Repeat After Me: Be Cool. Be Helpful. Be Cool. Be Helpful.

I never get to say this to anyone — and I would NEVER say it to my students in so many words — but let me say it here, now. Just this once. Because if I don’t say it here, now, just this once, my head might explode and I might actually say it out loud — to a person — which would not be cool or helpful.

And I like to be cool and helpful.

(An aside: my college roommate once described me as true to my astrological sign, Cancer. She said, “Mel, you are totally like the crab. You gently and graciously sidestep around trouble and try to manage it with your thick exoskeleton and all through the crashing waves on rocky shores, but once you become fed up with it all, your claws SNAP and you pinch! Ouch!” She was totally right, and so I am mindful of this tendency. She also should have never taken my last Dr. Pepper right before finals; that was a mistake.)

Thanks to TimeMachine Sailing for the crab picture. It's like looking in a mirror.

So back to my point – I want, I need, to say this now.

Now: when there are only a few days remaining in the 11-week term.

Now: after several messages from me suggesting that you sit down and get some writing done.

Now: after I have offered up my time and support to help you map out an essay outline, brainstorm some ideas, find resources, read drafts, or create space in your schedule.

Now: after your repeated promises of meeting me half-way; of picking up the pace; of getting back on track; of getting your act together; of minding your p’s and q’s; of taking responsibility for your own learning; after your repeated but unfulfilled promises of all that.

Now: when your peers in our course who have been doing the work and participating all along also need my support.

Now: when there is a sudden (and dare I say convenient) announcement of a dead aunt; a sick dog; a mean boss; a crashed computer; a selfish spouse; a fever; a rash; a broken finger; a fever and rash on your broken finger; a cruel instructor in your other course; and a printer out of ink (all of which may be legitimate, but still, you have to admit that the timing of these announcements is interesting).

Now: that you’ve asked for an extension /  incomplete /  exception / anything-so-you-can-get-your-papers-in-late please please please please please!!!

Now. Right now.

Let me say it just once. Here it goes:


Thank you. I feel better.

Now: let’s talk so we can graciously figure out how to navigate the crashing waves and rocky shores together. I promise I won’t pinch. (Well, I promise I won’t pinch hard.) Because that would be neither cool nor helpful.


Nor Did Your Computer

Last week was the final week of Spring term, and as so often happens, a lot of the work of teaching carries over into this week.  What appropriate timing, then, for me to find this lovely gem from Indexed.

"Your dog never really ate any homework" from Indexed.

To my students: there may be a lesson here. I’m just sayin’.

Productive Procrastination

“Action expresses priorities.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi


And no.

I firmly believe in something I like to call “productive procrastination.”

Thanks to Emilie Ogez on Flickr for making this photo available for reuse!

Productive procrastination is about priorities.  It’s also about mindfully multi-tasking. And it can be done.

Productive procrastination is when I clean the shower while writing an article in my head, instead of actually writing the article on the computer. I sort ideas out as I spray and scrub; I consider the key point I want to make while I polish the shower handle.  I “clean” my thinking as I clean the window. I prepare. I pre-write.  It’s better than sitting in front of the blank computer screen contemplating where to begin. (Or surfing Craigslist for stuff I really don’t need.)

Productive procrastination is when I make cookies instead of grade papers. While I am mixing the dry ingredients with the wet, I think about the assignment criteria and what kind of feedback I want to provide to help my students move forward.  I prepare. I pre-write. It’s better than sitting with a stack of papers, wondering where to start, wondering what to say.

Productive procrastination is NOT going to a movie instead of planning the next departmental retreat. It is NOT zoning out in front of HGTV, plotting what color I should paint the bathroom for optimal light, instead of  … all the other things on my to-do list that I need to do.

Is productive procrastination a cop out? An excuse?

Nope! Not if I am actually being mindful. Not if my brain is actually working on something it needs to work on, while I am working on something I don’t. In other words, to a great extent I disagree with this guy.

The key word? “Productive.” When it’s no longer productive, then I need to get to the work that does need to be done; then my to-do list beckons.

What forms of productive procrastination do you participate in? And, ask yourself this: are they really productive?

Spring Into Service

One year ago…

Only a year ago…

A year ago I wrote a grant for AmeriCorps*VISTA funding through Oregon Campus Compact to launch the Marylhurst Service Program.

We received funding.

We posted the job description.

And we hired someone great!

And now, one year later, we are launching our first major campus-wide service activity, the Spring Into Service project.

April is Spring Into Service month at Marylhurst.

Please join us to raise awareness of and support for alleviating food insecurity in the state of Oregon and beyond.

Click HERE for details about how you can participate.

Many thanks to Amanda Baker for her great work on this project!

Prioritizing Your Priorities

Thanks to Christine's (TM) on Flickr for allowing this image to be shared!

Time management and the need for constant prioritization and re-prioritization seem to be perennial challenges for adult learners and instructors alike!

In another nifty post, my colleague and friend Harriet Schwartz from The Encouragement Lounge shares some fabulous  strategies for what you can do when you’re so overwhelmed you don’t even know where to begin:

Time Management – The Constant Challenge

I think I can add one:

#6:  Is there a way to combine tasks? For example, can you take the bus to work (or carpool) instead of driving so you can read that chapter for class this week?

Here is one strategy I use a lot, accordingly:  I practice a speech or workshop I need to give while walking my dog. He doesn’t seem to mind, and though he doesn’t always provide the most helpful feedback for improvement, he is generally a good listener.

What tips can you add?

Preparing Yet Another To Do List

Thanks to ebby on Flickr for making this image available.

I had just finished creating yet another to-do list with a million and one items on it (all to be done by yesterday), and then a colleague shared this quote in a meeting today:

Time is the only thing that is preventing us from getting everything done right away.

I have no idea who originally said it, but WOW — it hits the nail on the head!

What Can You Do Differently?

Thanks to Leo Reynolds for making this image available!

Thanks to Leo Reynolds for making this image available!

When adults come to or come back to college, I think many advisors and friends ask them this question:

So what will you give up?

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this because I am working with a group of students this term who have been asked this very question and are trying to figure it all out.

Having entered my doctoral program as an adult (I was 34, had a full-time job, family and community responsibilities and activities, and 2 cats and 1 dog, though at that time no kid), I asked myself the same question:

What will I need to give up in order to fit this educational work into my already busy life?

At some point, after experimenting with my schedule and, in fact, being sad about giving things up that I didn’t want to give up, I realized that the answer was nothing.


How great is that?

I truly believe that you don’t need to give up anything. What you DO need to do is think about what you can do differently.

My top three examples:

1) Instead of spending several nights a week trying to cook an interesting and healthy dinner for my family (something I truly enjoy doing), I decided that I could do this differently. So instead, I did this only on Sunday nights, and the rest of the week we improvised and pieced together meals. My husband still says: “A 2 burrito day is a good day indeed.” Tortillas, rice, beans, and some salsa can go a long way toward a quick and healthy meal.

2) I wanted to spend time with my husband and friends, but at first, I kept to my old schedule and then devoted all weekend to school work. After a while, I realized that wasn’t working so well, so instead of sacrificing an entire weekend to my studies, I got up 2 hours early every weekday morning to do school-related work before going to my job. By the end of the day I was tired anyway, so I spent that time with family and friends to refresh and reconnect (and go to bed early). I gave most of one weekend day to school work, but then allowed myself one full weekend day without. I still had plenty of time for family and friends and activities I wanted to do, and I managed to get my school work done as well. I figured out how to do “school time” differently.

3) Integration, to me, seems key. Instead of trying to separate tasks into time slots, I tried to integrate things. Instead of eating lunch at my desk, I walked or did yoga during my lunch time to integrate exercise into my work day. I also integrated my learning into my work — it was, after all, related. If I had a learning project to do, or a work project to do, I intentionally found a way to make them “learning/work” projects. Though I am not fond of metaphors that promote violence, I always tried to kill 2-3 birds with one stone (sorry, birds!). In my mind, this is different than multi-tasking; integrating is bringing disparate things together and finding connections. (It also made learning that much more meaningful — as I wrote about here.)

Do any of you have examples of doing things differently so you can, in fact, do it all? If so, I’d love to hear them!