Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Three Steps to Getting Grants for Graduate Students

I was one of the panelists at a grant writing workshop for graduate students at the American Studies Association meetings this past fall.  The panel was convened by Kritika Agarwal and included three panelists:  Maile Arvin, Monica Martinez, and myself.

This post is a summary of the best tips provided during that meeting and will provide you with guidance and food for thought as you prepare your grant and fellowship applications.

Britney Spears - Taste The Victory

Step 1: Figure out where you are going to apply.
To figure this out, you first need to identify your needs. Do you need a grant – which will provide you with cash to do research or a fellowship – which will pay your salary as you focus primarily on writing?

Graduate students can use grant funding for a variety of expenses, including visiting archives, paying research participants, transcribing interviews, and completing fieldwork. Fellowships, in contrast, are primarily used to subsidize the time you spend writing your dissertation. Instead of having to teach to support yourself while in graduate school, a fellowship allows you to focus all of your work time on writing your dissertation.

There are large granting agencies that have funding for graduate students including the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. However, there are also a plethora of smaller granting agencies that are specific to your field of study.

If you are at a PhD granting institution, there most likely an office on campus where you can get assistance with finding grants. Many times, this office will work with you to come up with a list of grants and fellowships that you can apply for. Many universities also have online databases that you can search to look for funding opportunities.

Kritika made the very practical suggestion that you look at the CVs of people in your field to find out what grants and fellowships they have been awarded. Maile suggested that you ask around in your program to find out what opportunities other students have sought out.

It is important to complete a comprehensive search as sometimes there are societies and archives that offer grants or fellowships you may have never heard of.  For example, did you know that the German Historical Institute offers fellowships in African American History? Or that L’Oreal USA offers fellowships for women in science?

Once you have your list of places to target, you can develop a timeline for applications based on their deadlines. You will need to plan far in advance – up to a year before the application deadlines.

Step 2: Prepare the Proposal
Think of your proposal as an argument for why reviewers should recommend your project for funding. Most well-formulated proposals will have the following six components:

1) An opening that draws attention. This often takes the form of an anecdote, a powerful statistic, or a compelling question.

2) A concise statement of what your project is about. The reviewer should know exactly what your research is about within 30 seconds of picking up your proposal.

3) A review of what we already know about the topic. You need to make a case for why your research is necessary. This requires showing that you have done your background research and demonstrating how your study is novel.

4) An explanation of how current literature leads to your research questions. Don’t just say: “No one has ever examined Polynesian birthing practices in this village.” Instead, draw from the current literature on Polynesia and birthing practices to make a case for how the current literature leads up to your research questions.

5) A description of how you plan to answer your questions. Now that you have set up your research questions, explain exactly what your methodology is and why it is the best methodology to answer those questions.

6) A timeline for completion. A successful grant proposal is compelling, creative, and feasible. You need to show that you have thought your whole project through and that you have a reasonable timeline for completion. Reviewers will find it hard to believe that you will write the last four chapters of your dissertation in a one-week residential fellowship, for example.

Competitive applications are crystal clear and free of jargon. They also render it clear how the project is related to the goals and missions of the funding agency. They are convincing in terms of the need for this project as well as the feasibility of the project. They make a clear contribution to research. Finally, they are aesthetically pleasing in terms of the page layout, margins, font, and headings.

If you know someone who has won the competition you are applying for, you should ask them if you can read their proposal. That will give you a good sense of what a successful application looks like.

Step 3: Prepare for Submission
You should never submit your proposal without having at least one person look over it. Ideally, you should get feedback from several people. You can get feedback from your peers, from your adviser, from the grant office on campus, and from friends who are not in your field.

Before you submit, review your application to make sure that you have followed the directions exactly. Have someone with a good eye for style and grammar review your proposal to make absolutely sure that there are no stylistic or grammatical or typographical errors.

Once you submit your proposal, congratulate yourself for having formulated a proposal and plan for your research.

Writing a clear and concise statement of your research project and plan for moving forward will help you with moving your research forward, regardless of whether or not you win the competition. In addition, you can repurpose that statement for other grant and fellowship applications. You also are likely to be able to revise that statement and put parts of it in your dissertation – particularly in the introduction.

It is always fantastic when you are awarded a grant or an application. But, it is also important to keep in mind that the only way to get a rejection is to put your work out there. Every rejection you get is a signal that you are stretching your boundaries. It also means that you are one less rejection away from reaching your goals!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Daily Writing: How Prolific Scholars Do It

I am most productive as a writer on days when I wake up before the crack of dawn and get an hour of writing in before everyone in the house is awake and and, most important, before checking email or social media. I know several highly productive academics – some of them chairs, deans, and provosts – who do the same thing. For people with administrative duties, that is often the only time they have to write.




You don’t have to wake up at 5 a.m. to be a prolific scholar. You do have to write however. And nearly all of the prolific academics I have met are daily writers. Daily writing is one of the most important strategies I can recommend to boost your productivity. Theresa MacPhail calls daily writing a “no-fail secret to writing a dissertation.” That advice is just as crucial for new (and older) faculty.


It’s also backed up by research.


A study by Robert Boice, reported in his book, Professors as Writers: A Self-Help Guide to Productive Writing as well as in this article, provides concrete evidence that daily writing produces both more writing and more ideas. Boice conducted an experiment with 27 faculty members who wanted to improve their productivity. He divided them into three groups and examined their writing progress for 10 weeks.


Boice instructed Group No. 1 – the abstinent writersnot to schedule any writing sessions but to write only if they felt compelled to. He also asked them to keep a log of creative ideas to write about. The thought behind planned abstinence was that these writers would have a list of creative ideas ready when they finally did feel like writing. Result: The abstinent writers produced an average of 0.2 pages a day and had one creative idea a week.


Boice told Group No. 2 – the spontaneous writers – to schedule writing sessions five days a week for 10 weeks, but encouraged them to write in those sessions only when they were in the mood. They also were asked to use part of the scheduled writing time each day to come up with a new idea to write about. Result: The spontaneous writers produced an average of 0.9 pages a day and one creative idea a week.


Group No. 3 – the forced writers – agreed to a strict accountability plan. They scheduled five writing sessions a week for 10 weeks, and kept a log of creative ideas to write about. To ensure they would write every day, whether or not they felt like it, the members of this group each gave Boice a prepaid check for $25, made out to an organization they despised. If they failed to write in any of their planned sessions, Boice would mail the check. Result: The forced writers produced an average of 3.2 pages a day and one creative idea each day.
I first heard about this study in 2006 from Kerry Ann Rockquemore. When I saw the results, I was convinced I wanted to be in Group No. 3. I have been a daily writer ever since, and recently submitted my fifth book manuscript for publication.


If you are not a daily writer, but are producing as much writing as you think you should, then there is no reason to change your habits. However, if you are unhappy with your productivity and would like to write more, my experience as well as the research show that daily writing is very likely to work for you. Here’s how.


Pull out your calendar and schedule writing sessions five or six days a week. Writing experts Patricia Goodson and Wendy Belcher both recommend that you start with 15 minutes a day if you have never tried daily writing before, or if you are overwhelmed with other tasks. Patricia Goodson recommends that you start with 15 minutes and increase your writing time by one minute each day until you reach your desired level.


If you are not sure what counts as daily writing, check out this list of 10 ways to write every day.

Nearly all writing experts agree that you should not schedule more than four hours for a writing session. My colleague Anthony Ocampo says that if you push yourself too far, you might get a “writing hangover.” If you have one day that you can dedicate to a long stretch of time for writing, you may want to schedule four hours for that day. On your busiest days, set aside at least 15 minutes – even if it means waking up 15 minutes earlier in the morning.


Once a writing session is on your calendar, treat it like any other appointment. By that I mean show up for it and schedule your other obligations around it. If you have scheduled a writing session from 10:30 to 11 a.m., and a student emails to ask if she can come by at 10:30, tell her you already have an appointment at that time and to come instead at 11 a.m. It might seem odd at first to be making appointments with yourself, but, over time, you will get used to it. In fact the busier you are, the more crucial it is it schedule your writing time and stick to it.

Once you start writing every day, it becomes a habit. I will admit there are days I don’t get my writing done, but I notice it when I don’t. I notice it so much that I make sure to write the next day.

My preference is to write every morning from Monday to Friday for at least an hour, but usually for two. What about you? Are you already a daily writer? How long have you been at it, and has it made a difference in your productivity?

Re-posted from: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/836-the-trick-to-being-a-prolific-scholar

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Long Can You Rely on Your Dissertation Adviser?

As you wrote your dissertation and searched for your first faculty job, your dissertation adviser was (I hope) there for you. He read countless drafts of your chapters. She helped you get published. He wrote scores of letters on your behalf. She may have even made phone calls for you. Now that you’re no longer a doctoral student, your adviser still may be the person who knows you best.

But how long can you keep turning to the same person to write you a letter of recommendation?


There is no definitive answer to that question. The good news is you can probably rely on your adviser until you’ve developed a new network of recommenders who don’t see you, first and foremost, as their student. The bad news is, at some point after completing the Ph.D., you’ll need to step out of your comfort zone and cultivate a network of people -- beyond your former professors -- who can write letters on your behalf. The sooner you cultivate that network, the better. It doesn’t need to happen in your first year on the tenure track, but it should happen before you submit your tenure application.

So where do you find these letter-writers?

The first place to look is in your new department. Start by fostering a letter-writing relationship with the department chair, who likely will have to write something on your behalf at some point anyway.

Next look for a departmental colleague whose research interests are close to your own. Believe it or not, you also may end up writing letters for that person, too. So while you’re reaching out to that colleague for advice on your own work, familiarize yourself with his or her work, too. The more familiar you both are with each other’s work, the more useful your mutual feedback and letters of recommendation will be.

Finally, try to connect with a faculty member in your department who is particularly interested in pedagogy, so that person can write teaching-related letters on your behalf. Talk to each other about teaching. Ask for advice on how to succeed in your university’s teaching-evaluation process. In my previous position, for example, we were required to have peer reviews of our teaching each year and the person who conducted the review had to write a letter to the chair evaluating us in the classroom. By the time I went up for tenure, I had five of these letters to include in my tenure case.

You will need letters from colleagues for a variety of purposes, including internal grant competitions, teaching awards, and future job applications. So now is the time to think about who in your new department might write letters for you.

The second place to look for recommenders is within your field. If your institution requires external letters for tenure review, it’s in your interest to build a list of a dozen senior scholars who have a favorable opinion of your work. The very idea of approaching the bigwigs in your field sounds frightening to a junior scholar, but, trust me, you’ll need that list of names when you go up for tenure. Here’s why: Most institutions let you pick some of your external reviewers, so you’ll want to have a clear idea about whom to suggest.

Start making that list now. Take out a sheet of paper and write down the names of the 12 people you most admire in your field. Don’t contact all of them immediately. But do start thinking of ways to reach out to them over time.

Pick the one that seems most approachable and ask him or her to have coffee with you at the next conference. Send a copy of your latest publication to the one whose work you recently cited. When your department is discussing whom to invite to the next colloquium series, suggest someone on your list whose work you think has the broadest appeal. One of my most well-known letter-writers is a person my department invited to campus to deliver a public lecture. If you are organizing a panel at a major conference, ask one or two of these senior scholars to participate as a panelist, chair, or discussant. If you edit a special issue of a journal, invite them to contribute.

There are many ways to reach out to scholars in your field. Once you have done so and developed a relationship with them, you can ask them to write you a letter of recommendation -- for a job, for an award, or for a fellowship.

Start building these essential relationships now and, eventually, you will be able to stop asking your dissertation adviser to write you yet another letter.

- Originally posted at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/799-how-long-can-you-rely-on-your-dissertation-adviser#sthash.PVlbhFln.dpuf

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Take the Weekends Off!

When I began my tenure-track position in 2005, I did not have Internet access at home or a smartphone. I remember telling a collaborator not to expect a response from me on Saturdays or Sundays as I did not check email on the weekends. He was astonished. Fast forward to today: I have both web access at home and an iPhone so it’s more challenging to avoid working on the weekends now. But I still make every effort not to.

We all need a real break from work. I’ve found I need time off on the weekends in order to be productive the following week. Our productivity declines precipitously when we try to work more than 40 hours a week. It is, thus, much more effective to consciously limit our working hours so that we can be as productive as possible during those times we are working – and can enjoy our time off, guilt-free.

Still can't believe this beautiful beach in Big Sur is only 3 hours from my home!


What would happen if you didn’t work at all this weekend? I spent a recent weekend in Yosemite National Park, with limited phone and email access. I went on a hike to a waterfall, swam in the cool and clear Merced River, had engaging conversations with friends, and laughed with my daughters. When I came back to work on Monday, I felt rejuvenated and ready to move forward with my writing projects.

If you are used to working all or part of the weekend, here are some ways to spend your time that will ensure you return to work rejuvenated:

1) Take a long walk in the park without your phone. There is scientific evidence that walking helps us think. When was the last time you spent time alone? I mean, really alone, without any electronic devices? If it’s been awhile, you might be surprised what happens when you venture out with just your thoughts.

2) Get some exercise. Go to the gym. Getting your heart rate up can make you feel great. Go lift some weights or run as fast as you can on the elliptical. Go for a swim or take a yoga class. Apart from being good for your heart, there is evidence that exercise is good for your brain.

3) Meditate. There are many mental, spiritual, and physical benefits to meditation. Try it out and see if it works for you. “Mindfulness meditation” has been found to enhance your focus and even reduce your stress levels.

4) Hang out with friends and family. Tell them that you love them. Find out what brings them joy. What about a friend with whom you can share your worries? It can be especially good to spend time with someone who makes you laugh as there are numerous health benefits to laughter.

5) Do something crafty or artistic, even if you’re not very crafty or artistic. Do you have a project lying around you have been meaning to get to? Do you have an easel tucked away in a closet? Pull it out and get painting. Or sign yourself up for a drawing or photography class. It will allow you to be creative on something other than work.

Read the rest on The Chronicle....

Friday, September 5, 2014

On Writing: Sometimes Less Is More

I have published my first piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education's new site: Vitae. You can read it here and I have pasted the first few paragraphs below.

I recently organized a writing retreat in Yosemite National Park. When the participants learned that we would only be writing for two and a half hours each day, many were surprised. “Isn’t this a writing retreat?” they asked. “I am a slow writer, can I skip the afternoon activities so that I can get in more writing?”

I understood their frustration and surprise. It is normal to expect that the more hours you spend on a task, the more productive you will be. However, writing is different. I liken it to hauling stones: When you haul stones, you deplete your physical energy. When you write, you deplete your intellectual energy. Because each of us only has a limited amount of intellectual energy, it is not the case that the more hours you spend writing, the more productive you will be.



Your intellectual energy can be a bit delicate. If you run it to its bitter end each day, you will find that you have less and less. Have you ever spent an entire day working on a project only to find that the next day you are unable to move forward? Have you ever pushed yourself to the limit to meet a deadline and found yourself unable to be productive for the next week or longer? When that happens, it is because you have pushed your intellectual energy to the limit. You have hit a wall and need time to recover.

By limiting the amount of time you spend writing, you are protecting your intellectual energy and ensuring that it gets renewed daily. For that reason, I suggest that you can be most effective by spending one to four hours on your writing each day.

Of course, if you prefer, you can continue to overwork yourself and hit walls. However, wouldn’t it be better to figure out how much intellectual energy you can expend on a daily basis and stick to that? Wouldn’t it be better to wake up each day fresh and ready to move forward?

Then when you do sit down to write, you can completely focus on your work. And I mean completely. Turn off your phone, and step away from email, the Web, and social media. For most people, the best time to write is first thing in the morning--before checking email or Facebook. Try writing for at least an hour before looking at your email or social-media accounts.

Use a timer as you write to see how much time you are actually writing, as opposed to looking for distractions. Turn the timer off each time you are distracted by anything not directly related to your writing. (If you are not sure if you are actually writing or not, please see this list of 10 ways you can write every day.)

When you write first thing in the morning, and then stop writing for the rest of the day, your mind will continue to process thoughts related to your project. Take advantage of that. One of the best ways is to go for a walk alone and without any electronic devices. Use the time to process your thoughts. Think back on what you have written for the day and about what you will do the next day. You may be surprised about the revelations you have about your writing when you are not writing. You may even wish to take a notepad with you on these strolls.

Read the rest here.

And, if you are interested in that writing retreat I mention above, please see this website as there are still a few spots open for the next retreat - which will be in Hawaii.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

How to Publish an Article in an Academic Journal: Avoid Rookie Mistakes

If you are reading this, I likely don’t need to tell you about the importance of publishing scholarly articles to get an academic position or, if you have one, to secure tenure or promotion. Instead, I’d like to offer you some tips that might help you get your research published.



I am writing this post because I have reviewed an insane amount of articles over the past few months, and have noticed that many of these articles should never have been sent out for review, because they were missing key components.

The authors of these articles thus waited three months for someone to tell them that they do not have a clear argument, that there is no literature review, or that they need to describe their ethnographic methods. Sometimes they waited this long or longer only to hear other fairly generic advice.

I am in the process of submitting an article to a journal. I am thus writing this post both to make sure that I practice what I preach, and to offer some examples from my own writing that might be useful as you prepare your own article.

Some questions to ask yourself

First of all, before you send an empirical social science article out for review, ask yourself these questions:

  1. What is your research question?
  2. How is your research question related to the current literature?
  3. How will you use your data to answer your research question?

Before you send a piece off, make sure that a) you can answer these questions; and b) that anyone that reads your paper also can answer these questions.

I have reviewed twenty papers and books in the first half of this year. Many of the articles received rejections because the articles did not have all the necessary pieces or because the pieces did not have the necessary elements. Thus, make sure that your paper has all of the following elements.

(This post is primarily directed at authors of empirical social science articles, but let me know in the comments how this might be adjusted for other fields.)

Introduction

The introduction should contain a brief summary of the literature with which you will engage, a research question that derives from that literature, and a brief explanation of how you will answer that question.

For example, I am writing an article that engages with two distinct bodies of literature: scholarship on race and incarceration and scholarship on immigrant incorporation. My introduction has one paragraph on each of those bodies of literature, followed by a statement of the research questions and the methods.

“This paper brings the literature on immigrant incorporation into conversation with the literature on mass incarceration through a consideration of these two research questions: 
  1. How has mass deportation affected the incorporation trajectories of black male immigrants?
  2. What role does gendered structural racism play in blocking the mobility of black male immigrants? 
I draw from interviews with 83 Jamaican and Dominican immigrants to answer these questions.”

I then use two more paragraphs to define the conceptual terms I am using – particularly “gendered structural racism.”

Literature Review

Some of the papers I reviewed simply did not have literature reviews. Others made the rookie mistake of a serial literature review – where the author discusses one piece of scholarship per paragraph yet does not put the works into conversation with each other. The literature review must synthesize the literature and point directly to your research questions.

You can tell you are doing this if you have sentences that look like this:
“Immigration scholars argue that there are distinct paths to becoming part of society and refer to this process as segmented assimilation. These sociologists argue that immigrants who arrive in the country as youth experience either 1) assimilation into mainstream society; 2) selective acculturation; or 3) downward assimilation (Portes and Zhou 1993; Zhou 1997; Portes and Rumbaut 2001).”
You are not doing this if you have several paragraphs that each begin with: “Portes and Rumbaut (2001) argue…. Zhou (1997) argues…..” Synthesis is key here.

My literature review begins with a section on the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, which ends with the statement:
“As scholars get a handle on the collateral consequences of mass incarceration, it is crucial to also pay attention to the collateral consequences of mass deportation.”
The next section is on crimmigration, where I explain how immigration and criminal law enforcement have merged. This section is more background than literature review, and I have gone back and forth about where to put it. For now, it is between the first main section of the literature review and the last, which is on deportation and immigrant incorporation.

The subsection on immigration incorporation begins with:
“Whereas scholars who write about the urban African American experience often highlight the impact of mass incarceration, those who focus on black immigrants rarely mention heavy policing or mass incarceration. Whereas immigration scholars often focus on attitudes and identities, scholars of mass incarceration argue that, regardless of your attitude, U.S. drug laws are so draconian that it becomes difficult for any black or Latino male youth to avoid the criminal justice system, particularly if he lives in a primarily non-white neighborhood (Alexander 2011; Western 2006). This raises the question of how gendered structural racism affects the incorporation trajectories of black male immigrant youth.”
This is followed by a discussion of the prevailing literature on immigrant incorporation - the segmented assimilation discussion mentioned above.

Make sure that your literature review points directly at your research questions.

Argument

Every article needs an argument. You can state your argument in the introduction, in the abstract, and/or in the literature review. You need an argument, however, in order to get published. Here’s mine:

“I argue that a primary factor contributing to their arrest and incarceration was gendered structural racism – not oppositional attitudes. Neither ethnic cohesion nor Anglo-conformity protected these black male immigrants from being funneled into the criminal justice system.”
Note: If your paper is quantitative, you will need hypotheses. In my view, you don’t need these for qualitative papers.

Methods

My article is based on ethnography and interviews, so the methods section is pretty straightforward. I discuss how long the ethnographic research lasted (9 months); how many interviews (83); and the case selection – why I interviewed deportees in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, and why most of my interviewees are men.

Data and Analysis

This is the meat of your paper – where your original contribution lies. The main trick here is to make sure that you deploy your data to answer your research questions.

In my paper, I am trying to show that black male immigrants who were on a path to mainstream assimilation, who engaged in selective acculturation, and who experienced downward assimilation all met a similar fate – they ended up arrested, incarcerated, and deported. My objective is to show that their attitudes about school and their future goals were not the reason they were deported. Instead, they were deported because they live in heavily policed neighborhoods, were racially profiled, and faced a punitive legal and immigration system. Thus, I divide my discussion of data and methods into those three sections.

Many qualitative papers fail to analyze their data. You not only need to tell us what you learned from your interviews and ethnography; you also need to analyze each piece of data you provide. Tell the reader what it means and why it’s important.

Conclusion

I have not thus far rejected an article for not having a good conclusion – although I did receive one that completely lacked a conclusion. And, that did not look good.

In any event, a good conclusion can only strengthen your article and make it more likely that your findings will be understood and disseminated.

In my conclusion, I reiterate my findings, mention any possible limitations, and explore directions for future research.

Here is my restatement of my main argument:
“Some of these youth assimilated to the local subcultures in their neighborhoods. Others maintained strong ethnic ties. Still others had high aspirations about becoming part of mainstream society. None of these paths, however, could protect them from the consequences of heavy policing in their neighborhoods.”
I think I am nearly ready to submit. How about you?



Saturday, April 5, 2014

How to meet your financial, fitness, and writing goals: Five strategies that work

Have you ever lost weight, saved money for an important purchase, or met a writing deadline?

If you have ever met any fitness, financial, or writing goals, there is a good chance that you have developed skills that will allow you to meet other goals.


Goal Setting

The strategies for meeting very different kinds of goals are surprisingly similar. In this post, I will focus on these three areas – as these are some of the most common goals that people have.

If you have never set or met any goals, then this post might also be helpful for you to decide if goal-setting is an appropriate strategy for you.

So, what do money, fitness, and writing have in common?

1. Set reasonable goals.

With saving money, it will be hard to meet your goals if you try and save half your income. Likewise, losing five pounds a week is setting yourself up for failure, as is trying to write 3,000 words a day. Instead, set reasonable, achievable goals. These goals will vary by individual, but it is important to set goals that are both reasonable and achievable. Here are some examples of reasonable goals.

Writing: Write for 30 minutes Monday to Friday. Write 300 words a day. Take notes on one article or book chapter a day.

Fitness: Walk or bike to work once a week. Go to the gym three times a week. Avoid meat on Fridays. Avoid sugar on Tuesdays. Lose one pound a week.

Money: Only buy fancy coffee once a week. Put 10 percent of earnings in a savings account. Use 10 percent of earnings to pay off debt. Cancel cable television. Eat out only once a week.

2. Keep track of your activities.

Knowledge really is power here.

If you really want to take control of your finances, one of the best things you can do is to track every penny you spend. If you are not ready to do that, however, you can at least make a budget and track spending in certain areas. Mint provides a free tool for you to do that. For example, if you set a budget of $100 a month for eating out, it will tell you when you’ve reached that limit, and you can eat in for the rest of the month.

The same goals for your fitness goals – keeping track can do wonders for you. There is a free app called My Fitness Pal which allows you to track everything you eat and even add your exercise so that you can keep track of calorie intake and expenditure. This application works, but requires a high level of commitment. However, even writing down the food you eat once a week or writing down the exercise you do daily can help you meet your fitness goals. I haven’t tried them yet, but many people recommend the FitBit - which tracks your activity.

For writing goals, there are also different levels. Some people find it useful to write down the number of new words they write each day. Others keep track of the hours they spend writing. If you want to go all the way with time management, it can be incredibly revelatory to track your time for a full week. In this article, Kerry Ann Rockquemore draws parallels between tracking your money and your time.

3. Get a buddy involved.

Getting friends involved can help you achieve these goals. There are many ways to do this, from joining support groups to simply asking a friend to check in on you daily or weekly. There are online forums you can join, or you can make your own. Many of us are uncomfortable sharing personal information with others, but , if you can find a trusted person who will keep you accountable, it can do wonders for meeting your goals.

4. Celebrate your achievements.

It is crucial to not only set goals, but also to reward yourself when you achieve them. Depending on your personality and your goals, you can either give yourself a small daily reward or promise yourself a larger reward at the end of the week, month, or year.

It can be hard to think of rewards, so I will offer a few productive examples.

  • At the end of each week, if you meet your writing goals, catch up on one of your favorite TV shows.
  • At the end of the day, if you meet your fitness goals, call one of your friends and catch up.
  • At the end of the month, if you meet your financial goals, allow yourself a small splurge such as downloading a movie or getting a fancy coffee.

5. Make your goals a priority

It would be very difficult to make fitness, money, and writing goals your priority at the same time. For this reason, I would suggest thinking about one area of your life and deciding where you want your priorities to be. In what area are you most committed to change?

I have made different areas of my life priorities at different times. Prior to going to graduate school, my priority was to travel the world, learn new languages, and have a great time. To meet my goal of traveling the world, I worked as a waitress, and saved nearly all of my tips.

Once I began graduate school, as a new mother of twins in a very low-income household, I had to track every penny we spent to make sure we could pay rent at the end of each month. My financial goals were to avoid getting into debt, and I made that a priority.

When I was lucky enough to secure a tenure track job at a research university, I made writing my top priority, as I was sure I wanted to be in academia, and I wanted to build a solid case for tenure.

Now that I have tenure, I continue to write. It still is a priority, but writing has become such a habit that I no longer need all of the mechanisms I once had in place to make sure that I made progress on my writing projects. This has allowed me to focus on other areas of my life. With three children headed for college, I have to think about saving for their education – thus bringing me back to examining my finances. As I just turned 40, I have also realized that my body is not getting any younger, and it is important for me to pay attention to my fitness.

Over the past month, I have recommitted to my fitness goals. It was actually through this process that I saw the parallels and was inspired to write this post.

Finally, I know it has been a while since I have posted here. One of the reasons for this is that I have been focused more on writing opinion pieces. I also have just finished writing a textbook called Race and Racisms that has taken up quite a bit of my time. You can check out the website for that here.

I am grateful to all the readers of this blog and hope to post here more often.