Thursday, May 28, 2009

Saturday morning comes early

Hi All,

I will be offline most of tomorrow and Saturday, so I'm posting our cartoon early. Does anyone remember this one?

Have a good weekend!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And sometimes vacation is just vacation

In my last post, I suggested strategies to use when you feel like you must get some homework done while on vacation.

With today's post, I also want to affirm that I think vacations are incredibly important. And I'm a big believer in taking an all-out no-homework vacation, if you can. There are certainly times when you just can't do that, you have too much work. However if you are in a position to take the time, whether it's a weekend or a week, away from the work.... take it, relax, no guilt, just R&R. You will refresh and re-energize, and most likely, work better when you get home.

So, here's to vacation -- with or without homework!


Photo: Provincetown, MA by HLS

Monday, May 25, 2009

Homework on vacation?

I was talking with my good friend Lisa the other day. She was about to leave for vacation and sensed a dilemma. She believed that given where she is in her doctoral studies, she simply could not take an entire week away from school work. However, she also recognized that getting away from the work, taking a vacation, would be important for her, and for her primary relationship.

I suggested a few strategies I have used.

First, travel time is good homework time. Working at the airport and on the plane can be a good use of those hours that aren't really quality vacation time. Same holds true if you are traveling by car, bus, or train, if you can work in such settings.

Second, choose very specific times during which you will work and hold yourself to that commitment, no more and no less. On a vacation last year, I committed to work each morning and that was it -- afternoons and evenings OFF! Lisa's idea was to take one article to the beach each day and when that article is done, she is done with her homework for the day.

These strategies allow you to get some work done while away, and if you honor your commitment, to work while you are working, and relax while you are relaxing. Remember this is one of the keys to success -- be present for the work and be present for the play. No guilt. Just firm commitments and striving toward balance.


photo by HLS

New photos!

My student/friend/blog reader Donna has suggested that I add more photos to the blog, and change out some of the old ones. For now, I'll start a new feature in the right column... photo of the week. These will all be photos that I have taken along the way. Stay tuned!


photo by HLS

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back from the defense, back from the desert!

Hi All,

First off, thanks again to Melanie for being my guest blogger this past week!

I successfully defended my dissertation last Friday! This was a wonderful experience, particularly the discussion with my committee and others who attended. More about this soon.

Before I spend time on the blog, I need to catch up with my current students (emails and journals). For now, enjoy the above photo that I took in Joshua Tree National Park (we stayed on to enjoy Southern Cal for a few days after the defense!) and take good care. 


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Welcome my guest blogger!

Hi All,

As noted yesterday, I'm in the midst of final preparation for my dissertation defense this week. So I've invited Melanie Booth, a colleague who also writes a blog for adult students, to write a post for you this week. Below is her post and photo!

I think you will enjoy Melanie's words... I like the way she thinks about teaching and learning... I frequent her blog:

Also, she is the first person I've heard use the phrase "book crush" which totally cracks me up... I have book crushes, and movie crushes, and definitely music crushes!

Anyway, here is Melanie's post. I'll be back late next week.


Here's Melanie!


Changing Perspective 

Hello readers of The Encouragement Lounge!

Harriet has asked me to be a guest blogger this week, and I am honored to be asked because I might be able to extend the support I lend my own adult learners in my blog to more of you, and that would be neat (for me, at least). Specifically, she asked me to write a post that would offer you encouragement, so I will do my best here. I am not the encouragement pro that she is, but I will give it my best shot.

I thought I would share with you a thinking technique that I re-discovered this past week. I say “re-discovered” because I first stumbled upon this quite accidentally 20+ years ago when I was an undergrad. It was one of the first warm days of spring – one of those days where you just want to sit in the sun and soak up as much Vitamin D as you lost during the winter. I was annoyed at my three roommates for eating my food and listening loudly to music I didn’t like, and I was tired of sitting in my room trying to write a paper that didn’t want to be written but was due the next week.

I loaded up a cardboard box of books and paper and snacks (sustenance for learning is very important – never forget the Fig Newtons!) and I went to a park for the afternoon – by myself (something I would not normally do at the age of 20ish). And it was quite possibly one of the most productive and focused study sessions I have ever had. My mind worked there, in the middle of that redwood park, in ways it had never worked at home or at school before.

 In sum, the technique is this: When I get stuck – either writing something or wrapping my head around something new that I am trying to make sense of – changing my location does wonders for getting unstuck.

If you usually read or write in your house, move outside your house, like to your patio (if the weather allows), or better yet, move to someone else’s patio. This is a great way to meet a neighbor for one thing – “Hey, can I sit on your patio for a few hours today?” – and you won’t be distracted by things that we tend get distracted by our own patios: the lawns we need to mow or the weeds we should pull.

You could also go to a restaurant with your books and articles and computers in tow (either with a quiet partner or by yourself), or to a park that you’ve never been to before. Just go somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere that will offer you different sights, sounds, smells – a different experience.

This technique sounds really simplistic, I know, but here is why I think this really helps me: when I do this, it changes my perspective, both literally and figuratively. When I do this, I start to see things differently because I am seeing things that are different. When I do this, I put myself and my brain into a different place, a different space, and this allows for different senses and ideas to be at play. I can see connections that I wasn’t able see elsewhere. I feel creative. I get energized, I can breathe, and I can think.

So it may or may not work for you – but I encourage you (how’s that Harriet?) to try it at least once and see if you, too, get a change in your perspective.



Monday, May 11, 2009

A week away!

Hi All,

I am in the final days of preparing for my dissertation defense. And then after my defense, I will take a short vacation to celebrate and relax! So, I will have a guest blogger tomorrow, and then most likely, no posts until the end of next week. Sometimes you have to step away and focus, as you know, and this is one of those times for me.

More soon!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A wonderful commencement address!

Hi All,

Some of you will be graduating this spring. I encourage you to take a few minutes and enjoy a commencement address that Bill Cosby delivered at Carnegie Mellon a few years ago. There are a few moments where he is clearly focused on undergraduates, but most of it is relevant to us all, and I think it's a wonderful talk. Cosby's address is also a terrific example of effective public speaking... after a few words of introduction, he tells just one story (which begins about 6 minutes in) and that one story delivers a powerful message.



Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When the kitchen gets too hot, you may have to move to the living room

Ok, I won't bore you with the details... but as you know, I'm in the midst of somewhat significant technical difficulties. Long story short, this morning, several things went wrong and I got pretty frustrated. Finally, I realized, I need to step away from the computer, and I went to the gym for a break. When things really start to go wrong, sometimes our tendency is to think we need to hunker down and work at it even harder. But sometimes, we need to take a break, calm down, get some perspective, and then come back with some fresh energy to tackle the problems. So next time it gets all crazy and the intensity is building... remember to step away if you need to -- take a walk, call a friend, work out... whatever helps you move beyond that space of heightened stress. Of course, the computer or whatever the problem is, doesn't fix itself while you are away, but I believe that we can come back better able to solve the problems, from a more calm place.

Good luck with the work!

Monday, May 4, 2009

The little decision points

Happy Monday!

I've been thinking about Paperback Writer's response. She tells us that she now tries to do her school work outside of the house when she can. I'm also thinking of Lisa's question about how sometimes she spends significant time organizing and that at some point takes away from the work time.

Paperback Writer -- your primary strategy of leaving the house is the best one! If some of what you are dealing with can't be controlled (e.g. noisy kids), then leaving for a quieter environment is best. Keep at it!

You also said that sometimes when you are working in your home office you are distracted by things in the office, like bills to pay. This is a little bit like Lisa's question about over-organizing to the point of procrastination.

The first part of this strategy is to recognize your little decision points. So when you are working and get distracted by wanting to clean or pay bills, or whatever... realize that you are at a decision point. Then really push yourself to make a decision that is consistent with your goals. Maybe that decision is to let yourself pay bills, but maybe you say "I can pay two bills and then back to work". And maybe it's "I'll pay bills on Sunday, today is a work day." A lot of this really is about self-talk.

Two examples.... I love shopping around my stock photography site to look for photos for this blog, but sometimes I realize it hits a point where I've been at that too long and should get back to work. I look at the clock and give myself five more minutes or whatever, and then I STOP and get back to work.

However let's say I'm thinking "I really need to return so-and-so's call." But I know that's gonna be at least 20 minutes. I tell myself, I can't do that today, I must work.

I don't do this perfectly all the time. I try to get it right as often as I can. Remember look for the decision points and then ask yourself the honest question about your decision and your goals.

Good luck with the work!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Saturday morning cartoon

Good luck with the work this weekend!


cheering you on.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Back it up

Hi All,

Yesterday morning the operating system on my less-than-one-year-old laptop crashed. My laptop is now at the repair shop and I'm working on a borrowed computer. Why am I telling you my sad story? Because I'm here to remind you of the importance of backing up your data. Fortunately, I use an online back-up service and had run a manual backup the day before so I didn't lose any data! It will take hours to rebuild the laptop and add all the software that I use, but that's just time. I am far less stressed about this than I would be if I had lost data.

Backing up our computers is like flossing... we know we should do it, but we get lazy or sloppy about it and don't. Do yourself a favor... subscribe to an online back-up service, or buy an external drive (if you simply need to back-up documents, an inexpensive jump drive should work fine). Then commit to use it! If you sign on with an online system (this is typically not expensive), then you will need to check occasionally and be sure that the automatic back-up is working. And obviously if you use an external drive, you need to then use it!

One additional strategy.... when I am working on something that is super important, I email the draft to myself when I am done for the day or evening, just to be sure I have it in one more place. If you don't currently have the extra coin to subscribe to a service or buy a drive, this is a good solution -- mail documents to yourself and you'll always have them in your inbox.

Back it up! You'll pat yourself on the back later... if something goes wrong with your computer, you at least have the security of knowing that your data is safe.

Tune in tomorrow for Saturday morning cartoon.

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