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LibParlor Contributor Reflection

New Year, New Research Resolutions

LibParlor Contributor, Lindsey Taggart, describes some best practices she is using in making a five-year research plan.

Lindsey Taggart is the Assessment and Collection Development Librarian at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. She previously worked as the Public Services Librarian at Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.

Now that 2017 has come to a close, it’s time again to trot out those New Year’s resolutions. I genuinely like hearing about people’s resolutions, although I’ve never been a resolution-maker myself. But! This year will be different! I’ve been in my first tenure-track job for over a year now, and it’s starting to sink in that I really and truly need to have a plan of action regarding research and publication. I became an academic librarian by way of public libraries, so I often feel like I’m playing catch up in terms of understanding the professional expectations of academia. Now that I’ve had some time to settle in at my institution and better understand the tenure requirements of my current position, I’m ready for resolutions. This year, I’d like to be more intentional about my research activities and be more organized in tracking my progress, deadlines, and opportunities for growth. Inspired by a recent purchase of a fancy new 2018 planner, I’m working on creating a yearly plan to help hold myself accountable.

Clean Slate: Lindsey’s New Planner

The 5-Year Plan

In scouring the internet for examples of librarian-focused tenure calendars and research timelines, I found Why You Need a 5-Year Plan and its follow-up post over at The Professor Is In. While this advice is geared towards Ph.D. students, I think it can be helpful for anyone embarking on a research project or looking to do some serious long-range visioning. Dr. Karen recommends the plan as a way to stay on top of deadlines, ensuring that you submit conference and funding proposals on time. The result? A stellar CV. As shown in the example, it can be something as simple as a 12×5 Excel spreadsheet.

For me, drafting a 5-year plan entails planning further ahead than I’ve ever planned in my life by, oh, about four years. I’m a Google Drive person at the moment, so I’m putting together some Docs and Sheets to see what works best for tracking purposes.

Here’s what’s going in my five-year plan:

  • Publishing opportunities: journals, newsletters, review sources, and blogs, along with their focus areas, general submission guidelines, and deadlines.
  • Local and national conferences: dates, cost, and proposal deadlines.
  • Workshops, programs, and other professional development opportunities: information on programs like ACRL Immersion and IRDL.
  • Grants, awards, and other honors: focus areas and deadlines for reporting and funding (be sure to include any internal deadlines regarding things like travel grants or professional development funds).
  • Institutional requirements: annual reviews or evaluations. If you’re in a tenure-track position, be sure to familiarize yourself with your institution’s tenure and promotion guidelines and timeline. This is a really helpful post from Bohun Kim including tips for compiling your tenure file.

A few things to keep in mind regarding the 5-year plan:

Expect change: We all know what happens to the best-laid plans. It’s impossible to predict how long certain project might take, when research might hit a snag, and what new opportunities might become available. Be sure to revisit the plan and make changes as needed.

“Give yourself plenty of time to do your research well.”

Be generous with deadlines: Something I’m still wrapping my mind around is the sheer amount of time required for research and publication. Take the IRB approval process: at my institution, it’s recommended to send in application 90 days prior to starting research. Then you’ll need time to conduct the research, write, and possibly go through a peer-review process. All told, your current research might not be published for a year or more. Give yourself plenty of time to do your research well.

“I know for many academic librarians, every semester is overwhelming”

Build in burnout buffers: Last night, while trying to find our copy of The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh for my toddler, I unearthed my dusty old planner from 2014. That year is a complete haze to me, and looking back through the months, I know why: I was working full time, finishing grad school, job searching, buying a house, and planning my high school reunion. This is no humblebrag (I’m reminded of a deeply relevant Seinfeld moment when George says, “You know, if you take everything I’ve accomplished in my entire life and condense it down into one day, it looks decent.”) This is to note that sometimes planning out a year (or five) in advance can help reveal times that could be especially hellish. I know for many academic librarians, every semester is overwhelming. I am very privileged to have institutional support in pursuing research and service, and in taking time away when needed. If you are able, and I know not everyone is, build time off into your 5-year plan. Prioritizing breaks like vacations, parental leave, and personal time can help balance out the intense times of year. (Check out Katlyn Griffin’s excellent LibParlor post for more on burnout.)

Planning is work, too: In a recent ACRLog post, Abby Flanigan provides really helpful advice for tackling “gooey”, long-term projects. She notes that taking time out to plan the steps and outcomes for a project is work—real work: “This was a revelation to me, as I had previously felt that unless I was producing something, I wasn’t really working.” I completely identify with this feeling. It can be tempting to dive right into projects, especially if you’re in a time crunch. But, as I’m slowly learning, this sort of prep work can ensure that you fully understand a project and are setting out in the right direction, before you spin your wheels with false starts. Banish the guilt and give yourself permission (and time) for strategic planning.

New Year, Same Me

The start of a new year brings the intoxicating promise of a chance to become your best self. It reminds me of the first day of school, when new pens and notebooks helped me feel like *this year* would be *my year*. Like Leslie Knope, there’s nothing I love more than jammin’ on my planner. Readers, my newest planner came with two sheets of stickers. GOLD stickers. However, I also don’t want my research to become just another ditched New Year’s resolution. In this regard, I’m especially haunted by the following tweet:

Tweet from Ashley C Ford that is quoting the following: "Morning. Remember before you buy 10 planners you won't use for 2018, what you're probably lackng is discipline, not organization"

I’m hoping to bolster my discipline level in a couple of ways. To start, I’m blocking out some time at the beginning of each week to review goals and priorities. I’m also looking at ways to connect with other researchers for some writing accountability. I’ve heard of other campuses holding write-in events, like the International Day of Writing, to provide a supportive, productive, and snack-filled writing environment. I wonder (a bit selfishly) if we could start one up at my institution. We have some great resources on campus—like the Writing Center and the Center for Teaching, Learning & Technology—that could be helpful partners, and Swarthmore College has a handy how-to guide for hosting a write-in. In the meantime, I’m challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and approach my library colleagues for feedback during my research, whatever the stage. I’m lucky to have a lot of talent and experience in my department, and I know that I could learn a lot by just reaching out. It’s a small step that I hope will keep me on track with my big goals.

Keep the conversation going:

  • What are your research-related or other professional goals for the new year?
  • Do you have advice, strategies, or tips for staying on track with your goals?
  • Are you a planner? Do you prefer paper, Google Drive, or apps like Trello or Wunderlist?

Featured image [CC0], via Pexels.

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1 comment on “New Year, New Research Resolutions

  1. Pingback: 8 Simple Ways to Kick Start Your Research in Grad School – hls

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