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Monday Motivator
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Monday Motivator

Monday, December 1, 2014 

Are You Having a Super Productive Semester?

Dear @@first_name@@,

Each term we offer a free training on the five secrets to a super productive semester. The "secrets" are actually the structure that we use in our Faculty Success Program. And if you know any of the over 600 graduate students, post-docs and faculty members who have participated in (what's affectionately known as) our "faculty bootcamp", then you already know how effective the program is for increasing research productivity. If you don't know any of our alumni, I can summarize the effectiveness in one statistic: 93% of participants become more productive in their research and writing as a result of participating in the program.

I like to share these "secrets" with all of our members because the program is effective for so many different people, at every rank on the academic ladder (from graduate students through endowed chairs), and across disciplines (we have faculty in 43 different disciplines this session). And the reason these "secrets" work is because they are not secrets at all, they are evidence-based, best-practices. So why not cherry pick a few ideas from our program to experiment with as you head into the end of your term?


In the Faculty Success Program, we start by making a semester plan for the two things that don't have built-in accountability and therefore get procrastinated when you get busy: writing and wellness. At this time of year, you can experiment with making a short plan from now until the end of the term (whatever date that is for you). It's a simple process: 1) list your writing and wellness goals for the remainder of this calendar year, 2) map out all the steps that are needed to complete your goals, and 3) figure out when that work will get done (click here to download our audio training on this topic). Once our bootcampers have their plans in place, they work the plan week-to-week by holding a 30-minute weekly planning meeting to get organized and determine what specific day and time the work will get done.


Establishing a daily writing practice is at the core of the Faculty Success Program. There's no two ways about it, the most productive academic writers write every day (Monday through Friday) in small increments instead of waiting for big blocks of un-interrupted time (that never seem to actually materialize). And by "writing," we mean any activity that moves a manuscript or proposal one step closer to going out the door (drafting, revising, inserting tables, formatting, checking citations, etc...). We know from faculty development research that daily writing increases productivity, reduces anxiety and stress, and stimulates new ideas. Every session, I watch faculty members shift from binge-and bust, deadline-driven writing to healthy, sustainable, daily writing habits that lead to greater productivity. Most of them have heard this advice before, but there's a big difference between KNOWING something and actually DOING it. I don't expect you to believe me so I'll just invite you to try writing every day for at least 30 minutes as an experiment for the rest of this term. Set a timer, get down to business, and then you can decide for yourself: was I more productive or less productive?


The key to our Faculty Success Program is that it provides a built-in community of people who are all committed to daily writing and supporting one another. The mistake people often make is that they join a writing community where people are highly competitive, don't support each other, and/or spend more time talking about why they aren't writing than actually getting down to business and getting the writing done each day. It's also the case that daily writing has a funny way of bringing up all of your stuff. And by that, I mean all the stuff that is keeping you from writing: your fears, your anxieties, and/or your impostor syndrome. In a supportive community, you can get real about your stuff, deal with it, see how normal it is, and manage it so it doesn't keep you from operating at your highest potential.


The core challenge of academic work is that the things that matter the most to your long term success (writing and research) have the least built-in accountability while other activities (service and teaching) have high built-in accountability on a daily basis. As humans, we tend to orient our behavior towards what we will be held accountable for that day. This tendency leads many faculty members to spend dis-proportionate amounts of time on teaching and service to the exclusion of research and writing. In the Faculty Success Program we work to disrupt this pattern by teaching how to align your time with your evaluation criteria on a weekly basis. To do that, you must CREATE accountability structures that make you feel the same way about getting your daily writing done that you do about preparing for teaching and completing service commitments. In our bootcamp, we do this by tracking time (as data) in an online platform and having small weekly accountability groups that are facilitated by our certified coaches. But there are many different ways that you can create accountability for your writing NOW such as accountability buddies, write-on-sites, writing groups, etc....


One consistent theme we hear over and over from our Faculty Success Program participants is how important it is to them to have dedicated mentors in the program. I'm on-call to support them through individual coaching, and they also have their small group coaches and a head coach. By dedicated mentors, we mean people who know how to interact with you as a coach instead of a guru. People who have experience, are available, support you, believe in you, have the ability to focus entirely on you, and are open, honest and direct in helping you to get un-stuck. Who can serve that role for you moving forward? Even if it's just between now and the end of the term, try to imagine who could be a dedicated mentor for you so that when you get stuck, you can have a conversation to get un-stuck?

I think you can imagine how employing all five of these "secrets" at once leads to the explosive productivity we observe in our faculty bootcamp. But even picking ONE of these "secrets" and experimenting with it for the rest of the term will help you to be more productive than continuing to utilize strategies that don't work (like hoping for big blocks of time, isolating yourself, or beating yourself up repeatedly over what you have not done). Of course, we would love for you to register for our next session of the Faculty Success Program, but you don't have to sign up in order to take a powerful step towards increased productivity TODAY. Just pick a supportive mechanism, commit to it, make the shift, and see what happens.

Peace and Productivity,

Kerry Ann Rockquemore, PhD
President, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity
How to Negotiate for Success
12/03/2014 - 11:00 AM ET

Faculty Success Program
Next Session: January - May 2015
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National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity

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