Tomorrow is the first day of the fall semester. This semester I have two classes, three research meetings, and a departmental seminar. Those weekly engagements are the least of my worries, however. Ranking higher on the list is my dissertation proposal to defend in the fall and my dissertation to finish writing and then defend in the spring. I am also applying to a long list of fellowships, post-docs (academic apprenticeships), and <gasp> potential faculty positions.
In addition to working furiously on my proposal and dissertation, I have lately been reflecting on the many paths I’ve walked and on what paths lie ahead. I have been immersed in academia for eight years now (ten, if you count my two interim appointments between college and graduate school), and while I am reasonably certain academia is the path on which I will continue, I still want to give every suitable employment/career option reasonable consideration. The only thing I know for certain is I will not go into industry.
Before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to return to the present moment — this evening before the “first day of school” — and list a few goals for myself this semester:
1. Get A’s in both of my classes (obviously).
2. Dedicate a three-hour block every day to my dissertation. If this needs to be between the hours of 4 and 7 am, so be it. Of course I will also work on smaller chunks throughout the rest of the day, but those quiet morning hours are always my most productive.
3. Write my teaching philosophy. I have collected several “stubs” over the past few years; it is now time to flesh those out.
4. Submit fellowship and post-doc applications by November; faculty applications by December.
5. Do whatever it takes to get six hours of sleep every night. Any fewer than six hours and I might as well not sleep at all. Any more than six hours and I may not finish everything I need to do.
6. Maintain my yoga and meditation practices. Potentially volunteer at the local bike co-op.
7. Involve myself in engineering and/or other CV-worthy community service activities. This shouldn’t be as tricky as it is. On the one hand, I am very much involved in the local community, but none of that work fits on an academic CV. On the other hand, service opportunities do arise in my department, but they almost always occur at the worst times possible. Therefore, I want to seek out more CV-worthy service opportunities this semester [without the sole intention being to enhance my CV.]
8. Strike a balance between isolation and campus/social overload. In some ways, this is a given for anyone writing a dissertation. You have to isolate yourself in order to accomplish the monumental task before you. However, knowing that I have the dangerous gift of thriving in isolation means that I must also take responsibility for balancing the load.
9. [Insert a million other, smaller goals here.]
10. Prepare for defense and graduation in the spring.
These goals may change during the semester, but still offer a point from which to start. To any of you academics out there: what are some of your primary goals for this term? Do you typically set goals or do you have a more “go-with-the-flow” type of approach?