Welcome back to Warwick for the New Year and a special welcome to any new starters arriving! Rather than new year’s resolutions, Alice has been collecting her reflections on the last year. She has found this a really positive process where she has considered lessons learnt and knowledge gained in order to look ahead. She hopes her insights may encourage you to make your own reflections.
We are all familiar with new year’s resolutions, perhaps focussed on health, new hobbies, travel, family relationships or academic resolutions. However, resolutions can easily be broken, and often are, even within a month of making them, causing a feeling of failure. I have gained more from a process of reflection and evaluation. Here I include a few of my insights from 2018:
Though it hasn’t been to the plan I wanted, my book will get written
I lost a lot of writing time this year for a number of personal circumstances. This experience was frustrating and unpleasant. I had a wonderful, joyous text to write and as the months passed I was only able to complete a fraction of what I had anticipated. I struggled with feeling that there should be a way that I could do it rather than accepting the situation. However, when I look back over the year, I can see how successful I was in keeping a positive attitude, persisting and maintaining the text until I could return to it more fully.
I learnt a number of lessons:
- Time was unavoidably lost, however when I could pick it up, the writing was achieved a lot quicker than expected, which was inspiring and hopeful. We can get hung up on a plan you had rather than working with the time you do I have got better at giving myself positive feedback about these achievements and finding real joy when I do get to write or edit a passage.
- Sometimes a break from writing can bring great clarity. You can become bogged down and not see the wood from the trees. This is particularly the case when editing and cutting down the word count. All text seems essential. However, I have often found that when I put the chapter/section aside and come back to it, it has been a lot easier to identify and make the necessary cuts. The gaps became useful acts of detachment, enabling me to cast new eyes on familiar text.
- Without the ability to procrastinate (ie not enough time), I have completed essentials rather than the many inessentials. You can be procrastinating without even realising it. When I catch myself doing this I now tend to shift to another task or get some exercise and return to the section refreshed. Having some pressure on time – eg being punctuated by the school runs – has enabled me to minimise this too.
- Time varies in quality. Childcare and working have meant very little time available to write. However, a few hours when you are really committed, focussed, and have had enough sleep is worth ten hours half-focussed, distracted or sleep-deprived.
Exercise and Relaxation have made me more productive
Though this is not a new concept for many people, it was very positive to put this into action for myself in 2018 and see the results. I did a couple of things differently: inspired by my friend, I started walking every day, for between 15 minutes and an hour. My walking included lunch breaks and picking my daughter up from school. While walking I either listened to music, called family and friends or listened to the sounds of nature. I also made time for other exercises, about three times a week, while accepting the weeks where this could not happen. Exercise has given my mind time off and has been of immense benefit to thinking processes and general well-being. I look forward to these exercise sessions which enrich my everyday life; they help break up writing and thinking times in a healthy way.
From these reflections I would say to those reading this:
- Be excited and ambitious for your year ahead and always aspire to new academic achievements. However, also be prepared for when you can’t achieve everything you plan and be ready to re-plan and re-think positively.
- Enjoy the ride: strive to protect time for fitness, health, relaxation, social life, family relationships and peace for yourself. I have found that even just 15 minutes a day for a walk or a quick phone call have been beneficial. For many in the academic world, myself included, this is worth considering as there is the ongoing danger of being too fixed on work.
I hope you have also learnt some good lessons in 2018 and enjoy reviewing them as I have!
Have you learnt some valuable lessons in 2018 and made your academic reflections? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
Alice Eden is a Research Curator at Leamington Spa Art Gallery and Early Career academic. Her primary interests are modern British cultural history, spiritualities and feminisms, with expertise in Victorian and Edwardian art history. She is an Associate Tutor in the History of Art department, University of Warwick and is writing a book based on her PhD thesis. Alice can be contacted via email and followed on twitter at @Alice_Eden4.