5 things that helped me survive summer, 2011 edition

At the end of the past two summers, ProfHacker’s contributors all posted on 5 things (technologies, activities, foods, etc) that got them through the summer; their 2011 lists were just posted. Last summer I did the same. So, continuing that tradition (can it be a tradition after only 2 years?), here are the 5 things that helped me survive the summer of 2011.

  1. Evernote. Oh Evernote, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Seriously, Evernote has become my favorite and most indispensable tool. I keep my meeting notes there. I keep my checklists and to-do lists for my various projects there. If I have a thought I want to follow up on later, or a paper I need to track down, or a teaching idea I’d like to research, or a link I don’t have time to read…I just make a note and tag it. Evernote syncs to all my computers and to my phone, so I can access these things everywhere. I also use it for non-school stuff too, like recipes or notes on future trips or contact info of people I meet. I. Love. Evernote!
  2. Checklists. I am waaaaaaay overcommitted right now. I have various research and service and teaching projects in various stages of (un)done-ness. Keeping track of everything was stressing me out big time earlier this summer. In a fit of frustration one day, when I was so paralyzed I couldn’t get anything done, I started a master checklist. I have a note in Evernote (of course) called “Next steps on various tasks”, with a section for each project and at most 4 “next things” to do on those projects. When I feel stuck or overwhelmed or not sure what to work on next, I open up the list, pick something, and go. Keeping the older tasks, checked off, on the list also helps me see how much I’ve done this summer, which helps the psyche.
  3. Google Docs. This made the list last year too, but it’s really an indispensable part of my workflow. My research students kept personal lab notebooks on there, and we kept a group “lab notebook” as well. It’s once again helped my collaborations immensely, particularly the development of a set of linked courses with a colleague. This summer it’s allowed us to share and collaborate on our linked syllabi, develop rubrics, and keep track of meeting notes with various support staff. We’d not be half as organized if not for Google Docs!
  4. Cold-press coffee/home-brewed iced tea. At the end of last summer, I learned how to make cold press coffee in my french press. I am now seriously addicted to the stuff. (Decaf, since caffeine gives me migraines.)  A few years ago I also figured out how to brew my own iced tea from regular tea bags, which tastes so much better than the special iced tea bags. This sounds trivial, I realize, but a good tall glass of homemade iced coffee or iced tea makes me happy, and is like a mini-treat every day. Since I haven’t had a break since school started back in January, any little thing that feels like a little break in my day makes things better.
  5. Running. I ran my first ever half marathon this summer. I’ve been a runner for a while, but the longest race I’ve done before this was 4 miles. I discovered that I absolutely love distance running. I looked forward to my long runs on weekends all week long. Training forced me to take time for myself (which I have a hard time doing) and to focus on something other than my job (which I also have a hard time doing). It also taught me to be more patient (building up mileage slowly) and flexible (sometimes your run is not going to go the way you expected, and you have to deal with that). Running the race and crossing the finish line (and recording a faster time than my target!) was the high point of my summer, and I’m still buzzing from the experience! Best of all, I stayed injury-free.
Honorable mentions include yoga, being part of a CSA, awesome undergrad research students, and a super support system of friends and family.
What helped you survive the summer?
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The 5 Stages of Conference Paper Writing

(with apologies to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)

1. Denial.  This is going to be the best paper we’ve ever written! It’ll be paradigm-changing and highly cited! The data is so awesome it’s going to be a breeze to write! We totally have enough time to whip this into shape and send it out.

2. Anger.  What do you mean, we made a mistake in the experiments and now the data is not as conclusive? There’s no way we can spin this positively! This intro reads like it was written by drunken monkeys! We’re how many pages over the limit? And why is it that I just removed 2 whole paragraphs of text in LaTeX, but our page count just went up? Gah!

3. Bargaining. Ok, if we combine Figures 2 and 3 into one figure, we can gain back 2 lines of text. And if we cite Author X that’s kind of like citing Authors Y and Z, so we don’t actually have to include all three citations, so that gains us 6 lines of text. Which means now we’re…still 1 page over the limit. Let’s try cutting one sentence from each paragraph…Do we really need a conclusion? I mean, no one ever reads them anyway…

4. Depression. There is no. way. we’re going to make this page limit. We’ve already cut this paper to the bone and we’re still half a page over the limit. If we triage any more of this paper, we’re going to lose some content and context, and then the reviewers will ding us for not including the context and content.  And this intro still reads like it was written by drunken monkeys. We are the worst researchers ever.

5. Acceptance.  Wait, did we just make the page limit? Submit it now! No no no, whatever you do DON’T re-read it. I don’t care if it makes sense or not anymore, page limit met = done.