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Taking Advantage of the 10%

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What is the 10%? It is the allotment of time that, according to my job description, should be devoted to:

“Actively contribut[ing] to digital scholarship in the fields of History and Library and Information Science to offer insights about new modes of scholarly communication.”

I’ll be honest, it has felt impossible to make room in my schedule for this, and I haven’t.  Really, 10% of a 40 hour work-week is not much. It’s only 4 hours, but it with most days filled with back-to-back meetings and classes, that time has been hard to find. It’s not quite Google’s “20% time” policy, but it’s at least something, and it’s absolutely crucial to staying up to date in a fast-moving field and doing my job well.

Last semester I didn’t have this time, and by the end of it, I was burned out and exhausted.
Last week, for the first time in a very long time, I made time for that 10%. Am I completely caught up on email? Have I checked everything off my to-do list? No. But the important thing is that even if I hadn’t taken those 4 hours for R&D, I still wouldn’t be all caught up.  The other important thing to know about this week was that it was busy. This was not an easy week to carve out time. I had a large grant proposal due, taught a 2-hour graduate seminar, a workshop on Omeka, spent most of Thursday in an all-day interview with a job candidate, and had several appointments away from work. If I could make time during this crazy schedule, I proved to myself that I could make time in just about any week.
So what did I do with that 10%? At the risk of outing myself… I’ve felt a little behind the curve in DH and have been anxious to improve my coding chops, try topic modeling with MALLET, and brush up on graph theory and its connections to network analysis. Even though I’m finally post-Ph.D., I still can’t do everything all at once.  A crushing realization! So I started with the command line. Yes, I have much to learn, but I’ve made a start! I completed Ian Milligan and James Baker’s excellent tutorial on Programming Historian on both my Mac and PC, then moved on to “Preserving Your Research Data” and “Counting and Mining Research Data with Unix.” This all began as an exercise to prepare to do some topic modelling now that I have some projects for which this methodology makes sense. It has certainly done that, but it has also re-energized my academic work as I complete my book proposal and prepare for further research.

Instead of feeling burdened by “the overwhelm”, I was able to maintain my energy and enthusiasm for my work every day this week.

And I’m finally augmenting my DH skills. Just knowing that I’m addressing some of the gaps in my skill set has taken the teeth out of the imposter syndrome that crept into my self-perception this past semester. That feels good too.
[Written: 2/13/2016]

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