Monday, June 28, 2010


In graduate school and probably as far back as kindergarten, I was the student who got my work in early. I did not miss deadlines, forget assignments, or miss work. Even at age eight, I was annoyingly focused on meeting expectations and being timely. In the tenure-track life, so many things compete for our time that I can no longer be that person with projects done weeks in advance. I have accepted some days (weeks, months, semesters) are busier than others, but struggle when I feel a lack of control over my time dedicated to projects. I have found that the most pressing item gets done while other tasks sit waiting. So, the syllabus gets edited since students will be arriving while the data sits un-entered or un-analyzed.

To combat my personal tendency to leave research as a secondary focus at my teaching-based institution, I embrace deadlines.

Is productivity benefited by deadlines? Do deadlines motivate you? My ability to balance research/teaching/service is getting better, but I still find research to be the hardest task to tackle since, for me, it requires an unwearied mind and blocks of time where I can focus (difficult in a multi-person office). My best tool to moving research forward: my love of deadlines. When it comes to organizing any project, I generally create "sub-deadlines"-- a mock deadline a week or two ahead of a larger project in order to give myself extra room for final details or for anything that might go awry. It is akin to the snooze button on your alarm. It generally works quite well for me. This summer semester I find applying my love for deadlines and structure can help my research. The deadlines are serving two key goals in my research world.

First, deadlines are motivating me. I have put them in my digital and hard-copy calendars. The digital calendar shows reminders, color-coded for type of work, and set to encourage forward momentum. The hard-copy calendar is tactile evidence (the blessed check mark!) of small tasks tackled for that larger project. The date with the giant star or exclamation point reminding me to submit is a constant reminder to keep the research at the forefront of my academic work.

Second, deadlines are, in themselves, rewards. I feel a huge excitement when I mark off an item that has been staring at me on my "to do" list. It is victory, it is accomplishment, it is relief. "When you get a task completely finished, your body naturally releases energy and good feelings associated with accomplishment. The bigger the task, the better you feel, " according to Whiteside of the Self-Improvement Association.

Deadlines and sub-deadlines help me manage my research goals when facing a busy week of committee meetings or grading. This week, midterm week, my students have a large presentation to complete and exams to grade alongside the June 30th deadlines for grant reports, conferences, and revisions or submissions for publications. It seemed everything would hit at once and the deadlines were slowly suffocating me. I re-evaluated what I could cut out (I had to let a conference submission go) and prioritized (grant report first) and then made all the calendar notes about sub-deadlines, slowly tackling items bit by bit. Despite a busy semester, I am two days away from my final date for submission and have all but one project completed EARLY. The final edits will be made on my last project and I'll submit one day before the deadline...which feels like sweet victory!

Then, of course, the next deadline looms and the another project gets underway--such is the life of the tenure-track faculty member.
Whiteside, R. (2009, June 24). 7 steps to prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Retrieved June 21, 2010 from the Self-Improvement Association web site:

1 comment:

  1. People who love to achieve the targets are always having the tremendous life. I always believe in hunting the targets.
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