#AcWriMo wrap-up

#AcWriMo comes to a close today, so it seems fitting to wrap up the month of crazy writing goals with an accounting of how well I did (or didn’t) meet those goals.

As a reminder, here are the three goals I set for myself for the month:

  1. Finish the grant narrative, and send it out to colleagues for comments, by 16 November. (The grant narrative is the “meat” of the application, and is the technical explanation of the work and deliverables.)
  2. Finish the supplementary documents (RUI statement, budget outline, budget justification), and send them to our amazing grants person, by 28 November. (That’s actually kind of a “drop-dead” date—I’d like to have the budget numbers to our grants person a bit earlier so he has time to assemble all the budget stuff on his end and is not scrambling.)
  3. Write my conference talk. I’m giving a talk at a conference (workshop) in early December, but I’m taking my family with me (and my mom too—so excited!), so I would rather spend the conference week hanging out with my family and not stuck in my hotel room frantically assembling slides. So, by 30 November, I will have my talk completely done: slides finished, AND a few run-throughs of the presentation under my belt.

So, how’d I do?

Goal #1: Nailed. I was most proud of myself for this, particularly since my self-imposed deadline was two days after fall term classes ended (i.e., the busiest time of the term). As I mentioned in the post linked above, this was a huge win for me because it was the first time I allowed myself to send out something less than “perfect” for review.  I’ve already gotten some feedback and am waiting for some more, which should come in next week.

Goal #2: Met, a tad late. I conveniently forgot how long end-of-term grading takes. Particularly when you have 34 projects and 65 final exams to grade in a short time span! These goals all fell in the second half of the month, during the grading crunch. I was off by a couple days with my targets for each of them, but I made great progress in the past couple of days to catch up. Right now the only supplementary document left is the RUI statement, and that draft will either be finished later this afternoon or Monday, still in plenty of time to meet the deadline (Dec 17!). And I actually got ahead and started working on some other supplementary docs; those should also be finished this afternoon.

Goal #3: Partially met. I have a complete draft of the talk; all the slides that need to be there are there. I need to add/modify some visuals, do some run-throughs, and edit edit edit. It’s not done, but it’s in awfully good shape, one of the better talk drafts I’ve done.

I am thrilled with my success in this project. I didn’t fully meet my goals, but I came very close, and that makes me very happy. I also learned a few things about myself along the way:

  1. My perfectionism goes into overdrive when I’m working on less-familiar tasks. At this point in my career, I can knock out a conference paper with little angst, because I’ve done it a zillion times. I’m reasonably able to do the same with journal articles now that I have a few under my belt. But grant budgets and RUI statements? That’s unfamiliar territory, and that’s where I floundered.  Having the AcWriMo framework actually helped here—the goals and public accountability kept me from spiraling too deeply into perfectionism and helped me move forward, albeit more slowly than I’d hoped.
  2. I love external validation. Ok, this wasn’t exactly news to me. While I have a crazy amount of self-motivation, the fact is I love the external motivation I get by making my goals public, whether that’s announcing my intentions to a group of friends over coffee (and updating them on my progress weekly) or to the world via a hashtag. I feel good when I meet an internally-imposed goal, but I feel great when I can announce to the world that I’ve met a goal.
  3. Slow and steady wins the race. My grant deadline is 18 days away, and I am not panicked. I am in great shape. My drafts are solid, and I have a solid plan to make them even better and more polished, without killing myself in the process. I am not panicked and my drafts are solid not because I’ve spent large swaths of time on the grant, but rather because I’ve spent small amounts of time every day on the grant. (In fact, often I am most productive when I only have 30-60 minutes in a day—that’s when I’ve done some of my best work, because I am forced to focus.) And because even before AcWriMo, I spent small amounts of time every day for months working on the ideas, reading the literature, and preparing for this. This is true not just for this grant, but for all my work generally—slow and steady, a bit every day, is how I progress.

Even though AcWriMo ends today, I will continue working in an AcWriMo fashion moving forward. I’ll set ambitious goals for myself. I’ll commit to working slow and steady every day. I’ll continue to make myself publicly accountable to friends and strangers alike. And I’ll work on keeping my perfectionism in check. Thank you, AcWriMo, for a wonderful experience!

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