Inspiring aspirations

I love the start of a new year. There’s something delicious about the beginnings of things – books, semesters, people – don’t you think? There’s also a lot to love about new year blog posts, and I want to share a few I’ve read recently that have kept me thinking.


On Patter, the wonderful Pat Thomson has a post on ‘to do’ lists:

The to do list is the quintessential way in which the potentially all day/all night academic work is managed. This is not to be sneezed at in today’s performative institutional environments. The to do list is a way to not only feel in control of the workload, but also to exercise control. The to do list can stave off that feeling of being overwhelmed, of being swamped.

The ‘to do’ list is a slow academic’s friend! This week my lists (I currently have three on the go) look like this:


I also have a list of deadlines on my whiteboard and some piles of papers with notes to myself on them. If I count the lists at home, I would include the family schedule on the fridge and the papers demanding action (school forms, bills, appointments).

What you see represented in the photo is a two-day week (Thursday is a public holiday for Australia Day) in January. This is arguably the quietest week of my year. At work, people are still greeting each other with ‘Happy New Year’ and, at home, school and extra-curricular activities have not yet started. My list system is not ideal nor (I suspect) sustainable. Pat Thomson’s solution – putting all of her lists into one notebook – may not work for me. But I would like to be more thoughtful about my to-do lists, and taking a photo is a good start. I love Pat’s notion of researching academics’  to-do lists, and am particular interested in the insights they offer on the blurring of work/home life, especially for those with young children in the intensive parenting stages.


Another resolution blog post I enjoyed came from the Doctoral Writing SIG, in which Claire Aitchison, Cally Guerin and Susan Carter articulate their writing goals for the year. Together they make inspiring points that emphasise:

  • keeping a record of learnings from the previous year
  • the importance of planning while making space for serendipity
  • the pursuit of new ideas, theories and methods
  • the value of maintaining productive co-writing relationships
  • and finding pleasure in writing.

I have not yet articulated specific goals or plans for the year – for writing or otherwise. In the past I may have felt uneasy about this, but I am taking it slowly. I was fortunate enough to return to Billabong Retreat with colleagues last week and participated in a wellness workshop. We focussed on feelings rather than goals in different areas of our lives: work, relationships, money, health etc. Instead of writing resolutions for the year, we wrote how we want to feel. In most areas of my life, I want to feel optimistic, calm and confident.


Rebecca Gelding wrote a post that resonates on many levels: If you think you can’t, you’re right. On the anniversary of her father’s death, she describes a layered complexity of feelings – grief, pride, doubt, fear – about parenting, PhDing and the state of the world. Instead of resolutions, she has one word for 2017:

I haven’t been able to compress my feelings for the year into one word, but I shared on Twitter the three word directive my Associate Dean has given me for the year:


7 thoughts on “Inspiring aspirations

  1. How timely! I have just returned from a month-long overseas trip and started to plan my work and study goals for the year. Although I attend to my feelings in the monthly formative evaluations of my PhD progress, I have never thought of setting myself emotional goals. Looks like 2017 is going to be a different kind of year.


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  6. I adore January – even though I am now retired I still have a lot of commitments so I love this month of being free of them, of the quietness on the roads. I love the things I do, but I am starting to feel a little “here we go again” as February comes around.


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