Goodbye, tenure track

I wasn’t sure about sharing this, but in the original spirit of my blog, that I ought to. 

I am leaving my tenure track position. 

There it is. It feels good to write it down. There are a lot of failure related thoughts here, which I will be sharing in future posts. But first, a bit of background about what happened. 

Tenure criteria 

In the previous post I wrote about starting my tenure track position and what I was planning to achieve in 4 years. To recap, here is summary of the goals, which were approved by the department

  • Get teaching certificate
  • Setup and teach a course, co-teach in other courses
  • Supervise at least 2 MSc and 4 BSc students
  • Co-supervise a PhD researcher
  • Co-author of at least 5 peer-reviewed publications in high impact, relevant journals
  • Setup collaborations with other departments 
  • Apply for 2 medium-sized (1 PhD or postdoc) grants per year
  • Apply to small grants, for example for workshops, when possible
  • Give talks at (local) conferences, or invited talks if possible
  • Outreach about academia through blog and Twitter 

Progress so far

As far as teaching goes, all goals are achieved. I setup a course, taught in another course (both 3 years in a row now), and recently gave a number of lectures in a MSc course. So far I supervised 5 MSc students and 12 BSc students. I’m the daily supervisor of two PhD researchers, one based on my own funding efforts.  I also received my university teaching qualification in 2019. 

Research-wise, things are alright. I published six journal papers and one preprint, but it could be argued that some of these do not count. For example three were started during my postdoc, although I put in more hours during my tenure track. There’s also the Twitter paper, which is not on the topic of my research, but probably has had more impact than the others combined. I am also quite happy with my Google scholar numbers.

I am not sure about the funding. I applied for two larger grants per year as agreed, and 1 of these was funded. The others are in my failure CV. This is in line with the overall success rate, and several smaller grants were funded as well. But I have the feeling this is not sufficient, even though the tenure criteria do not specify it.

In terms of visibility, things are good. Especially in the first two years when I was blogging regularly, my website and Twitter were growing steadily. I think this has contributed to invitations for talks, and I have given more talks, including international ones, than I ever expected. I’ve also been invited as an associate editor, social media chair and other similar roles. 

So overall, not bad, considering that in my third year I was seriously ill and I spent several months recovering, which was extremely difficult. Even so I did get a few things done in that time, such as the teaching certificate. Overall, things could have been better, but given that I had no start-up nor PhD researchers I could co-supervise from the start, overall I’m actually quite happy with what I achieved.

Perhaps here I should mention two other developments. The first is the artificial intelligence “brain drain” in the Netherlands, limiting the number of people willing to teach. The second is a position paper by several organizations (including funding agencies), that aims to redesign how researchers are evaluated, and to recognize factors other than the h-index. Music to my ears.

Midway evaluation 

As I explained in the previous post, traditionally there is a midway evaluation halfway through the tenure track, to see what else is needed to fulfill the tenure criteria. My midway evaluation was scheduled for May 2019, but a month before that I became ill, so this was cancelled.

Towards the end of 2019 I was working full-time again. The idea was to schedule an unofficial midway evaluation, a year ahead of the final evaluation. I gave a talk about my research and updated my CV and progress document (summarized above).   

Given this information, the committee advised that, I will probably not get tenure if I have the final evaluation as planned in 2021. The proposed solution was to give me a temporary contract and have the final evaluation later, so that I have more time for, between the lines, getting funding and writing more papers. 

Tenure clock extension, that’s good right?

Although to many readers this extension might sound good, I declined the offer. I will therefore be leaving my tenure track position.

The first reason for this decision is the uncertainty. I believe that the trigger for my manic episode was staying up at night to write grants, and I don’t want my life to depend on a lottery. There is also no definition of what “enough” would be, and that once I achieve those things, I would get tenure.

Secondly, I feel like my illness is a bad excuse that there wasn’t enough time to evaluate me. But people are at times evaluated after two or three years – researchers who are employed by the same university before starting a tenure track position, due to the labor laws.

But most importantly, I don’t want to be in a place with such priorities. I have achieved most goals on my list – goals that were agreed upon at the beginning – despite having a major illness. I will not be an award-winning researcher, but I feel – and people have told me – that the things I do are valuable. If the university does not see this, I need to find a place that does.

What next?

My current contract runs out at the start of 2022, but since I made this decision already, I will probably leave earlier.

For now I will be finishing up various projects, and slowly searching for a job.

So dear readers, I am now officially open for job opportunities! I don’t want to limit myself to specific job titles or sectors just yet. So if you think you could use my research, teaching, outreach, organizing, blogging skills (academic CV here), please get in touch.

That’s it for now, but expect more failure-inspired content soon!

2019 – year in review

Although I wrote yearly reviews on this blog for several years, I wasn’t expecting to do one this year for two reasons. The first, simple, reason is that I haven’t been blogging recently, and just doing nothing is easier than doing something. The second, more complex reason, is that I might have been afraid to think about this year as a whole. But that is exactly the type of thing that I find important to write about, so here we go.

Mental health

The first thing I have to think about is the manic episode I had in spring which I wrote about earlier, and my diagnosis as bipolar. Mental health issues were not new to me, but this experience was extreme. Although I was stable once I got medication, it felt like parts of my brain had shut off.

Things that were simple before – organizing my todo list, for example – felt completely impossible. I also had let go of many good habits, like running, eating healthy or blogging – pretty much anything I used to write about. I’ve also isolated myself from a lot of people, and felt insecure about most things that I’m normally comfortable with. While my ability to do such things has improved somewhat, more general qualities, like creativity and motivation, did not.

I was only part of the person that I used to be, and this was extremely hard to deal with.

The fact that I am writing this now, probably means that these things are improving too, just at a slower pace. But not feeling this improvement had a huge effect on how I felt this year. Even though a lot of positive things happened, I was often feeling too miserable to properly appreciate them.

Successes

To try to beat that overall feeling, here are a few professional things that went well this year:

  • Received my University Teaching Qualification (a prerequisite for tenure at Dutch universities)
  • Two MSc students graduated!
  • Started supervising two PhD researchers four MSc students (one of whom graduated)
  • My papers on not-so-supervised learning and “Cats or CAT scans” were published and gained a few citations so far (checking Google Scholar way too often)
  • Together with Felienne Hermans, Casper Albers, Natalia Bielczyk and Ionica Smeets, our paper “10 simple rules for starting on Twitter as a scientist” was accepted (online soon!).
  • Together with Natalia Bielczyk, Aidan Budd and Stephan Heunis we got a Mozilla mini-grant and organized a workshop about open & inclusive academia.
  • Visited several places where I gave talks, both on machine learning and topics related to this blog.

Also, an important personal milestone – I got married!

Failures?

When I first started summarizing the positive things I felt guilty. There are many things to be grateful for, but my brain just couldn’t see it that way. In the transition from manic to depressed, I felt bad about many ideas I initiated, but couldn’t follow through on. Afterwards, I felt bad about not doing my part, or not keeping up with my responsibilities. I felt anxious about things I’ve done lots of times.

In retrospect perhaps these things themselves are not failures, the overall failure is that I expected too much of myself. It would have been much better for me to accept how much I’m (not) able to do, let go of everything else, and have patience. Which is why crucial part to this year were the people who experienced me from up close – they were understanding and patient and kind. It’s thanks to them that I’m actually doing alright after what happened, and I’m grateful they are in my life.

Happy new year!

How I was diagnosed as bipolar

If you read this blog more often, you might have noticed that it went silent in March 2019. I’ve taken breaks from blogging before, but no break was quite like this, and in this post I explain why.

Although I never wrote about it in detail, I also never made a secret out of the fact that I have been struggling with depression since my postdoc. I had therapy for some of the time and was in general managing things quite well – doing my job, blogging, doing sports, having a social life. The current me almost can’t believe I was able to do all those things. 

In the second half of 2018 things started getting worse. After my cat Buffy passed away in October 2018, I was at an extremely low point and finally decided therapy alone wouldn’t do. My GP prescribed me antidepressants and I started a period of sick leave (full-time at first, part-time later) to adjust.

The antidepressants seemed to be doing an amazing job – the start was slow, but then I started feeling better and better. I soon went back to working full-time, was getting a lot done and had a lot of fresh ideas. I realized I was probably depressed for longer than I thought, and that I was now returning to the “normal” me. This was exciting for me, but somewhat confusing for many people around me, many of whom had not known me that long. 

Eventually – around March – I started feeling a bit too good. The ideas were coming at me so fast I couldn’t keep up, and neither could people interacting with me. My partner recognized this as hypomania, and following a GP visit I was told to stop the antidepressants. The GP also gave me a referral to the psychiatrist, but I ended up on a waiting list. Meanwhile, I was getting more and more out of balance.

The grand finale was a psychotic episode, during which I was convinced that people I’ve never met were giving me clues I had to follow. To top it off, this happened while I was travelling alone. After a few days in a psychiatric facility in France, I was able to return home again, going back on sick leave full-time. The bright side of this episode is that I could see a psychiatrist immediately, who diagnosed me with bipolar disorder.

Now I am getting used to the new medication to stabilize my mood. Although the effects were noticeable straight away and I feel “normal” again, it has been difficult to go back to my regular life with work, blogging, sports, etc, feeling like an impostor in everything. I’m trying to accept that this is normal, and slowly building things up again. I am therefore not sure when the next post might be – but I’ll celebrate that this post is a win.

How I Fail in Open Science

Last week I had the pleasure of giving a talk at OpenMR Benelux event, wonderfully organized by @fmrwhy.  Although the slides and a video of the talk will be available online, for those of you who prefer reading, I thought I would write a few of the things I mentioned during my talk. 

As I mentioned in my talk, I was feeling a bit like an imposter speaking at this event, since I neither do a lot of MR, nor a lot of open science”. Nevertheless I’ve decided to be open about how open my science is and share my experiences with it so far – hence the title “How I Fail in Open Science”. 

Open science during my PhD 

My story begins in 2011 when I started my PhD. After focusing on workshop papers for two years, I realized I needed journal papers to graduate. I submitted three papers that year and followed the suggestion to post them on arXiV because the review process could be lengthy. I used public datasets and a publicly available MATLAB toolbox, and since both the data and tools were online, I didn’t think it was needed to share the rest of my code. 

In 2015 the papers were finally accepted and I finished my PhD. Because the papers were already online for two years, I was able to benefit from the preprint bump. I would also occasionally get emails about the experiments in my paper. I then decided to share my (non-version controlled) experiments code to reproduce the results table in the paper. Miraculously even after two years I was still able to run my code AND get the same results. So I shared the code with a CRAPL license, which I felt absolved me from doing any other “cleaning up of the code”.

Open science during my postdoc

After starting my postdoc in 2015 I felt like I should publish as fast as possible. Instead of investigating the best tools for my project, I decided to go with my tried and trusted method. This was not a good strategy and in retrospect, I would have been much better off investing some time into switching to Python, creating clean code and so forth. In the end I didn’t publish much at all that year.

The publishing situation became even worse in 2016 when I started searching for my next job. However, since I was updating my CV often, I did also decide to share a few more things online. I also started using social media more often, and learning more about open science in general. 

Open science now

In 2017 I found myself in a tenure track position. Inspired by everything I saw on Twitter, I wanted to do everything right – switch to Python, publish in new open access journals, share everything online. I quickly discovered that this is not feasible next to all the other responsibilities you have when starting on the tenure track.

The only thing I have been doing consistently is posting preprints on arXiV. Here and there I have a paper for which I’ve shared data or code (still not version controlled), but it’s not something that happens by default. 

Why is my science not as open as I want it to be? It’s easy to say there’s too little time, but in the end it is a question of priorities. I am still influenced by my grant reviewers who tell me “that’s nice, but you should have published more”, and the funding agency who agrees with them. And although overall my experience on Twitter has been positive, people with strong opinions about what counts as open science, can be quite intimidating. 

How can I do better? I cannot change the system, but I can at least try to create a habit out of being more open. To do so I decided to draw parallels between open science and another area of my life in which I’ve had both successes and failures – running! 

Strategy 1: Start slow and focus on process

The first strategy is to start slow and focus on process. Find a thing that’s easy to do, and do it often. For running, my thing was “go for a run three times a week”. Note that there’s no distance or time – I just had to go out of the house, and even running 10 minutes was a success. If I had set a more difficult goal than that, I would get discouraged and quit – something that has happened to me several times before.

Translating this to open science, it’s a bad idea to try to do everything at once. I started with preprints and am now slowly adding sharing things online. I do this by using templates in Todoist. For example, every time I agree to give a talk, I import a fixed set of tasks, including “Create slides”, but also “Upload slides to website”.

Todoist project for the OpenMR talk, which includes preparing the talk but also sharing the slides

Strategy 2: Find accountability and support

To motivate yourself to continue with the habit you need to find accountability and support. With running, I find accountability by signing up for 10K races and then deciding that it’s probably going to be better for me to train on a regular basis. I also have a few friends who have either been running for a long time, or are just getting into it, so we can support each other. 

With sharing data and code, I feel accountable towards my students. I want them to do things better than I did myself, so I’m helping them set up their projects on Github from the start (inspired by Kirstie Whitaker). The code might still not be clean and run out of the box, but I feel like it’s an important first step.

As for support, I’m in a Slack group with other academics where we discuss this and other issues. And of course Twitter is a great place to learn new things and find people who are trying to improve their open science too. 

Strategy 3: Reward yourself

Finally, to create a habit don’t forget to reward yourself! After a race I might get a beer and a badge in my Strava app. But of course there are also long term rewards such as overall health, and being able to socialize with others. 

For open science there are also various metrics such as the Altmetric – here’s an example for a recent preprint. There are also gamified ewards, for example badges on ImpactStory. But more important is feeling the impact of your work on others, such as a thank you email, or an invitation to talk at an OpenMR event 🙂 

***

Do you struggle with sharing your work online? Or do you have any other helpful strategies? Leave a comment or let me know on Twitter!

My goals for 2019 – 12 week year

I’ve been setting and reviewing goals for two years now, both in Evernote (part of my GTD setup) and here on the blog (2017, 2018). Although I try to do this systematically, I find it difficult to stay on track throughout the year, and, at the end of the year, to review everything that happened.

This year I want to try something different, borrowing from the 12 week year idea. I’ve heard about this on several podcasts that I listen to, but have not read the book or followed any courses they offer. My (naive?) take on it is that you only set goals for the next 12 weeks, and only focus on a few things at a time.

I’ve had some momentum with writing recently, so I decided that my main focus for the first part of 2019 is going to be writing as well. What am I going to write? Here’s where the “few things at a time” thing went wrong. Here’s my plan:

  • Draft of a survey on arXiV (in progress already)
  • Submit a paper to MICCAI
  • Write a lab guide and share version 0.1 with my student
  • Finish writing my teaching portfolio and submit it
  • Draft 36 blog posts (!!!)

That’s right, next to all the academic writing I am going to draft three quarters of the blog posts that I want to schedule for this year. This is an experiment, since I think I can get more done if I either just write, or just publish posts (share them online, etc).

How I am going to do this? I have to write 250 words a day, just like I did in November. That by itself will not get all the writing done, but it’s a great habit that helped me focus. I’ve also been increasingly planning my writing in pieces which take me 30-60 minutes to finish, and scheduling these on my calendar, so that’s a good habit to continue too.

I also updated my weekly review template a bit. I had a single note for each quarter last year, whereas now I already made 12 notes where I will fill in my reviews. Each note has a copy of the goals as a reminder, and specific questions on how I’m progressing with each of them.

Next to writing, I also have health and exercise goals in the same weekly review, but these are “maintenance” goals rather than challenges, so I will not be reviewing these on the blog.

What are your goals for (the first months of) 2019?

My goals for 2018 – final progress report

As promised on Twitter, here’s an update with what has been happening with my writing and personal 2018 goals. You can find the previous reports on 2018 here and here.

Writing

I have previously submitted my survey on semi-supervised, multiple instance and transfer learning, and this quarter I received the reviews! This has been my most positive review experience to date, since I got the reviews back after about 2 months (compared to 9+ during my PhD). All reviewers were generally positive about the paper and had constructive comments. I planned out the revisions in Todoist and submitted a new version in December. Fingers crossed!

I also finished and submitted an invited paper with the best title ever, “Cats or CAT scans: transfer learning from natural or medical image source datasets?” (arXiV). Again the review process was smooth and after revising the paper, just before the end of 2018, I got news that it was accepted!

In total that’s three papers (two accepted and one revised) that I consider published for 2018. One less than the four I was aiming for, but I’m proud of this result.

Blog

Nothing new to report here since last time. Blogging has been a little bit on “stand-by” while I was addressing other issues. Looking at all of 2018, my numbers are up from the previous year, although a large part of that is due to one viral post.

I am convinced now that I need to batch writing, editing/publishing and improving my website in general as different activities. More on this in my 2019 goals post!

Health

The most important thing I did this quarter is that I got help for problems I have been experiencing, and really saying no more often. This has made a big difference in most areas of my life.

An important health-related difference is that I can now finally say I enjoy running. Partly this is due my brain functioning better, and partly because I’ve started running slower. I didn’t get to my goal of 10K under 1 hour (but was close), and I did a 15K, so overall I’m satisfied. In 2019 I’d like to continue running regularly and – now that I feel I have a bit more headspace – incorporating more strength training into my exercise.

Everything else

It’s a bit weird to only reflect on the things that I wrote down as goals at the start of 2018. Sure, the writing and health parts were the some of the most important things this year. But here are a few other important things from this year.

  • I supervised my first MSc student and hired my first PhD student
  • Two grants were rejected
  • I met several people from Twitter and made new friends
  • I had to cancel several projects due to my health
  • I received a few invitations for talks etc that I’m excited about, see a few of them here
  • I met my friends regularly for trivia quizzes or BBQs
  • I joined a choir and started taking singing lessons
  • My cat Buffy passed away 🙁
  • I got two kittens, Pixel and Dot

I also shared several of these (that I tweeted about previously) on Twitter, the thread starts over here:

It’s difficult to review a whole year. Next year, I will be trying something a bit different…. stay tuned!

My goals for 2018 – progress report 2 & 3

It’s already October (!) and the fact that I’ve managed to forget writing anything in the progress reports category, probably tells you something about my progress… Nevertheless, I’m holding myself accountable, so here a few short updates.

Writing

I finished THE survey on semi-supervised, multiple instance and transfer learning I’ve been working on in April and uploaded as a preprint to arXiV, inviting feedback from readers. This was quite scary to do, but in the end also very rewarding. I now submitted the paper to a journal.

I also published a workshop paper about predicting melanoma from visual ratings of the images, which I crowdsourced from my undergraduate students last year.

Kanban board in my office | veronikach.com

Progress is slower than I would have hoped overall – to catch up with my goal I would need to finish two other papers by the end of the year.

A strategy that is helping somewhat is to aim to write 250 words a day. That’s not a lot of words, but I notice that on the days that I do it in the morning, I am probably going to write more than that, whereas on the days that I ignore it, I will not end up writing at all.  Having a Kanban board in my office where I see in which stage each paper is, also helps – thanks to Eiko Fried for the idea.

Blog

Once I’ve relaxed my blogging once a week goal, I’ve started slacking off on this… It has been good for me to not have this obligation on top of everything else, but at the same time it is a shame because in the end I feel like this is one of the most important things I’m doing. What was great is that at one point I prescheduled posts for several weeks. I’d like to do this again, but it’s difficult to get into a mindset of writing a lot upfront.

I did get a little bit of income (perhaps $25) from the blog, especially after the How I Fail post by Ian Goodfellow went a bit viral. But because my provider was so unhelpful about the problems the traffic caused, I also had to switch providers, so it’s definitely not a profitable business 🙂

Health

I am still not particularly enjoying the running itself and don’t recognize this feeling of endorphins that people talk about. I have, however, become an avid sign-upper for 10K races. Not an avid runner, but the accountability of the races at least forces me to train regularly, so that the race is not terrible. I recently did the same race, as my first ever 10K one year ago, and improved my time a little bit (though not what you would expect after a year of training).I haven’t been doing particularly well mental health wise. Although I do say no to more things (and slack off from things I “have” to do, like blogging), anxiety has been getting worse and so has depression. It’s easy to view everything I do in a negative light – I haven’t made enough progress on this, I haven’t been appreciated enough for doing that. But, I’m fortunate to live and work in a place where I can get support for these things. This is therefore the most important goal to focus on right now.

My goals for 2018 – progress report 1

Wow, it’s already the end of March! That means it’s time for a progress report of the goals I set myself for this quarter (writing and everything else).

Writing

First things first, I failed to submit the paper I wanted to submit. But the plan I made for myself of writing for 1 hour every day is really helpful, so I am getting close, and that still feels like a win.

Next to the submitting, there are other improvements I’d like to work on. My writing sessions are not as structured as I imagined, i.e. I often can not quantify how much I have done. I know people often use word counts, but it doesn’t feel logical to me because part of the “writing” I am doing, is reading papers. I do write brief notes about each paper, but it doesn’t feel the same as writing in the final document.

I also did not report my progress more often on the blog, as I wanted to. Judging by the amount of views and exactly zero comments, I don’t think this is something people want to read about. Give me a shout if I’m wrong 🙂

Blogging

I am still blogging every week, even though it’s hard! I wouldn’t say the reason it’s hard is the lack of time or ideas, but it can take a lot of energy, which is a scarce resource these days. I have been able to batch posts a few times, but mostly I’m writing in “maintenance mode”. So, for next quarter, batching is the thing to work on.

I also wanted to see if I could earn EUR 25 from the blog, to cover its costs. If you believe Pinterest, people are earning thousands with their blogs, so I thought EUR 25 should be reasonable. I have abandoned AdSense again because earning 1 cent a day is not very motivating. On the other hand, I did get my first Amazon gift card of $17, by recommending only products I have bought and used myself. As I said, this is not a priority, but an interesting area for me to investigate.

Exercise & Mental Health

Still keeping up my running habit, so that’s a win! I actually have running as a todo list item in Todoist now (as opposed to just Habitica), which could be helping. I now signed up for two 10K races in May. One of them is an “urban trail run” and goes through several buildings, so it’s more of a sightseeing activity, but I hope to get a good time on the other race.

I have been slacking off on some other healthy habits. I can feel guilty about this, but on the other hand, it feels like there is a bit more space in my brain now, and maybe that’s the healthiest thing I can do right now.

 

My goals for 2018 – blog, exercise and mental health

Last time I wrote about my most important goal for 2018 – writing. In this post I share a few other goals I have with regard to this blog, running and mental health.

Blogging

I’ve been blogging once a week for over a year, and I definitely want to continue this in 2018. I do have to admit it’s tough to do something every week. This year I would like to schedule more posts in advance, batching the writing, scheduling and other tasks on the blog.

But next to writing which is a process goal, I also would like to have a performance goal of some kind. Number of readers, number of comments… you get the point! Next to just “showing up” every week, I think this would motivate me to write better, and follow through with sharing my posts. For example, I am somehow scared to share posts on Facebook, even though the posts are public and I know they will be read by people who know me in real life. If I want more readers, this is something I’ll have to address.

After a discussion on the Academic Blogging group, I thought I would try AdSense income as a performance goal – hence the (hopefully not too annoying) ads you see on this page. The income is correlated to the number of readers, but with a “real life gamification” factor. So far I have earned a “grand total” of EUR 3. You could say it’s not worth it, but to me it’s an interesting metric to keep track of.

It would be great if I would get to EUR 25 or so, past the break-even point of the direct costs of this website. I feel a bit guilty about this, because I can afford it and, from what I hear on Twitter, I’m in a better financial position than many academics in a similar career stage. But at the same time I feel I shouldn’t apologize for what I find interesting to do – and spend a lot of time on.

 

Exercise

Last year I went from a cautious “just go running, anything counts” goal, to running two 10K races in reasonable time for somebody with my history of starting running and giving up again. Next year I will go for running 5-10K every week, and running 10K in under an hour. I don’t really want to run longer distances, but motivated by @Felienne I will also do the 15K Bruggenloop in December.

Maybe more importantly, I became more comfortable with talking about exercise. Similar to being scared of sharing posts on Facebook or wanting to have extra income from my blog, I have been somehow scared to share any goals related to fitness. If the topic comes up, I feel either embarrassed by my laziness (because the other person exercises every day), or embarrassed by my “first world problem” (because the other person is not able to exercise for whatever reason). I think we can agree that this is stupid and nobody should apologize for trying to be healthier.

 

Mental health

To continue on a similar theme, I would like to feel less anxious about a lot of things. Part of this is that I just need to do less things, so I should say no more often.

Another part is that I should get my brain to stay focused on one thing at a time, and not to overthink everything so much. Reading books, the Headspace app and journaling are helping with this, but there are definitely more things I could do, such as using my phone less and only checking email at fixed times of the day.

At this point these are more resolutions than goals. But I do see how most things can be turned into goals – maybe something to explore in another post?

 

Less

As I was writing, I realized there was a pattern in seemingly unrelated things like blogging and running. In her post about 2018, @DoctorPMS talked about having a theme for the year, and I kind of liked that idea, but couldn’t find a word. But now I think I’m on to something…

My theme would be “less“.

Less projects and distractions, less apologizing for what I want, less fear and trying to make everyone else (except myself) happy. To make space for more writing, blogging and being healthy.

My goals for 2018 – Writing

I mentioned in my previous progress report that I never really wrote down any goals. Writing them down was a good exercise, but clearly some things also went wrong. In this post I talk the most important goal – writing – and what I will do about it in 2018.

Pitfalls

My “Submit all the papers” goal was way too abstract. Although I had an idea of how many papers I wanted to submit, and therefore also how often I would need to do that throughout the year, I did not plan how I was REALLY going to do this.

Another thing I realized is that a year is just too long. It is easy to postpone something you haven’t done to later on in the year.

I also did not review the goal often enough, and didn’t have the same kind of accountability I created for myself with my blogging goal. Below I explain how I want to improve these points.

Goal

This time I’m going to try something different – the “12 week year”. There is a whole book about it, which I haven’t read (yet?), but there is a lot of information online, such as this post by AsianEfficiency. Basically you set goals per quarter, rather than per year. A quarter is easier to plan, and the review/evaluation is much sooner, which helps to stay motivated.

After examining the commitments I already have, I decided my goal is to submit ONE paper before the end of March. It’s a survey paper of sorts, and I have started on it, but did not get very far. It is a paper that I think I will enjoy writing, and will have some impact. So, there is really no reason to put if off any longer.

 

Plan

Ideally, I would plan out all the sections I need to write and when I will write them via my Todoist/Google Calendar system. But I find it difficult to estimate what sections I need, and how much time each section is going to take. I will go through this planning step, but I will also do something else. I will get into the habit of writing for 1 hour each weekday.

This idea is inspired by this #AcWri challenge by Jo van Every. She talks about 15 minutes a day, but I am reasonably confident I should be able to get an hour in, with the following rules:

  • I can split up the hour into blocks of 15 minutes
  • I can exchange blocks between days
  • There has to be at least 1 block per day

If I aim to write during my morning commute (1 hour train ride) and for at least half an hour when I get to the office, I would even more than the required time in. But since I don’t expect to have this “perfect start” every day, moving the hours around a bit should help.

 

Review and accountability

I also need to update how often I review my goals. When I wrote about my GTD system, my weekly review was mostly focused on the week ahead. Later I also added a “what did I do this week” note in Evernote, but it was disconnected from my “goals” note.

Now I actually made a table with a row for each week, and two columns: “what did I write” and “what else did I do”. I already prefilled the second column with several commitments I have. This was quite a revelation – I do see why I had a hard time writing last year!

Lastly, I plan to report my progress with the “what did I write” column here on the blog. I want to do this more often than once a quarter. Once a week (together with my weekly review) would be logical, but it seems a bit of a waste of a blog post. So I would either need to add more things to the post, decrease the frequency, or do something else that I haven’t thought of. Please leave a comment if you have ideas!

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