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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

If you have left your

If you have left your own country to train, on yourre-entry you may go from being a trainee to beinga leading expert in your field, or you may comeback and find yourself relatively low in the peckingorder among the trained scientists at your institution.Before you even have a chance to set upyour own lab, you may be pulled away by travel,sitting on panels, or advising other colleagues.Similarly, if you have trained in your own countryand now have been promoted to new responsibilities,or moved to a new institution, you will facenew challenges.Many returning scientists come home to substantialdemands from extended families who havemade large sacrifices and have placed great hopein their success. The needs of parents, siblings,grandparents, aunts, uncles, and communitieswho have made such an investment in one’scareer are very important, but these needs canalso create large time demands. In the end, tryingto build a successful career at the expense of thethings that make life worthwhile does not work.Even though you will have to work very hard whenyou are an early career scientist, you also need topreserve time and energy for the other things thatare important to you.Finding ways to manage all of these demandscan be a challenge for a scientist starting out in acareer. This chapter discusses planning strategiesthat are critical for successful time management,such as defining long- and short-term goals andsetting priorities. Tips for day-to-day time managementare also presented. The chapter also offersguidance on managing institutional committeeservice commitments, balancing research andteaching, and juggling the demands of home andwork. In addition, it covers some issues specificto physician-scientists, who may also need to bespending considerable time in the clinic and maybe called on frequently to help family and friendsget appropriate health care.Strategies for PlanningYour ActivitiesDefining GoalsPlanning is a process that starts with a goal. Onceyou have set a goal, you can identify the stepsnecessary to move toward it. Goals come indescending sizes, each of which informs the next:long-term goals (years), intermediate-term goals(months), and short-term goals (weeks and days).Long-term goals are likely to be a combination oftangibles (e.g., promotions within your institute,service to the government, service at a high levelto an international organization such as the WorldHealth Organization or the Pan American HealthOrganization) and intangibles (e.g., a satisfyingpersonal life and the various milestones thatdefine such a thing for you) that may change overtime, making goal-setting an ongoing process thatyou should revisit periodically. In defining yourlong-term goals, you are also defining yourself—who you want to be, and how you want to beperceived.Intermediate-term goals, such as publishing apaper, are often composed of many short-termobjectives, such as preparing figures and writingtext. Short-term goals are the ones written onyour weekly and monthly calendars—the small,concrete, finite tasks that can swallow your time.Getting from Here to ThereTake the time to craft a formal plan, beginningwith your long-term goals. Then set interim goalsalong the way that are realistic indicators ofprogress. By setting achievable goals, you avoidhaving too much to do and not knowing where tobegin. Accomplishing just one goal can serve as apowerful motivator to tackle the next goal.Write down all of your goals, with each achievementtied to a specific time frame. Putting yourideas into words can help refine your thinking andprovide a concrete checklist to keep you on target.Every so often, take a look at your plans, reflecton them, and revise them as appropriate to changingcircumstances. Priorities shift; be prepared toreevaluate yours, but also to defend them.72 excellence everywhere

Check your work: the 90-year thought experimentImagine how old you will be at the end of your life, if you are lucky and healthy. Now think backward.In other words, what do you want to be able to see when you look back at your life at age 90? What willyou need to be doing in your life at age 80, 70, 60, 50, 40, 30 for that dream to come true? What needsto be true about your life and your career this year, or ten years from now, if you want to be on track tobe the person you picture yourself to be at 90? If what you are doing today does not get you there, howcan you change course a little (or a lot) to make sure you achieve what you want to achieve? If yourtrack clearly leads away from your vision, does this tell you that what you think you want to be doing at90 is not really what is right for you? Or does it tell you that what you are doing today might not be yourheart’s desire? How can you prepare yourself and those around you for a life that may lead you somewherequite different from the common assumptions? Or if you want a life much like those of yourparents and grandparents, how can you make science fit into that tradition?Lifetime goalsAt the end of your life, looking back, what do youwant to see? Accomplishments? Wealth? Happy,healthy great-great-grandchildren? It is importantto check in with yourself now and then to makesure that the things you are chasing are really theones you want to catch.Long-term goalsThese goals can be achieved in three to five years.Before jotting down your long-term plans, first askyourself where you want to be after this stage inyour career. For example, if you are training in aforeign lab, do you plan to return to your homecountry or remain abroad? If you wish to remainabroad, for how long? A lifetime? A career?Until you are well-established? At what type ofinstitution? At a research-intensive institution?At a university much more dedicated to teachingstudents than to doing research? At a governmentministry? An international organization? When youhave those answers, then ask yourself, “What willI need to accomplish to make myself competitivefor that job?” If you are an assistant professor, youprobably want to work toward promotion. “Whatwill I need to do for that—how many papers,invited seminars, professional meetings, and otheraccomplishments?”Intermediate-term goalsThese goals can be achieved in six months to ayear. For example, you might be thinking aboutthe experiments needed to complete your nextpaper or to put together a poster. Completingpublishable chunks is an essential intermediatetermgoal for faculty. Other goals of similar scopeinclude obtaining preliminary results for a grant,putting together a new course, or organizing ascientific meeting.Short-term goalsThese goals can be achieved in one week to onemonth. They include preparing figures for thepaper you are writing, completing an experiment,preparing reagents for the next set of experiments,or writing letters and making phone callsto secure a seminar invitation. If you find it hardto get organized, make a daily or weekly to-do listand check tasks off as you complete them.managing your time73

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