Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's been a long, long time . . .

Hello, mom and Auntie Lynn (my two dedicated blog readers!) and maybe Kate (?)!

As you know, I started a different blog project at the beginning of 2013 in order to explore a creative non-academic endeavor, but I haven't lost complete interest in this blog.  To be honest, part of my motivation for establishing this blog was to keep myself accountable and force my hand to do my necessary research regularly.  And I can say with confidence that I have established a regular research routine.  Most weekdays (M–F only--I take most weekends off from research) I spend a solid uninterrupted 60 minutes or more on my research.  I am still keeping a daily log, but I don't feel the need to post it since I have formed the habit.

I thought I would make a few updates to show what I have been able to accomplish, and what I hope to accomplish in the next few months:

  • I was invited to give a talk at an international conference earlier this month in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was stressful getting prepared in time, but it all worked out well, and now I have a nice written draft of new research I hope to eventually develop into another publishable article.
  • One essay I wrote was accepted for publication in Indiana Theory Review (it should be out in print this year).  Yay!
  • Another essay was accepted pending revisions in another major refereed (top-tier) journal--which I am super excited about.  I don't want to jinx the process by naming the journal on the blog just yet.  I want to make sure my revisions are accepted and the publication is finalized, and then I'll announce it!  I really needed this publication for my self-confidence and in order to keep my academic job--it will help strengthen my case for tenure, whenever I end up going up for tenure (I have some flexibility built into my tenure clock at my job).  My goal by April 30 is to have finished the necessary revisions and send it back off to the editor.
  • I have an old manuscript laying around, which has been the bain of my professional existence.  I can't seem to find a reputable refereed journal to publish it, but I still believe in the essay and my ideas SO . . . my goal for the month of May will be to revise the paper (I've already solicited feedback from two preeminent scholars in the field, which I will incorporate in my revisions) and then resubmit it somewhere else for possible publication.  If I were able to get this essay published, I would feel almost 100% confident that I wouldn't have trouble getting tenure.  For me, it would be my "slam dunk."  Now I just have to make it happen.
  • I just found out that I will be presenting at an international conference on analyzing popular music in July in Liverpool, England (super cool!).  My topic will build off of the conference talk I just gave in Asheville, but the audience will be completely different and so will my approach . . .  Writing this conference paper (or reworking the draft) will be my goal for the month of June.
I won't be going up for tenure this year (and although at first I felt disappointed, I now see it may be a blessing to have some more time).  I will be taking a sabbatical leave for research this fall (that means I won't be teaching and I'll be able to spend the next eight months entirely devoted to research, minus a week here or there for the occasional trip).  I'm looking forward to developing a research routine and further goals for the fall once classes end.  I hope to use this blog to do just that.

Alright, that's it for now.  I hope to post again soon. . .  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

168 Hours

Obviously, I haven't posted for awhile.  But that doesn't mean I haven't been working.  I have been keeping a daily log of my work-related activities, always striving for at least 15 minutes a day on research/writing.  I think I have developed a solid habit of engaging my research Mon.–Fri., and I am pleased with that.  So I may not post all of my daily totals, week-by-week or month-by-month anymore, on this blog, now that the habit is set.  I am not sure of the direction I want this blog to take, but I am not ready to let go of it yet so I will continue to post things that relate to work productivity with the hope they may be helpful to others.

I have been reading this book by author Laura Vanderkam called 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.  It encourages the reader to take a serious look at how she uses her time--on a week by week basis.  In one of the earliest chapters, the author prompts the reader to keep a log of all activities and time spent on each one for an entire week.  I did this exercise and found I spent my 168 hours in the following ways:

I learned A LOT by doing this exercise, and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in a reality check to see where your time actually goes.  Vanderkam makes the argument that most people severely overestimate the time that they work and underestimate the amount of time they spend engaged in leisure activities.  I will say it felt a little cumbersome to always be writing down what I was doing in any given part of my day, but overall the exercise was worthwhile.  So here is what I learned:

I spent 11 hours pretty much goofing off.  My "goofing off" category includes 4 hours and 45 minutes of watching TV and a whopping 6 hours and 18 minutes on my ipad at home--checking email, catching up on my favorite blogs, and playing word games.  This is the area I would like to restrict further.  I generally think of myself as not watching that much TV, and I certainly don't think I benefit from it at all.  Even if I cut this entire "goofing off" area in half, I will create over 5 and a half hours of time I could spend on things that matter more to me, such as playing and writing music, for example.

I was pleased to see that I spend a lot of time in other areas that are important to me, such as quality time with Kate and exercise.  

More relevant to this blog . . . Of the 42 hours I spent working, here's what I did:

I was surprised to learn that although I am scheduled to teach for 9 hours each week, I spend 11 hours and 45 minutes in my classroom.  This accounts for time spent getting the room ready before class begins, ten minutes in between back-to-back sections I teach, and time spent lingering with students after class is over.  Still, I end up spending 2 hours and 45 minutes more in my classroom than what I thought!

I was happy to see that I spent over 9 hours and 41 minutes on research.  This may or may not have been a typical week (slice out of my normal life), but that seems to me a pretty hefty research load while teaching full time.  I was also happy to see that I didn't spend ridiculous amounts of time on menial tasks that don't directly relate to my success--like scanning scores or tidying my office.  I spent over three hours of my week on work emails alone, but I don't think I can reduce this amount of time at all.  I already limit myself to checking email just a few times a day, and then responding to work emails only when I devote small chunks of time for this sole purpose so as not to let it take over my work day.

Finally, this entire exercise got me thinking more broadly about how I want to spend my time and what activities/goals/dreams I should be prioritizing over others.  For example, I spent 2 hours and 14 minutes walk/running with my dog.  Okay, yes, she (and I) both needed the exercise, BUT isn't it odd that I spent 2 hours and 14 minutes walk/running and ONLY 45 minutes composing music?  Do I want to spend more time running than writing music?  I don't think so.  I would rather devote more time to developing my musical craft and honing a talent I actually possess.  (I am not a talented runner; in fact, I am very slow.  On the contrary, I actually have degrees in music and have committed my life [ostensibly] to music, so what gives?)  After having had a few weeks to ponder questions like these, I think the solution is not necessarily cutting out running from my life (I actually had to do that for two and half months while recovering from a nasty stress fracture, so no thank you, I'll just keep running), but rather reallocate time I spend "goofing off" toward more meaningful activities, such as writing music.

I'll post more on this topic again soon.  Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Out with August, in with September . . .

First, here is a summary of the last two weeks of August:

Mon. 8/20
research revising/writing: 45 min.
practiced piano: 47 min.

Tues. 8/21

research revising/writing: 34 min.
practiced piano: 60 min.

Wed. 8/22

composed: 60 min.
research revising/writing: 32 min.
practiced piano: 40 min.

Thurs. 8/23
research revising/writing: 39 min.

Fri. 8/24
research revising/writing: 21 min.

Mon. 8/27

research revising/writing: 54 min.
practiced piano: 90 min.

Tues. 8/28

research revising/writing: 111 min.
practiced piano: 60 min.

Wed. 8/29

research revising/writing: 39 min.
research gathering sources: 130 min.
practiced piano: 60 min.

Thurs. 8/30

research revising/writing: 20 min.
research reading: 32 min.
research gathering sources: 38 min.
research song analysis: 58 min.
practiced piano: 60 min.

Fri. 8/31

research revising/writing: 26 min.
practiced piano: 60 min.

Sat. 9/1
practiced piano: 60 min.

Totals for the last fortnight:

  • Time spent writing/revising: 421 min.
  • Time spent engaging research (not writing/revising): 258 min.
  • Time spent composing: 60 min.
  • Time spent practicing: 537 min.
Alright, so August wasn't my best month professionally (a rejection here, a lack of motivation there . . .) but I have a new frame of mind for September.  Here are my goals for the month:

  • Continue revisions on paper #1
  • Prepare 50 min. talk on the topic of paper #1 for a presentation on Oct. 1
  • Song analysis and continued reading for paper #2
  • Continue practicing A LOT for the upcoming concert on Sept. 22
  • If time, start gathering sources for a new project, let's call it paper #3 for now, for an invited talk I will be giving at a conference in April

Friday, August 17, 2012

weekly log

Here goes:

Sun 8/12: 
practiced piano: 60+ min.

Mon. 8/13:
practiced piano: 70 min.
composing: 40 min.; sketched new ideas/chord progression
research (writing/revising): 49 min.; fixed two examples

Tues. 8/14:
practiced piano: 45 min.
composing: 80 min.; wrote 11 measures for a new piece
research (writing/revising): 41 min.; revised 7 pages; cut 216 words

Wed. 8/15:
practiced piano: 24 min.
composing: 31 min.
research (writing/revising): 27 min.; cut 39 words

Thurs. 8/16: played hooky. needed a sanity day. got my hair cut instead.

Fri. 8/17:
practiced piano: 35 min.
research (writing/revising): 61 min.; revised 4 pages
[also read and typed notes on a reading . . . I am going to need to start doing more of this to beef up my paper before I can even think about sending it off somewhere]

Weekly totals:
I spent 234+ minutes practicing piano.
I spent 178 minutes writing and revising my research paper.
I spent 151 minutes composing.

It wasn't the most productive week, but it is better than nothing.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Since January 23 . . .

Out of curiosity, I went back through my logs and found that since January 23, I have spent:

6255 minutes writing or revising my research, and
828 minutes composing or revising new music.

That's 104 hours and fifteen minutes on research, and 13 hours and 48 minutes composing.

I saw my productivity spike in two places--(1) after I started the Tara Gray 15-minutes-per-day writing technique, and (2) after classes ended for the summer.

I think keeping a record is a very good thing.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hello, August . . . I'm back!

After a delightful vacation to South Africa, I have resumed my regular summer work schedule.  My activities now include: 

  • my regular research/writing/revising sessions
  • reading relevant literature (the goal is one article per day, but I haven't been as productive on that front);
  • preparing my courses for the fall semester;
  • composing, when I'm so moved (I need to pick a new project because right now I am just doodling on my staff paper); and
  • practicing piano!*
*NB The highlighted items are what I am logging on this blog, to keep myself accountable. 

Before I left for South Africa, I finished writing a piece for solo piano, which I am going to perform at my department's Faculty Gala Concert on September 22 to celebrate the opening of our new beautiful building, the Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.  So my daily tasks now include practicing so that I will be ready to perform in six weeks.  To keep myself accountable, I have been logging the time spent practicing each day.

So here is the summary of my work this week:

Monday 8/6
RESEARCH: 35 minutes; cut 217 words; revised 2.5 pages
COMPOSING: 150 minutes; revised two movements; set one movement in Finale

Tuesday 8/7
RESEARCH: 62 minutes; wrote 2.5 pages
PRACTICED: 74 minutes

Wednesday 8/8
RESEARCH: 48 minutes; revised 3 pages . . . but my revision added 149 words.  Pity.)
PRACTICED: 42 minutes
COMPOSING: didn't keep track, but it was well over 120 minutes; finished setting the final movement in Finale

Thursday 8/9
COMPOSING: 28 minutes; tried to write something new--about 4 measures of not-my-best music
RESEARCH: 57 minutes; revised 13 pages; cut 247 words
PRACTICED: 100 minutes

Friday 8/10
RESEARCH: 43 minutes; cut 869 words
PRACTICED: 72 minutes

And just for the record, this week:
Minutes spent writing or revising my research: 245
Number of pages revised or written: 21 
Minutes spent working on my composition: 298+
Minutes spent practicing piano: 288

Friday, July 20, 2012

Last log for July

This has been a very good week.  Inspired by my new office at the newly renovated Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center, I was especially productive yesterday and today.  Here are the details:

Sun. 7/15
COMPOSING: 20 min., wrote 5 measures

Mon. 7/16 
COMPOSING: 47 min., wrote 11 measures
RESEARCH: 88 min., revised 23.5 pages

Tues. 7/17 
COMPOSING: 24 min., wrote 8 measures
RESEARCH: 73 min., cut 6 pages, rewrote 3 paragraphs & other revisions

Wed. 7/18 
COMPOSING: 14 min., no new measures, but created a large-scale plan for my piece
RESEARCH: none (moved into my new office and unpacked my boxes)

Thurs. 7/19 
COMPOSING: 43 min., wrote 14 measures
RESEARCH: 80 min., cut 249 words

Fri. 7/20
COMPOSING: 22 minutes, wrote 2 measures + 50 minutes on Finale, putting one of my three movements into musical notation
RESEARCH: 144 min., includes 9 minutes of revisions and the rest of the time reading three additional sources and taking notes.  Found some great stuff!!!

If you look carefully, you will see that I wrote music six days in a row, which is very good for me.  I am forming a routine, which makes me happy.  And I finished the three-movement piano piece I was writing!

My primary focus at this stage of my research project is cutting words and making what I have more succinct.  Currently my document is at 13,427 words and I need to get it down to a maximum of 10,000 if I want to to submit for possible publication in a scholarly journal.  At this stage, I am also reengaging with relevant literature and sources now that I have a clearer idea of which arguments need more support or development.  So I'll most likely be spending more time reading and note taking than writing for the next month or so.  We shall see.

I will not be working or blogging about what I have done (because I won't be doing anything creative or academic) for the next two weeks.  I am going on a technology-free vacation far away and really looking forward to it.