Tips from the NCFDD Monday Motivator: December edition

by Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Monday, December 14, 2020 9:00 AM


Are you feeling like you just can't get anything done with everything that has been going on recently? Read on for an article from the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity (NCFDD), an independent professional development, training, and mentoring community of over 71,000 graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members. 

To take advantage of this amazing resource (free for UCSB students!), you must register with your UCSB account (see how to register here). Once you register, you are automatically subscribed to the Monday Motivator -- your weekly dose of positive energy and actionable steps to increase your productivity and motivation. This week's Monday motivator focuses on strategies to help you get through the end of the quarter.

Monday Motivator: December 7, 2020
Finding Your Peace

As this term comes to a close, we find ourselves having conversations about finding peace in the Academy, especially in a year where chaos and uncertainty have been the norm. Scholars have been all over the spectrum. Some feel it’s impossible to move and get out of bed. Others have been overindulging in work to anesthetize the anxiety. In fact, we’ve found ourselves vacillating between the two within the course of a single day (sometimes even a few hours). No matter where they fall on the spectrum, one thing is always clear: they remain passionate about their scholarship, their students, and the service that squarely fits their values—but they’re struggling (understandably!) to figure out how to balance it all and still maintain their physical and mental health, their relationships, their families, and their communities.

As we head into the holiday break, it’s an opportunity to take a step back and think about how you can find your peace in the Academy (especially since we never got that chance this summer). Here’s our process. The great news is that it can be used over and over again whenever you feel like making a change in your life. We’re using the acronym PEACE as a quick trick to help cement it in your brain.

Plan Your ________ (Semester, Term, Exit Strategy, Whatever)

The reason that planning is so important to finding your peace is that it forces you to ask and answer the hard questions: What do you want? How can you get it? When will you do the work that's necessary to get what you want? Beyond our careers, what are the things in your personal life and family that you want? What type of support and accountability will be required to make sure you actually implement your plan? Support and accountability are crucial for both your academic and personal goals, remember.

Experiment With Empirically-Tested Strategies

For most of us, the kinds of changes that we would like to make in our lives have clear and well-studied paths. If you don't know what they are and you're short on time, find a way to learn them quickly (i.e, read a book, take a class, ask an expert). It can be deceivingly simple. If you want more time, you have to spend less of it doing the things that don't matter (ahem, doomscrolling) so you have more of it to do the things that do matter. If you’re a regular Monday Motivator reader, you know some of the strategies already: 1) The Sunday Meeting, 2) a daily writing practice, 3) tracking your time, and 4) holding yourself accountable on a regular basis. We've also covered a number of these strategies in our monthly core curriculum webinars, but there's a difference between KNOWING them and DOING them. So, when we say "experiment," we mean learning the best practices (that's the easy part) and then actually doing them (that's where it gets difficult). And remember, experiments for us take at least 2 weeks to show some results, so don’t write them off too quickly.

Analyze The Changes You Make

Whenever you try a behavioral experiment, you will have several weeks' worth of data to analyze. If you want greater writing productivity, then ask yourself: Did writing every day for four weeks provide a different outcome than my regular binge-and-bust behavior? If you want more time, then experiment by having a Sunday Meeting for four weeks straight and then ask yourself: Have the weeks where I have a plan been better than the weeks without one? If you can't figure out where your time goes, track your time, and analyze the data by asking: Is my time in alignment with my values? It doesn't matter what your criteria for success are; just be sure to track your progress and then pause after a few weeks and analyze the data. This part is hard, but trust us, after a few weeks of doing it religiously, you’re guaranteed to notice a difference not just in your writing output, but also in how you feel.

Challenge Your Limiting Beliefs

Whenever we change our behavior, all of our stuff comes to the surface. That's great! You want that stuff right out in the open so you can see what assumptions, beliefs, or expectations are holding you back. Each of us has to learn to challenge our limiting beliefs, such as: "I can’t write in the morning because I'm not a morning person,” "I can’t write every day because I couldn't possibly get anything meaningful done in 30 minutes,” or "I can’t write during my workday because taking time to write is selfish.” New behaviors have a wonderful way of bringing such beliefs to the surface, but the real work is holding those beliefs up to the light of day and asking: Is this true? Does this make sense for where I am today and where I want to go in the future? Can I change? And do I want/need to change? 

Establish A Support Network

None of us have to evolve alone! Shoot, in 2020 we have all evolved beyond our wildest imaginations. It doesn’t matter to us what type of supportive community you create or tap into, but there are three things I know for sure: 1) there’s power and wisdom in collectives; 2) most people thrive and grow in the context of mutual support; and 3) structured accountability can help you to make change faster than almost anything else. There are plenty of ways to create the support you need on your own campus, in your local area, or online. Click here for some ideas.

We hope this framework is helpful to you in reflecting on your work this year and the ways that you want to move forward in 2021 (can you believe it’s about to be 2021?) This is the last Monday Motivator of the year, so we want to be sure to let you know that we have greatly enjoyed working with you this year, and we look forward to offering new and expanded support in the New Year.