Tips from the NCFDD Monday Motivator: December 2022 edition

by Chava Nerenberg, Graduate Programming Assistant
Monday, December 05, 2022 9:22 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 for handling crunch time.

Monday, November 28, 2022
A Countdown to 2023

by Kerry Ann Rockquemore, PhD
Founder, NCFDD

Anthony Ocampo, PhD
Academic Director, NCFDD

The span of time between the return from Thanksgiving and the beginning of Christmas/Holiday break is a special time for tenure-track faculty. For many, it’s where your own end-of-the-term exhaustion meets student’s desperation; where your own search for a moment of free time has to accommodate forced participation at multiple holiday social events; and where your own grandiose writing goals face the pending reality of what you can actually accomplish in the remaining few weeks. To add insult to the injury, it’s also the time when the days get shorter, and the weather turns grim in most parts of the country. In short, what we hope will be a gentle descent into the slower pace of Winter Break often becomes a stressful and bumpy climb.

We believe that special times call for special coping strategies. Since the list of the Top 10 Tips for Crunch Time was so popular in the past, we thought we would share an additional list as we head toward the holiday break.

1. Plan Ahead For the Break

One of our community members shared a secret with us in the past that when she made her strategic plan, she intentionally left the first two weeks in December blank because she knew it was going to be a ridiculously difficult term. When the calendar turns to December, she’s given herself permission to either chip away at things that she was behind on, but she’s also giving herself permission to use that time for recuperation if necessary.

2. Try The Treat System

Academics are notoriously bad at treating themselves. If you’re finding yourself feeling unmotivated to do the tasks required to wrap up the term, might we suggest setting up a carrot to chase, whether that be permission to binge your favorite trash reality show, indulging in your favorite dessert, or foregoing cooking dinner and ordering delivery from your favorite take out spot. The only rule: your treat cannot be in any way related to your CV!

3. Find A Buddy

The buddy system is a great way to get through the difficult times of the term. Asking someone to be your accountability partner during crunch time will not only help to keep you connected to your colleagues but will also help you to maintain your daily writing practice. Make it simple: 1) ask a peer if they will be your partner for two weeks, 2) set up a time to talk for 5-10 minutes each morning, and 3) agree to quickly report in during the call by stating what your key priorities are for the day and identifying any potential places you may get stuck for a little advanced problem-solving. Two weeks is a minimal commitment and the call can serve as a built-in morning ritual to confirm and clarify your priorities for the day. 

4. Take Strategic Short-Cuts

Many people respond to the stress of the end of the term by taking shortcuts. Unfortunately, the shortcuts we frequently take are with our writing and/or our bodily needs. So instead of unconsciously choosing to skip sleep or give up your daily writing time, try consciously assessing what activities in your day can be eliminated or reduced with minimal consequences. Take a fast from social media, sign off a couple of listservs, cancel or reschedule meetings. There’s no shame in cutting corners if it helps you do the things that maintain your physical and mental health.

5. Keep The End In Mind

If all you can do during the next two weeks is to regularly ask yourself: what MUST get done between now and the end of the term and let the answer drive your daily behavior, you will be in good shape. Keep your tasks manageable, ask for help when you need it, and be willing to let some things go by developing the habit of consistently asking: does this matter? You may return to being hyper-attentive to details when the term has concluded and your grades are turned in. However, during crunch time, there are many small details that can be released from your life. Stay focused on the most important priorities each day and give yourself permission to let the small stuff go.

We’re not suggesting that you should try all of these strategies at once! Pick one or two from this list (or from the Crunch Time Monday Motivator) and experiment with them. If they work, great! If not, try a different strategy. The idea is to recognize that the end of the term has its own special energy and unique time challenges that can best be managed by recognizing them and adjusting your approach in whatever ways make the most sense for you!