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  • In honour of ‘going slow’

    SLOW TIME

    In The Power of Slow (2009),*  Christine Louise Holbaum writes about our harried world and the inefficiency of over-efficiency.  She suggests that a modern sense of urgency about time may have begun with Ben Franklin, who coined the phrase that “time is money” and assumed that making money is the measure of success.  Over time, “busy” became the most overused of words in our vocabulary, and we began to think that if we are really, really busy, we are really, really productive (and on the road to becoming rich!).

    She thinks “busy” is a four-letter word (in the negative sense) and that “slow” is a good four-letter word.  Doing things more slowly and with greater mindfulness is much more productive in her view than, for example, “multi-tasking” – which is a contradiction in terms anyway.  Human brains can only process one thing at a time:  to multi-task is to flit from task to task, from moment to moment, often in every-decreasing increments.  The result is distraction rather than productivity, which leads to living in a mental state of urgency that is bad for us – bad for our health, bad for our moods, and bad for doing things well as opposed to doing them quickly.

    I’m persuaded by her argument that we live in a culture of harried distraction.  I don’t think that managing time is about getting more done so much as about getting the right things done in the right order.  Most of us need to plan our days in order to make sure we are prioritizing the right things on a daily basis.  And most people (though probably not those who are way more creative than I am!) crave the security of having crafted a daily plan that means we will get a certain number of crucial things done and make progress towards our larger goals in any given day.

    However, jam-packing our schedule – leaving no time for either rest and recuperation or the focused thinking that is necessary for planning wisely for the number of hours we have available in a given day – leads to unbearable stress.  At times we need to remind ourselves that our grandmothers were right:  “Haste makes waste.”  And that Holbaum is probably right:  the brain is a muscle that requires flexibility, and distraction has the undesirable neurological effect of making brains less flexible, i.e. less productive in the end (32).

    It’s first thing in the morning here at my desk.  I’m about to make a reasonable to-do list for the day and to set about completing it in the most relaxed (maybe even flexible) way possible. Let’s see how that works for me.

    (*The Power of Slow:  101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, New York: St. Martin’s Pfress, 2009)

    Marilyn J. Rose

    Marilyn Rose recently completed a 7-year term as Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and was the founding Director of the Brock Humanities Research Institute. A specialist in 20th Century Canadian literature, she has a particular interest in Canadian poetry and short fiction.  She also works in the areas of Popular Culture and Canadian Studies and is a core faculty member of the MA program in Popular Culture and the Joint Interdisciplinary Program in Canadian-American Studies.

     

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  • Managing Time – The Big Rocks

    PUTTING THE BIG ROCKS IN FIRST

    Managing time is probably the biggest challenge for most of us.  As  students and employees, often with family responsibilities as well, we all have many daily deadlines to meet.  The challenge is especially acute because, as we all know, time can’t be “managed,” really.  It just flows on, with unstoppable force, and we have to jump into that stream and get done what we can in the time available. Keeping Up rather than seriously Falling Behind, is what it is all about.

    One of my closest advisors is “The Engineer.”  Our minds work differently so it’s a nicely complementary relationship.  Watching me trying to package a bunch of items in a box that just didn’t seem big enough to hold them all, he reminded me of a basic organizational principle:   if you have a jar to fill with rocks, always put the big rocks in first, he said  – then fit the little rocks around them, the middling ones next and the tiny ones last, using these to fill the gaps.

    This works, and I think it works for managing schedules too.  As I sit down in the morning to plan my day, I find it helpful to think about “the big rocks” and when to tackle them.  For example, today I have two chapters to edit for a book that is in process.  That has to get done.

    Knowing that my mind works best in the morning, and that I don’t have appointments on my calendar for this morning, that rock goes in first, and will be tackled at 9 a.m., or as close to that as I can manage.  The rest of the day will consist of smaller bits and pieces, some of which are more important than others.  I’ll try to get to the most important of these next.  Then I’ll deal with the dross, what is left over – the kinds of things I have to do, but that are neither that urgent or that important.  (Okay, making dinner for the family is pretty important, and will have to get done.  But if have to take shortcuts or depend on help at that point, or get food on the table a half-hour later than anticipated, I can improvise a bit and no one will starve.)

    The big things don’t have to be done first in the day, of course.  They need to be done when you can concentrate(which depends on your daily rhythms, and when you are likely to be relatively free of distractions).  The most efficient administrative assistant I ever worked with had this down to a science.  She needed to tackle the big daily thing with her mind free of the “nigglies,” the little things that had to be got off her desk in a hurry so that the office could function smoothly for the next 24 hours.  So her first hour or so was spent on things “urgent” but on the whole less “important.”  Her plan was always to get to the One Big Thing on her calendar by 10 a.m. or thereabouts, when her energy was still high and she had momentum, the lift-off that comes from having accomplished quite a bit already at that point in the day.

    This technique works pretty well for me too.  As I post this, it’s 8:30 a.m.  Hopefully, lift-off – with respect to the One Big Thing that I have to get started on soon – will kick in at any moment now.

    Marilyn J. Rose

    Marilyn Rose recently completed a 7-year term as Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies and was the founding Director of the Brock Humanities Research Institute. A specialist in 20th Century Canadian literature, she has a particular interest in Canadian poetry and short fiction.  She also works in the areas of Popular Culture and Canadian Studies and is a core faculty member of the MA program in Popular Culture and the Joint Interdisciplinary Program in Canadian-American Studies.

     

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  • Begin with LinkedIn

    Once you’ve un-tagged snaps, removed questionable posts and had a firm finger wag from your grandmother, the next step of the 3 part plan is to establish a LinkedIn profile.  Yes, begin with LinkedIn.

    Here is the action plan for establishing a professional online profile:

    A – Assess Your On-Line Presence (see  grandmother + handout)

    B – Begin with LinkedIN (see handout: How to Build Strong LinkedIn profile)

    C – Cultivate Relationships!  Reach out to 5 on-line professional contacts.

    This professional networking site is THE site for making a solid professional impact. In fact these fine folks, have developed a great argument for graduate students to join (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ocp1MNpSkWs&feature=youtu.be)

    Also, Amy Elder, Director, Career Services, Brock University has provided some additional tips;

    •Display a professionally appropriate photo
    •Create a clear, concise headline that has impact
    •Include a summary that highlights your key skills, experience, accomplishments and goals
    •Update your status frequently
    •Get recommendations
    •Tie your LinkedIn profile to your other job search/networking efforts
    •Use LinkedIn applications to showcase samples
    of your work
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  • Is your online presence ‘mother’ approved?

    ‘Discretion is the better part of valour’ — a phrase or quip extracted from a line from Shakespearian play, Henry IV, which often makes us think of the importance of watching our words. Our hyper connected world + words and thoughts leaves very little space to suspend or take back an unguarded thought or image. There are scores of examples of how one foolish social media post resulted in tragic career or social suicide.

    Brock’s Career Services Director, Amy Elder, at a recent Grad Plus Workshop on Social Media urged students to be highly vigilant online.  Amy suggested that not only should graduate students do an honest inventory of their ‘online content’ but also begin generating a deliberate professional ‘brand’ of sorts that distinguishes you from others.  A thoughtful and strategic plan to move yourself into the realm of ‘professionalizing’ your online presence should be executed while in grad school.

    Why now?  Employers have also become very social media savvy. Many are utilizing social media to recruit(92%), network for ideal candidates (73%) and suss out a candidate post interview (86%).   (view Amy’s presentation notes HERE)

    Amy suggests the ‘purity test’ – a chemical analysis, per say, or indicator of professionalism assessed by a tried and true adjudicator; your mother or grandmother (WHOPPING honesty here).  The guidelines are simple.  Never post anything online that isn’t mother approved.

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  • Welcome!

    Welcome to the Grad Plus Blog + Forum!

    This blog space will provide an opportunity for dialogue, reflection and inspiration for exploring and executing a career path that harnesses your vision, skills, competencies and talents.  In addition to providing you with a repertoire of professional development (Pro Dev) training opportunities, Brock’s Grad Plus Partners are vested in providing you with current and relevant Pro Dev topics to consider.

    We envision this blog space as repository of thought on any and all aspects of graduate student life. We invite student bloggers to fire off questions; sharing perspectives of the world of work inside and outside of academe.

    We invite you to help shape our Grad Plus community and support the unfolding of a vital and interactive Pro Dev community of students, faculty, staff and student services here at Brock.

    We are thrilled to launch!

    + Grad Plus Partners

     

     

     

     

     

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