendly for those with little or no design background. Great for video creation as well, for promotion of your publications. 
Adobe Creative Suite via the Adobe Creative Cloud: Indesign is your best friend for designing magazine layouts. Check and see if your university has a Lynda account to help learn how to design. Students get a substantial discount for use. 
Creative Market: This is an excellent resource for finding magazine layouts, marketing materials, logo concepts, and more. Affordable, accessible, and a great resource for professional design materials. 
Issuu: We publish our magazine through Issu-- an online magazine platform with both free and subscription based services. 

Podcasting and Sound Resources:

If you want to get started with sound in your center, we offered some suggestions that begin with using a microphone and recording device that most people have in their pockets : your cell phone! One way you can use sound is by encouraging center visitors to record their sessions with consultants so that they have a way to reflect back on the session afterward.  

Download a handout on using Sound in Your Center by clicking here

Getting Started with Podcasting

Do you have questions? Fill out the contact form below and we will get back in touch! 

 

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Exams and Astrology (or how the October New Moon could impact you!)

Something you may not know about me (if you don’t know me in “real life”) is that I’m passionately interested in Astrology. I know, I know, the naysayers out there are shaking their heads and grumbling about psudeoscience and new age nonsense, but ever since I was 10 years old, I have been studying astrology. I find this fascinating in itself, for I’m the type of person that falls in little infatuations with certain subjects and can admit to being a bit of a dilettante. The subjects I love stick though— like astrology and American literature and audience/reception Studies. I have noticed an arc throughout my life of my engagement with these subjects, and they never fail to captivate and engage me.

So, you may be wondering why I’m mentioning astrology on a blog post that— based on the title— seems to be headed to talk about exams. And that, my friends, is pretty simple: I just spent some time looking at the moon phase for Friday— the first day of my exam, to see what planet the moon would be in. 

 

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Want to know about the moon and it’s phases? Check out:  http://lunaf.com/lunar-calendar/

 

Now beware, the next bit will be a little new-agey if you’re not into that sort of thing. It comes from the mind of a person that has studied this a long time, and also the mind of a person who is about to take her major exams for her PhD. The exams that will dictate if I’m ready to move onto my major coursework and my dissertation. So, do I look for signs outside of my stressed out, overly panicked, anxiety ridden self that says “you can do this?” Absolutely. I call on all the saints and the universe and the heavens above to guide me through these waters of self-doubt and crippling anxiety. And I’m sharing this because there’s a chance that someone out there may also find it interesting, or uplifting, or in the very least I will have taken a small break from obsessing about the actual exams to think about something else.

The new moon is all about setting intentions. It helps you to get a clear, good focus on the month ahead. It’s a 4 day window of energy where you can say to yourself or to the void, “this is what I want to accomplish, self!”

For this new moon, it starts on 10/19 in the sun sign libra and has a challenging aspect to Uranus. That says “expect the unexpected” — so it is ideal to be flexible and anticipate something you, well, didn’t anticipate. And the sun conjuncts the moon, which means the next 4 weeks mark a really powerful time to start new things. For me, that might mean a new career entirely should I not pass my exams. Who knows?! Maybe I’ll become an astrologer...

This new moon makes a positive aspect to two stars — Spica and Arcturus, and Uranus, and all together that means it’s a time for wealth and prosperity if you’re willing to embrace the unexpected. Be open minded— the new moon opposite Uranus means that things can get weird, so just say “hey, the next four weeks could be strange” and just embrace that and you could have really cool things happen in your life.  There are some aspects here that says the instinct is to resist change and to possibly feel rebellious against authority figures. Try to avoid this instinct. If you work hard and persevere, good things will happen.  That’s thanks to the new moon sextile Saturn.  Saturn really helps us to keep our nose to the grindstone and work hard and be good. While Uranus is willful and challenging and makes us want to do crazy things.  

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New moon chart by Jamie Partridge. For a way more in depth reading of the New moon, see https://astrologyking.com/new-moon-october-2017/amp/

So, what does this mean? It means that this is a great and exciting new moon because there’s a lot of hopeful promise to it. Set your intentions in the 4 days of the new moon cycle (10/19-10/23) and realize you may feel impulsive and weird things could seem to throw you for a loop. Don’t rebel against authority. Listen to the inner voice telling you to work hard and be dedicated, and over the next 4 weeks that could really pay off for you— as new moon cycles have an impact until their next new moon.

For me, I’ll cjoose to see that as a message that I may get some unexpected questions and I’ll take the next few days to plan for the unexpected. And I’ll hope that prosperity and promise will pay off in the long run. 

like the astrology? Want to see more? Let me know in the comments— because this was fun and great stress relief! 

What's Your Type? A Personality Project

Hi there! As you may have noticed, I decided to take the summer off of blogging (though I have been making some plans to do some *much-needed* website cleanup-- stay tuned for that), to focus on my upcoming Phd prelims and course prep and such. You know, #phdlife stuff. The new semester starts in 3 weeks, and I'm quaking in my boots. But, I'm back! 

One of the things I am in the process of planning is something I'm calling the "Personality Project" for my 1010 (English composition: Literacy for Life-- our first in the First Year Composition (FYC) sequence) course. I wanted to craft an environment for students writing a narrative that didn't pivot off some of the standard narrative formats, as some writers can feel really uncomfortable with the genre. But, I do want for students to do some quality personality exploration and see where it leads them. 

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Originally, I wanted to base this solely off the MBTI (Meyers-Brigg) personality test, but in my research I found that often, people explore personality through different avenues. So, in the name of research, I'm wondering if you would take a brief (10-30 minutes, depending on your responses) survey about your experience with personality tests?  The information collected is totally confidential and will be mostly for my assignment design, my personal interest, and general edification-- though I will post my findings if I found a majority of participants  were interested in seeing them. 

To take the survey, follow this link: https://goo.gl/forms/lJa6NdxupMMzHuE42

I hope you will participate, and please share! 

 

Check out _Spoiler Alert_: A Podcast about film, television, and the power of storytelling

Hey there! As my program and life threaten to kill me, something fun happened in life that I'm so excited to share.  I was asked to be a guest on the awesome Podcast, Spoiler Alert. Spoiler Alert is the genius brainchild of my friend, colleague, and film scholar,  Corey Cummings and his best friend and talented photographer, Zach Hampton. The episode I guested on gave me the opportunity to talk with the guys about John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, one of my favorite flicks from the 80s. 

Corey and Zach are rounding out an utterly fantastic John Carpenter month, kicking off with Escape from New York, followed by The Thing, then Big Trouble, and culminating with They Live (next week). The show is insightful, engaging, and a real delight to listen to -- Corey and Zach have been friends for some 16 years and their dynamic (plus ridiculous film knowledge) is so much fun for an audience. 

So, if you want to hear me talk about 1800s Chinatown tropes, assimilation, and my love for Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall (among other things), check out this episode-- but do yourself a favor and become a fan and follow the rest of the show!

 

NEW: Resources Page!

It may seem like I've been super quiet around here on the blog, and I have to an extent-- mostly because I've been in PHd survival mode (that seems like something worthy of a blog post-- coming soon). But I have also been working to get some resources that I have developed on the site for use in either your studies or your classroom, and I'd like to share them with you via my brand new resources page 

In the past few months, I've been working on developing tools for multimodal projects like Poster Design : from a template in PPT to a walkthrough on using Illustrator (Adobe Creative Cloud version), you can find both. 

 

 A poster I designed for "Scholars Week" at MTSU. 

A poster I designed for "Scholars Week" at MTSU. 

I've also uploaded my presentation on CV design  that gives you some basics on what to do (and what not to do) when designing a CV. 

Additional resources that I'll be developing are some CV templates that you can download and use, additional poster templates,  and some tools for teaching design and multimodal projects in the classroom and the writing/learning center. 

Are there resources you'd like to see? Share your ideas with me!

 

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The Bullet Journal App Review

Recently, Ryder Carroll and co released the Bullet Journal app. This little gem runs $2.99 and is billed as a digital companion to your BuJo, so I decided to give it a try and see what I thought. 

Honestly, I can't tell you why it's $2.99-- the price tag is a little weird, but I think it is probably a way to monetize the BuJo site for those that didn't buy into purchasing the "official" bullet journal from the website. The app itself has reflections, articles, a link to the store and website, and a guide for setting up your BuJo.

When you first login, it prompts you to set up twice daily reflection times-- a really neat component. If you have a hard time pinning down set times of day to do your reflections in your journal, this could be a useful tool for you: 

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The app asks you to set morning and evening reflection times.  

A description of the value of reflection details how reflection time-- a dedicated "space" in your day for reviewing your Bujo and clearing your mind for the events of the day, thinking about what you did or did not do, thinking about anything you want to get done that day or tomorrow-- is a great use of time. This is a way of practicing mindfulness: of dedicating time to the review of how you spent your time, in a focused, clarified way.  

The detailed and user friendly guide is a great tool for those just starting a BuJo or looking for the "classic" way to Bullet Journal. Here, you will learn all the basics of the system in a detailed, friendly format. 

 

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There's also a WebLink to the knowledge base: a space to search for any BuJo related query under the sun.  

Other than the daily prompts for reflecting, I love the article database: a space where you can search through all the articles posted about Bullet Journaling that are housed on the website.

Of course, you can also buy your own branded BuJo via the app, too. 

Users have already been commenting on things they'd like to see from developers, so I'm eager to see what comes from this app. I'll report back on how the prompts to reflect go -- I usually have at least one dedicated time for reflection, but I am eager to try two. For now, I think this is an app best suited for beginners. 

Reflective Writing in the Classroom and in Life

Last summer I participated in the Middle Tennessee Writing Project. Every day for two weeks, we started and ended our day with writing -- often reflective prompts that got our minds working and creative juices flowing, writing that informed our designated "writing time" later in the day, writing that was just let us respond. While the entire experience was transformative to me as a teacher and a writer, the "Write into the Day" was a huge thing that I took into my daily teaching and has become part of my pedagogy.  I wanted to have a time for my students to write about things -- not necessarily on topics related to our class or the work ahead of us, but to write about things on their hearts and minds, in their bullet journals, in a quiet space. As part of the MTWP practice, I always inform my students if we may share some of this writing, or some of the ideas -- the germs of inspiration or insight that get transferred onto the page-- and it's in some of these early morning conversations that I feel the most renewed as a teacher. 

Largely, these prompts are reflective writing.  They are designed to get the writer contemplating their lives on a larger scale, but to also do a bit of a self-check. That's part of my own pedagogical purpose, I confess, for I feel that we often don't get a chance to do such writing and that it's a real downfall. Not only do we not do that kind of writing, we avoid that kind of thinking in life. We don't ask ourselves how we are doing, how we are managing, how we can do better. We don't take inventory of the very stuff our our souls, and that, to me, is problematic. I want to create a space for that kind of thinking -- even in a research and argumentative writing classroom, or a Literacy for Life classroom, or any classroom, really, because better humans make better students. 

I thought I may share some of these prompts with you. I put them up with a soundtrack for the first five minutes of the day. Sometimes, people get all their writing done. Sometimes, they are still furiously scribbling when their five minutes are up. I invite conversation about some topics, asking what they think or how it ties into their regular, ordinary, everyday lives.  Sometimes we close the prompt and move onto the business of the day. In the end, I feel it's one of the most valuable treasure troves their bullet journals hold for them: a place where they have reflected-- truly and deeply, if only for a few minutes.

These are just a few of the prompts, but you get the idea of what my approach is. So, my challenge to you is -- how are you being reflective in your life? How much reflective writing are you doing? Are you taking some time out to think about what you are doing well, what you are struggling with, or just something that you would like to celebrate? And if you aren't-- well-- why not?  

 

New Month: Check in on your goals

Remember all those new year resolutions? The goals and plans you set with purpose and intention?  

How are you doing right now? How did January go? Let's do a little self assessment, shall we? Where are you with your goals? 

 Now is the time to be perfectly honest with yourself: what goals did you set that were unrealistic? What did you just let go of or give up on? You have only yourself as an audience here--  look in the mirror and hold yourself accountable.    Sometimes, we set goals that sound (or feel) good but that we know somewhere in the back of our minds (or in our hearts) that we simply cannot achieve. It's not that we are setting ourselves up for failure, it's that we are just creating a situation where success is challenged by reality. Let's take a second to come back and create a kind of "recipe" for what goals we want to achieve THIS month. 

Now is the time to be perfectly honest with yourself: what goals did you set that were unrealistic? What did you just let go of or give up on? You have only yourself as an audience here--  look in the mirror and hold yourself accountable.  

Sometimes, we set goals that sound (or feel) good but that we know somewhere in the back of our minds (or in our hearts) that we simply cannot achieve. It's not that we are setting ourselves up for failure, it's that we are just creating a situation where success is challenged by reality. Let's take a second to come back and create a kind of "recipe" for what goals we want to achieve THIS month. 

This worksheet-- this recipe-- can help you to make your goals actionable and attainable. By listing what we want to achieve, giving ourselves a game plan of sorts -- with habits that can help us to reach those goals -- we can help to visualize our potential success. It helps to actually have an "action plan" in place.

I try to sit down and do this every month with the big goals I want to be sure to achieve in the course of the month. Sometimes it's one thing, sometimes it's multiple things, but I mentally work through -- and write out-- the steps for each goal. I have a visual representation of what I'm thinking, and it helps me to hold myself accountable. By giving myself a "celebrate" line, I have a potential reward there -- something I'm working toward (and I am SO motivated by the idea of rewards!).

So, how are you going to crush your goals this month? It's a new month. Forget resolutions -- make your goals commitments and make them a reality! 

 

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Inspiration: Monthly Spreads

It's that time of the month again: Time to plan out how you want next month to look like. With only a few days left before February, it's time to start plotting out how your monthly spread for next month will look like-- so here's a little eye candy to help you get inspired. 

Instagrammer Federica (@feebujo) has some of the most beautiful weekly and daily layouts, and her monthly aren't anything to chuff at, either. These minimalist, artistic spreads make me feel happy: 

 https://www.instagram.com/p/BOw6DuTA0Mp/?taken-by=feebujo

https://www.instagram.com/p/BOw6DuTA0Mp/?taken-by=feebujo

For a "traditional" bujo monthly spread, check out Instagrammer @plannerkisses's lovely spread:

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Tumblr user @studyfulltime created this confection of a monthly look for December-- I love the colors and calligraphy: 

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Want something with space to see your dates but organize your activities by categories?  Check out these monthlies: 

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Source: http://iatetoomuchsigmapi.tumblr.com/post/148255884633/this-is-my-first-monthly-spread-and-im-really

And @quirkyheart on IG always has spreads that speak to my soul: a great space for planning everything and tracking on one two Spread page  

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This stylish and functional spread from instagrammer @stylish.historian is also gorgeous

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Another pretty layout from @blankspacebujo that I really liked:

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I love the idea of balancing the monthly calendar with other spaces for goal planning -- I may try this for my March spread. In the end, for my Monthly, I went with a classic calendar spread. I obsessed and spent forever on it. And then I realized I spelled "February" wrong. My attitude on this: oh well, who cares. It was still fun to make (and I still loved doing it). I won't let a little typo get me down. It's not about being perfect-- it's about enjoying the process.

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What is your monthly spread looking like? What layouts do you like the best? Share what you are exploring and playing with-- I would love to feature it. And if I don't already follow you on social media, please drop me a note!  

Happy planning!!

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Celebrate National Handwriting Day

Okay, maybe you're thinking "do we need a day for EVERYTHING?" but honestly, this is a day we should celebrate! This 40 year old holiday is also the birthday of John Hancock, the father of that beautiful, perfect signature that we all know and love. With cursive being eliminated from most elementary school education , people see the skill as a dying art. 

However, there's evidence that supports handwriting -- and cursive -- helps dyslexic students with processing, will help students perform better on their SATs when hand writing essays (a reason to hand-write drafts), and that students with neater handwriting perform better than their peers in reading and math (Washington Post).  Research by Susan Cahill revealed that students that worked on their handwriting skills improved their composition and literary skills

 Source:  https://www.instagram.com/the_writing_room/ 

Source:  https://www.instagram.com/the_writing_room/ 

Furthermore, there's a positive link between the way we learn when we also learn handwriting -- it also accelerates learning in other parts of our brain. 

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” saidStanislas
Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of
the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.
“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he
continued. “Learning is made easier.”
— Michael Mabry, The New York Times

The Bullet Journal world is one filled with beautiful lettering that inspires me. Here are some images to inspire YOU today!

 Source: https://www.instagram.com/allikscript_/

Source: https://www.instagram.com/allikscript_/

 Source: https://www.instagram.com/hgcalligraphy/

Source: https://www.instagram.com/hgcalligraphy/

 Source: https://www.instagram.com/studiomacoca/

Source: https://www.instagram.com/studiomacoca/

 Source: https://www.instagram.com/happy_in_blue/

Source: https://www.instagram.com/happy_in_blue/

 Source: https://www.instagram.com/letteredbyeah/

Source: https://www.instagram.com/letteredbyeah/

If you want to take part in the National Handwriting Day Celebration, simply write something by hand today to celebrate-- do a little doodle in your bullet journal. Write a letter. Take notes all by hand today. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, do a hand-lettering project and post it to instagram with #nationalhandwritingday. Check out some of the pretty posts and get inspired!

If you want to learn more about how to improve your handwriting, brush lettering, or calligraphy, there are tons of great resources out there. Here is a Handwriting Challenge from Tumblr  and some Drills , 

As with anything, practice makes perfect! I'll be sharing pretty lettering all day on Instagram-- follow me there for more inspiration: https://www.instagram.com/hillary.yeager/

Planning to Be Productive: Procrastination

I have a confession: I am a procrastinator.

It's true. I have been one all of my life. I have to actively work to not procrastinate -- to drill down and get the stuff I need to get done, done in a timely manner. I am plagued by waiting until the last minute to really dig in on a big project if I feel daunted by it, and I admit that my bent toward perfectionism actually steers me toward inactivity more often than not. I realized this when I was running my own business -- it became clear very quickly that procrastination + taxes were going to be a real problem in my life, and I needed to figure out a solution. Procrastination can be a type of personality trait or even an addiction if you let it -- you have to work actively (and be committed) to changing your ways. 

So, I started to explore how to change my mindset. We all kind of know what "Time Management" is-- it's that process of deciding how to divvy your time up between activities, projects, obligations, and regular, ordinary "life." Effective time management is all about the idea of working smarter, not harder, right? The ultimate goal is to get more things done in less time, with less stress-- because when we don't manage our time well, our buddies stress and anxiety enter the picture and make managing time so much worse. 

First things first, you need to come clean with yourself. Are you a procrastinator?  Take a look at the prompt below and answer these questions. 

These are all classic "procrastinator" traits. So, how can you avoid it? 

First of all, let's get the psychology and biology behind why we procrastinate. First off, it becomes learned behavior. If you procrastinate a lot and became, at some point, one of those people that always waited until the last minute to get things done, and for some time were successful at that (meaning, your last-ditch efforts at the last minute actually produced quality work), then there can be a type of high that comes from that experience. You can condition yourself to say "Oh, I work best under pressure, so it actually benefits me to wait until the last minute." But, I'm here to tell you -- it doesn't actually benefit you to do this. What you're "benefitting from" is a) the luck you got by on doing it that way, and b) the rush of serotonin and endorphins that came from working on the wire. 

When we procrastinate, we enter into a "loop" of learned, conditioned behavior-- what is known as a "reticular activating system": our brains fire the neurons that are familiar pathways in our mind, and before we know it, we're procrastinating. Author Jeffery Coombs, who has written on procrastination and how to avoid it in his book The Procrastination Cure gives this additional insight:

Procrastination becomes a denial, it’s a way to avoid perceived pain, that’s the number one reason that people procrastinate because their ego, their left brain, their analytical mind starts to tell themselves a story and the story is about perceived pain. To avoid the pain we procrastinate, that’s why we “intend” to do something, that’s why we put it off, that’s why we’re going to do it later. We’re going to start a new diet, we’re going to go to the gym, we’re going to start a new business, we’re going to write a new book, we’re going to lose weight, we’re going to do this, we’re going to get a new career. We’re “going to,” see, that’s a future tense with no commitment statement.
— https://www.amazon.com/Procrastination-Cure-Steps-Stop-Putting/dp/1601631995

Coombs identifies that so much of our procrastinating ways are fear or anxiety based. Fear of failure, fear of "doing it wrong," being anxious about getting started, or being afraid of change. There's also that feeling that comes from being and feeling overwhelmed -- a feeling I feel quite often and one that I find myself wanting to fall back on as a reason for my inaction.  But, I have some tips to help you overcome. 

1. Remember that being "busy" does not necessarily mean you're being effective.  We live in a world that prizes and praises being "busy"-- but if you're not really productive and efficient, you're not really doing that much. How are you filling your day? How are you filling your time? One way to do this is to actually track what you do in the course of a day and see how much time you spend. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. How much time do you spend checking social media? How much time on emails?

The Bumbling Bujo has a great post about different trackers you can use to track your day and the way you spend time. Actually visualizing it can be really revealing about where you spend your time. 

 A spread from Bumbling Bujo's Bullet Journal. Click to see her post. 

A spread from Bumbling Bujo's Bullet Journal. Click to see her post. 

2. Experiment with systems for how to prioritize tasks. I used to start with the small tasks and work up to the big ones on my to-do list (this is just procrastination hiding out in the guise of being "productive"). Sometimes, I'd even find myself adding things to my list to avoid getting to the big stuff I knew I needed to do. I discovered Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle. This helps you to prioritize based on the idea that you should first tackle urgent/important tasks -- these are usually emergent or things you can't plan for (or, if you were being bad, things you put off), Important tasks that aren't urgent (like a long term task you need to break into stages), Urgent but not important (tasks that are time-time sensitive but are of lower priority than the important ones) and then the lesser to-do items that feel satisfying to check off but are, in reality, not urgent and not important.

A page from my BuJo to remind me of the system 

3. If a task seems overwhelming, insurmountable, or makes you feel exhausted to think about it-- try breaking it into smaller tasks or into increments of time. (Coombs calls this "bending time"). If there's 60 minutes in an hour, break that hour into 15 minutes and devote at least 15 minutes to the unsavory task.  Sometimes, that 15 minutes is all you need to get started: telling yourself I only have to do this for 15 minutes and then I can stop is really empowering-- and then the 15 minutes are up and you keep going. Another thing that works for a lot of people is the Pomodoro technique  which operates under the same principle:

The methodology is simple: When faced with any large task or series of tasks, break the work down into short, timed intervals (called “Pomodoros”) that are spaced out by short breaks. This trains your brain to focus for short periods and helps you stay on top of deadlines or constantly-refilling inboxes. With time it can even help improve your attention span and concentration.

Pomodoro is a cyclical system. You work in short sprints , which makes sure you’re consistently productive. You also get to take regular breaks that bolster your motivation and keep you creative.
— http://lifehacker.com/productivity-101-a-primer-to-the-pomodoro-technique-1598992730
 Source: http://elvindantes.com/post/117698995545/the-pomodoro-technique-heres-one-way-to-organize

Source: http://elvindantes.com/post/117698995545/the-pomodoro-technique-heres-one-way-to-organize

4. Set small, attainable goals. Often, we self-sabotogue by creating goals that we can't possibly accomplish. These may seem like we're being optimistic and positive about the future. For example, you maybe are like me -- I'll get hyped up on goal-setting and do some pie-in-the-sky planning when I'm at my lowest points (this is usually in the doldrums of December, right before the new year:  "This next yearis going to be the best year yet! I'm going to lose 100 lbs, I'm going to run a marathon, I'm going to organize all of my house, I'm going to start getting up at 4 am every day, I'm going to read 10 books a day, and I'm going to stop biting my nails all by next week."  But the reality is I just set myself up for failure because there's no way I could accomplish all of that in a week, and maybe not even a year unless I was really dedicated, right? 

The key to successful goal setting is that they have to be goals you can actually accomplish in a reasonable time span. 

Coombs offers this insight into goal GETTING: 

Success if about what you do today, not what you do tomorrow, what you do today, because this goes back to time. The only time you possess is now, you don’t have yesterday, that’s gone, that’s history, tomorrow hasn’t happened, that’s a mystery, what you have is the present, that is now. So in goal getting, and that’s G-E-T-T-I-N-G, not setting, S-E-T-T-I-N-G, it’s not so important to get the goal than it is to set it. Now we’re conditioned to have big goals, to write our goals down, get a vision board and write down 100 goals, 200 goals, 500, 1,000. There’s merit to all that, but it’s a lot more important that you get goals, you write goals that are achievable or you attract goals that are achievable, and then you build on a compounded effect. The only way you’re going to get a bigger goal is to go through the process of it to attract it, and you have to have a system to your goal, you can’t just wing it, you can’t just pray for a miracle and hope it shows up, you have to have a system, a method.
— J. Coombs, The Procrastination Cure

I'm going to delve more into this in a future post, because goals and goal setting are my jam, but I think that it's important to bring this up right now and get you thinking about how procrastination and goals maybe go hand in hand.

5. If you're going to do something, you need to actually commit to doing it. This seems really simple, but making a commitment to yourself is the first step of breaking your procrastination. You can't keep saying "I'll start tomorrow" : You need to pick a date. Make a commitment to yourself to actually start a positive change. It takes time and it takes work every day. But in saying "I am going to do this" follow through. Write down your commitment. Sign it if you need to. That is why it's helpful to spend 10-20 minutes at night reflecting on what you got done in the day and planning the next day's tasks by priority or indicating their priority. It will help center and ground you and get you on the right track. And, most importantly: follow through.

Mapping out your week

day.png

This is the first post of many for tips and tricks on how I map out my week using my Bullet Journal to keep on top of my life.  I highly recommend that you experiment with different spreads that work for you week to week-- not only is it important for you to find what works for you, but it is also a great creative outlet to design your spreads every week. Simple or elaborate, this is a really fun way to get inspired. I have multiple spreads saved to a Pinterest Board devoted to Spreads (aka page layouts): https://www.pinterest.com/hillarykyeager/bullet-journal-spread-inspirations/ and I just started a Tumblr blog with things that inspire me for you to feast your eyes upon, too: Bullet Journal Adventures https://hillaryyeager.tumblr.com/

Okay, so let's get started. When planning out your week, I suggest you pick a day that you want to devote to the mechanical and possibly artsy elements-- like the design of your layout, and a day you want to do some brain dumping and actual organizing of your life. For me, I usually do my layouts on Sunday, and my brain-dumping on Monday. What is "brain dumping" you ask? Well, I'm so glad you decided to -- that is a space where you take a page (or two, or three) to just make a list or freewrite all of the things that you have coming up in the next week that you know you need to worry about, devote time to, or that is weighing on your mind in some capacity. When I'm done "dumping," I circle or highlight my higher priority items and start making some lists of the things that are really my "Time Sucks." You know what I mean. 

I've designed this handy printable you can use or could make one of your own for your BuJo:  List tasks by the most time consuming in your week. Pull out your Top 5 "Must Do" tasks-- the things that no matter what, if there is a hurricane, a flood, armageddon, whatever, you still have to do those things, those are priorities. Jot them down. 

 

 Tasks by Time Sheet 

Tasks by Time Sheet 

Now, consider: is there anything you can outsource (like drycleaning? can you afford having your house cleaned once a month if it saves you tons of time? Is it worth doing a lot of freezer meals once a month so you can save time in the long run? Is Shipped or another grocery service something to consider if grocery shopping is taking up a lot of time?). Can you allocate tasks? Can you ask a partner to help, or assign extra chores? Or, is there anything you can *put off * this week. That's right . . . I said it. It may seem like a crazy thing to suggest, but if looking at your tasks for the week make you want to break into hives, then maybe you need to just move some things to next week. And that's okay!!

If you've gotten this far and you're like "I don't know how I spend my time!" then you need to do a week's worth of TIME TRACKING to see how you spend your day! I'll have an entire post devoted to trackers, but follow me on instagram for some inspiration there. 

Okay, lastly, there's a space for just charting out your regular morning | afternoon | evening routine. What are things you always do, every day that are constants. These can make me feel oddly comforted after I made a big mess of my life with to do lists that make me feel anxious.

When I identify a time suck, I devote a page a week to that on ways I can simplify that task in some way or another. I brainstorm, I give my future self Ideas. One thing that always kills me is mealtime-- I hate thinking of what to cook, what to make. So I challenge myself to a) plan a menu and b) make a list of recipes I want to try that correspond to a Pinterest Board with ready-to-go clickable menus.

 

 Recipes to try--- easy access! 

Recipes to try--- easy access! 

When it comes to my week, I make a weekly spread that highlights the days of the week, a place for menu planning and a place to remind me of my goals for the week. I leave some white space for doodles or an inspirational quote. I forgot to take a picture before I started filling it in, but here's the method behind my madness: I put all my appointments or fixed things on my calendar, and then I fill it in with additional details as the week goes on. Once the semester hits, this tends to become a Morning | Afternoon | Evening organization, because it's easier for me to visually SEE what is going on there.

 My Weekly Spread

My Weekly Spread

I like to mix it up every week with a new spread layout, because it's fun for me. 

I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to structure your week. I'd like to end today with a writing prompt for you -- this one is about organization. Take some time to think about it and then list or freewrite for 5-10 minutes.  Feel free to share your tips in the comments! 

Resist New Year, New You

Everywhere I look, I see it: the siren call of the new year to cast away the "old" me: to become someone other than myself, to be "new," improved, different. "New Year, New You!" Headlines proclaim, inviting me to try to revise my entire life to be thinner, healthier, more of everything I'm not.

The truth is, the new year is a time where we all get hyped up on the idea of transformation. There is a hypnotizing power in the concept of revolutionary change -- especially change of the self. Imagine revising everything bad about your life in one fell swoop: all your naughty habits, all the things you have wanted to edit for a lifetime. Imagine waking up on January 1 and making a green smoothie, working out, donating to charity, eating all healthy, organic foods --- and doing it all year long.

Right.

 A screenshot of just a few of the New Year, New You images on Google . . .  

A screenshot of just a few of the New Year, New You images on Google . . .  

When you make resolutions, what promises are you making to yourself? Is your intention to change your life? To become someone new? Is it to drastically edit all the things that are making you unhappy or unhealthy or unsatisfied? I'm not saying you shouldn't want to change the things that make you unhappy, unhealthy, or unsatisfied in life-- definitely not. What I'm saying is that you don't have to change who you are in order to go after your goals, your "resolutions."  

Instead, have it be New Year, New . . . hopes, wishes, expectations, dreams, desires . . . Fill in the blank. If you experience transformative change-- awesome! But why does every year have to start with us thinking that there is something wrong with ourselves that requires a total overhaul?

 

 New Year, New way of thinking?

New Year, New way of thinking?

This year, I'm operating with a rule of threes: tomorrow on New Year's Eve, I'm going to write down at least three things about myself I absolutely do not want to change-- things I resolve not to change, things I want to celebrate about who I am and what I love about myself. 

On January 1, sit down and reflect on your intentions for 2017. Resolutions before the first of the year always seem silly to me, I don't know why. Maybe because I spiral during the holidays and do nothing but eat Christmas cookies and egg nog and watch Hallmark Movies (without a trace of shame). Maybe it's because I know that I'll always "resolve" to start eating healthier or want to begin a cycle of self-loathing --- because I feel like we get set up for that, don't we? If you turn in the tv close to the first of the year we are inundated with reminders about how we should probably be dieting or eating better or exercising or doing something healthier. And I don't deny that is an important part of our a good, healthy life, but it's often packaged in a way that seems to elevate a sense of self-hate and loathing. It doesn't really set me up for success because I go at it gung ho and by Feb 1 I'm wading in a bucket of fried chicken and a drinking a milk shake. I'm just being honest.  

 Me at the start of the new year  

Me at the start of the new year  

 How I feel most days  

How I feel most days  

So, for my resolutions this year, I'm going to make them attainable and realistic goals. My goal overall for 2017 is being realistic, and I think that having three primary goals can help with being realistic about what you want to attain. Three little goals. Three little resolutions.  Make them something that you can really do. Instead of changing everything, sit down and say what are three goals I can see myself accomplishing realistically.

If you want this year to be the year you want to run a marathon, what are three ways you can build toward that goal? If you want to write a book, what are three things you need to do to get there? 

To help you with setting your goals, I've made you a free printable you can put in your Bullet Journal or post on your wall or keep wherever you need to help remind you of how awesome you already are and your three goals. 

 

 

Download the printable here.

Either way, this coming year I encourage you to embrace the idea that YOU are ENOUGH. You are awesome and capable of great things, and this year can be your year if you want it to be! 

 

How To Bullet Journal

I'm so excited to share that I am officially going to be launching a "How To Bullet Journal" series on January 2! I have been working on this awhile, and I can't wait to actually get started and share my personal system for using the BuJo. Here's a little teaser video I made:

As I mentioned in my planner post, I've been on a journey to find that "perfect" planner, and the Bullet Journal is that system for me. But, the basic BuJo system that Ryder Carroll developed isn't what I use.  I've created a system that is big and small picture oriented, looking at goal setting, accountability, and personal reflection. It's a way to have your calendar, to-do lists, mind maps and goals all in one place, a place where you can reflect on what worked and what didn't, and a house for your dreams and desires. 

I use the BuJo system as a tool in my classroom and as a survival aid as a PhD student-- It's something that I can't live without. When I lost my BuJo this October in Colorado, I literally was devastated for a week before moving on and starting anew.  It's a place where I go to think, to transcribe my thoughts and to reflect on what I've been doing well and what I can improve on. I think that you'll find the BuJo system can be more than just an ordinary planner: it can become something that you are proud to work on each day.

 From my Journal: I like to fill side pages with quotes

From my Journal: I like to fill side pages with quotes

But, it's important to note that your journal is an investment: an investment of your time, your effort, your mindfulness-- it's about holding yourself accountable to yourself and no one else. Unlike pre-fab planners, you've got blank pages you have to fill in with dates. You have to make your own to-do lists, you have to think about what your calendar needs to hold. To some people that sounds like "work," but let me tell you, there's a beauty that comes from that labor. In creating your pages, creating your calendars and to-do lists, thinking about how you are going to map our your lives and your days, you become all the more purposeful and focused. You zero in on what matters most. And, for a lot of us, you have a lot of fun making your spreads and layouts!

Don't let all the fanciness sway you: You can be as fancy as you want to with the BUJO, you don't have to get all crazy with it. I'm serious.