Felienne Hermans, a Leiden University teacher started a series of postings about the mistakes she feels she made on the tenure track. I look forward to her reflections. In her kick-off posting she lists the mistakes she plans to look into, which I quoted below in full. Reading the list, there is much there I think that applies to life in general (e.g. 11, 12), being a professional (e.g. 3,4), being an entrepreneur (e.g. 6,8), and being an employer (e.g. 1,7, 10), not just the tenure track. Or at least by the looks of it, it matches my experiences in those roles.

So here, without any order or further ado is a list of mistakes I made on the tenure track, which I aim to all expand into blog posts over the next few weeks….

  1. I made no agreements with my direct supervisor on basically anything
  2. I had no real (concrete) research plan
  3. I had no system to track time
  4. I had no system to manage todo items
  5. I did not want to co-teach courses
  6. I took enormous risks spending time on irrelevant things (which *by sheer luck* turned out to be beneficial)
  7. I treated all students like they were mini-Felienne’s
  8. I had no system for managing ideas
  9. I had no system for managing research I read
  10. I did not spend effort on creating a group
  11. I did not understand personal factors in working with others (students and colleagues)
  12. I was not present enough in the university

(I met Felienne at the CoderDojoNL conference last November, where we both gave key-notes. Since then I read her blog.)

Austin Kleon blogs that in his diary writing he tries to start with writing down the best thing that happened yesterday. Calling it ‘cheerful retrospection‘ Judging by his post he writes his diary by hand.

For the past 3 years I have had a survey hosted on my laptop to do self reflection. It contains that same question. When I started using the survey, which I named self-pni, I wrote that the survey has

three distinct question blocks. A block asking questions about what happened during the day and stood out, and why it stood out for me. A block with more mindfulness oriented questions on how I felt in the here and now. A block about my current outlook. All in all a mix of qualitative and quantitative elements.

The survey hasn’t changed in 3 years, but I also haven’t used it much either. Long periods go by without filling it out. Only when I feel stressed or otherwise feel there’s something that needs to change, it is that I return to the survey. I also as yet haven’t tried to do anything with the database, other than browsing my responses occasionally. I know from others that for them part of the benefit of asking those questions of themselves lies in doing it in handwriting on paper. Writing it down brings an impact even if you don’t look back at it at all they report. For me answering the questions without ever looking in the database has effect as well: it makes me stop and reflect. I imagine writing it out takes a bit more time, and makes that ‘stop and reflect’ moment longer.