Looking Back

In my last post I wrote about the challenge of making resolutions that we can actually keep, rather than setting ourselves up for failure.

It is key, when setting goals, to take stock of what you have or have not done well. This isn’t an all-or-nothing examination—you didn’t fail by not getting an article accepted, for instance, as you have no control over the peer review process. But if you never submitted one, well, that is an area where you might seek to improve in the future.

Looking back and taking stock of what you did well, what needs work, what areas you never even touched is key to developing your resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. I mentioned in the last post that we tend to create lofty resolutions that sound great but are rather difficult. Instead take the time now to think about your previous goals and what you could have done better to reach them. Be specific—perhaps you wrote a draft of an article but never edited it, or perhaps you committed to writing three book reviews, which you did, but you were not able to make the time to work on your own research, teaching, or that chapter that is due rather soon…Don’t forget that you are a whole person, too, and your goals should not just focus on work. What did you accomplish in your personal life? What still needs your attention? Perhaps you made it to yoga twice a week all semester, or ran your first 5k or marathon. Celebrate those accomplishments! Likewise Did you spend the time with your family that you wanted to? Hike those trails? Visit those bourbon distilleries?

Make sure you take the time to think about what you did well, too, and to recognize and celebrate those achievements, no matter how small. Remember also to think about what you have control over in the steps associated with each goal—you do not control peer review, you do not control the administration or the grant or tenure committee, or the job search committees—and try to let those parts go. Stressing over them does nothing but cause you stress. (In the famous words of Aaron Burr via the musical Hamilton [“Wait for It”], “I am the one thing in life I can control.”)

Write these down—a list of areas that you need to work on and what you did very well, and recognize where you have no control. Put it aside for a day or two, and then return to it. Were you specific? Can you see areas that need improvement? This will be the basis of your future resolutions.

So before you commit to any resolutions for the new  semester/summer/sabbatical, take the time to review what you did well and where you need to focus your time and energy.

An academic’s schedule has numerous natural starting and ending points (e.g. fall term, spring term, summer) throughout the academic year. Each of these points should be considered a place to stop, take stock of what we have done well and what we can improve, where we were too ambitious in our goal-setting (or not ambitious enough!).

I’ll continue to develop and expand upon these ideas in the next few posts, covering:

  1. Looking Back (this post)
  2. Recognizing and owning your worth
  3. Developing a SMART plan
  4. Organizing your time

Blog post originally published here at shaynasheinfeld.com.

Developing Effective Resolutions

I am suspicious of new year’s resolutions—according to the research of Prof. John C. Norcross (the University of Scranton), 45% of Americans make new year’s resolutions. According to US News & World Report, 80% of new year’s resolutions fail by February, and only 8% of resolutions are kept through the entire new year.

Have you ever made a new year’s resolution? One reason I think that we want to make new year’s resolutions is an underlying dissatisfaction with the way things have been. Perhaps we didn’t exercise as much as we would like (or at all), or didn’t eat well, spent too much money, didn’t spend enough time with family and friends. As academics these resolutions also often include our desire to write more, to write better, to be a better teacher, to craft more effective assignments, to get a job or to switch jobs or to get a grant or…the list can be endless.

The problem with resolutions such as these is that they are often hard to quantify—how do you force yourself to write more? How do you make a place hire you?—and lead to making us feel like we are not worthy of our goals and our positions, that if only we were to work harder we could get what we wanted.

In other words, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

This isn’t just a problem in terms of not achieving these resolutions we set for ourselves, but it is a problem in terms of recognizing that we are individuals who are worthy and deserving of successes, of having the space and time to slow down and not work all the time, of having meaningful relationships with family and friends, of being allowed to fail and to learn from that process without it reflecting on our self-worth.

In the next few posts I will propose a more productive and holistic approach to setting, reviewing, and reaching goals. I’ll cover:

  1. Looking Back
  2. Recognizing and owning your worth
  3. Developing a SMART plan
  4. Organizing your time

As we move into the spring  semester, I wish you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year.

Originally posted at: https://www.shaynasheinfeld.com/blog/developing-effective-new-year-s-resolutions


Ali, S. (2018). Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201812/why-new-years-resolutions-fail

Luciani, J. (2015). Why 80 Percent of New Year’s Resolutions Fail. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2015-12-29/why-80-percent-of-new-years-resolutions-fail

Norcross JC, Vangarelli DJ. (1988–1989). The resolution Solution: longitudinal examination of New Year’s change attempts. Retried from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2980864

Are you a Woman or a Minority?: Good luck landing that job

I don’t mean  to be the bearer of bad news…but in reality, this study in the Harvard Business Review simply sums up what those of us who identify as women or in a minority category already know: there is implicit bias against us on the job market. In fact, if there are four finalists and three are white men, well, whether #4 is a woman or a minority, you have statistically 0% chance to get that offer.

I think it’s time for a new paradigm in academia, don’t you?


SMART goals and starting the semester

The past few weeks have been busy with packing, a move, and now unpacking and getting adjusted to my new home in Muncie, Indiana. I am mostly unpacked, books are out, and it’s time to get back to my projects. Today is my first day “back” at work, although both today and tomorrow I’m starting out with low expectations. This is key: knowing that when you come back to work after some kind of change—whether moving, having, adopting, or fostering a new child, being on sabbatical, marriage/divorce, even coming back to teaching after the summer—that it will take a little time to adjust. Be generous with yourself. Recognize that you will not be able to work at full-steam the first few days, and, as always, set S.M.A.R.T goals:

  • S: specific
  • M: measurable
  • A: attainable
  • R: relevant
  • T: time-bound

In other words, your goals should not look like this:

  • Finish writing and submit my article on patriarchy in 2 Samuel

But should instead be S.M.A.R.T.:

  • Today I will: Read through my article and make a list of all the things I need to do work on
  • For the 5 work days I will: tackle 1-2 items on my list each day for the article (as I adjust to the fall semester teaching schedule)

As you can see from these examples, these sample goals are S.M.A.R.T:

  1. They are Specific: I know what I need to do today and what I need to do during the following 5 work days.
  2. They are Measurable: Did I accomplish them in the time frame I set out? If no, why not? Was I too ambitious? If so, could I have accomplished more?
  3. They are Attainable: These goals are not overly ambitious, such as “finish article,” but are specific tasks that I can work to attain each day.
  4. They are Relevant: If my ultimate goal is to finish and submit my article, then these specific goals are relevant in order to reach that ultimate goal.
  5. They are Time-Bound: I am only setting goals for the next week or so, and therefore I set smaller goals: make the list, do 1-2 things on the list per day. These kinds of goals keeps in mind that I have other responsibilities (and in this particular case, that I need to be generous with myself as I adjust to a new schedule!).

Ultimately, being generous with yourself and your time, and setting S.M.A.R.T. goals go hand-in-hand. Both will lead to greater productivity in your writing, your research, your teaching, or whatever other endeavor you are currently working on.

Wishing you a Happy Beginning to the New Semester!


There have been some recent changes to my work and home life, and a few more expected in the near future. If one of my clients would come to me to ask about how to handle some changes, whether a move (for work or personal situation), an adjustment in the family structure (e.g. marriage, new baby, fostering or adoption, high-needs child, kids going off to college, divorce,  or taking on care of aging parents), change in schooling or finances, or any other number of situations that could come up, I would tell them to be generous with themselves, with their time. Recognize that you will not get as much done or be as productive, even when some of that time is spent processing (in academic terms, this is often incorrectly identified as “doing nothing”). As a freelance writing support mentor, I know that these changes affect your ability to concentrate, to produce, and to process at higher levels and therefore that you need to adjust your expectations of what you can accomplish. All of this is true.

It is harder, of course, to implement this kind of generosity in myself as I go through a major move, and career and schooling transitions. I am trying to remind myself to be generous, to not judge or to mentally berate myself. It is hard. This is why it is so important to have a writing support mentor, someone else who can remind you when your expectations are unrealistic and should be toned down, but also someone who can help you find the place during your transitions when it is time to up your game again.

If you’d like to work with me as a writing coach/support mentor, or for freelance editing, e-mail me at: shayna.sheinfeld@gmail.com.