Caring and Connecting Corner

Tips to keep in mind to have a balanced end of the semester from Donna Emmanuel (Donna.Emmanuel@unt.edu)

As faculty at a Tier One Research Institution, many of us have multiple tasks and projects that are spinning in our heads, much like the big blades of the wind turbines by Apogee Stadium. From trying to keep our courses fresh, to new course preparations, to writing recommendation letters, to applying for and managing grants, and multiple research projects, it can get a tad crazy sometimes! Well, maybe most of the time! How can we determine when working too hard or trying to focus on the deadlines we are faced with are detrimental to us, both professionally and personally? What are the issues that might impede our productivity and our well-being? What other strategies might we consider that, at first glance, might be counterintuitive?

Of course, time is the biggest factor: however, if we do not MAKE the time to take care of ourselves, we will pay physical and mental prices. We must make time to exercise, eat healthy foods, and get enough sleep, or we WILL become ill. We also know that working too hard inhibits our creativity, and when attempting to come up with that innovative, fresh idea, we rely on creative thinking to make things happen. Adam Grant, in his 2016 Ted Talk, noted an unusual habit of original and creative thinkers – moderate procrastination. From his research, he noted that there are three types of individuals – those that are so busy goofing off that when the deadline arrives, they have no new ideas to use. Then there are people who race in anxiously, frenzied, to get a head start on a task and complete it quickly to get it off their to-do list (procrastinators!). Then there are moderate procrastinators, those people who begin a task, but then set it aside and use that down time to incubate and consider novel ideas. In their case, even though they are putting off the completion of the task, it is still there in the back of their mind, brewing and stewing. When coming back to the task, Grant’s study showed new ideas emerged, people developed new ways of thinking about the task, and became open to new possibilities that improved the outcome.

His research also showed there are two types of doubt – self-doubt and idea doubt. It is likely most of us are familiar with both! But self-doubt, the kind that says “I’m a failure, I have no good ideas,” is paralyzing, while idea doubt can lead us to consider new possibilities. We know first drafts are not our best work! Instead of doubting your ability, wrestle with the idea!

All of these are intricately tied up with fear. Fear of not getting tenured. Fear of getting bad SPOT evaluations. Fear that someone else will scoop your new thought or idea. Fear that you will not be good enough. Next month we will take a closer look at fear and how it can either stymie us or motivate us. But here are thoughts for now… 1) Make time for self-care (exercise, eat healthfully, sleep well); 2) Don’t be afraid to set a task aside, however briefly, to let your thoughts percolate a bit; 3) Don’t feel like you have to attack a task right away, completing it quickly so it’s off your plate; 3) Avoid self-doubt in lieu of idea doubt.

Productivity is highly valued in our environment, but sometimes in order to be our creative best, we might have to slow things down a bit and not be in such a rush to check items off our lists.

Ted Talk Video