Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Getting a Vision

[When I first wrote this post, I hadn't yet begun drafting my dissertation. As I look back on it now, I realize that I could make this vision-casting exercise a monthly activity. Enjoy!]

Over at Get a Life, Phd, Tanya Golash-Boza offered a super helpful post on having a vision a while back. As a grad student entering the dissertation phase of my degree program, I was a little overwhelmed at the idea of thinking about my vision for five years from now, let alone the overall vision for my career.

But when I sat down the other day and tried to write my way through the different levels of understanding my professional vision, I found that I was not only able to articulate my vision for the next five years, but also that doing so was extremely reassuring. I found that I could avoid putting things off due to that old feeling of, "well, everything is so big that I just don't know where to start."

Here's what I sketched out according to Tanya's plan (overall vision, five year vision, semester plan, weekly plan, daily work):

Overall Vision
I'm not totally sure about the overall vision for my career yet. Do I want to be a full-time professor, an administrator, president of the MLA, a 9-5 teacher, a big-time scholar, head of some think-tank, curriculum designer? I'm just not quite sure.

5 Year Vision
My five year vision is much easier. Seeing how I still have at least one full year left in graduate school, and seeing how the job market is so tough right now, my goal for five years from now is simply to be in a tenure-track job.

Semester Plan
If I'm ever going to get a tenure-track job, I have to have a phd in hand, so to that end, my goal this semester has been, and continues to be, to get my prospectus finished and approved. I need to be ABD and writing my first chapter by the end of the semester. I also have a conference paper to present the last weekend in May, so I'm working on that in bite-sized reading/writing sessions each week.

Weekly Plan
Knowing my semester plan makes my weekly plan easy at this point: I'm working on the prospectus! But with an eye toward the 5-year plan, I'm also working on an article and trying to be the best teacher I can be, as both my research and teaching will play into my success on the job market.

Daily Work
With those weekly plans in front of me, my daily activities are no-brainers: I've got to take each of these projects on one small chunk at a time, one chunk per day. So, this morning, I've already done an overhaul reading of my most recently-completed prospectus draft, and sent it off early to my committee chair. Now, I'm taking a short break with this blog post, and I'm getting ready to start rereading one of the primary texts I'll be working with in my first chapter. I'll take a 2 hour lunch break at 12pm, and then work on more diss. reading and my article this afternoon from 2-5pm. Tomorrow I'll teach and hold office hours (during which I'll plan for teaching and meet with students), and then work on the article/conference paper from 2-5pm while I wait to hear back from my committee chair on the prospectus draft.

This whole crazy process is not only doable, it can be enjoyable! Thanks, Tanya!!

Try getting your own vision today? If you had the choice, where would you be 5 years from now? Now, work backwards from there like I did and see what you need to be doing this week.

What kinds of visions are out there? Feel free to use the comment stream to share the results of getting your own vision.


  1. Looks good! I am still working on my long-term vision over here...

  2. Yeah, it's not something that comes easily, but I think it's so necessary to avoid feeling like we're spinning our wheels on a daily basis.

    thanks for your amazing blog!

  3. It's funny, I just discovered that I have a very detailed overall vision but am not really sure what the 5-year vision is beyond getting tenure within 4 years.

    Hmm. Something to think about.

  4. @Clarissa- It's awesome that you have a solid long-term vision. Getting to a place where you can think beyond 4-5 years seems difficult to me.

    The detail of the 5-year vision is mostly the point here because when you know where you want to be in the long term it can, perhaps ironically, keep you from feeling like you don't know what to do today.

    Thanks for jumping in!

  5. Nice work! This funneling process reminds me of Leo Babauta's suggestions in _The Power of Less_: choose one goal that should take 6 months to 1 year to complete, break that into subgoals that take 1-2 months to complete, then weekly goals and daily actions. This is what I used when I was doing comps and dissertating. The big goal was to graduate, so I worked on sub-goals like, finish the prospectus, etc. I think these methods work because you know where you are going, but you just focus on one manageable task at a time.