Tag Archives: organization

Mom, A.B.D.

As of October 3, I attained A.B.D. status. For the uninitiated, it stands for “All But Dissertation,” meaning that my only barrier to the Ph.D. is the dissertation. It’s a big deal (not as big as the Ph.D., but I’m right on target for my program, and that’s a positive thing), and I frequently get asked how I did it with a kid.

First, let me say, I have the most agreeable child in the world. He is very good at entertaining himself so I can write or grade, and he is patient to go to school with me to run errands. This was a major factor in my success. In addition to that, I have a very supportive spouse, who wants me to finish the program almost as much as I want to be done. He creates an environment that allows for me to write everyday and do my research.

Second, I am lucky to live near both my parents and my in-laws, who stepped up with alarming frequency to provide me with both study time, time to teach, and date nights. My mother-in-law is a constant saving grace because she watched E almost every day that I went to school. I seldom had to ask for help, because those around me knew what was involved and stepped up.

Still, getting it all done to this point (with or without children) wasn’t easy, so here are some tips:

1. Get and Stay Organized: To me, this is the key to all success. I’m a huge fan of a good planner, a sturdy binder, and lots of lists. Use what works for you. I can talk for days about my Moleskin weekly planner and monthly planner and how I would be lost without them. But if your phone calendar works better, by all means, use that. If you have little hands around, keep this stuff out of their reach. Don’t risk it.

2. Do YOUR Best: It’s very easy to get competitive in graduate school. In my program, it’s not worth it because we are all studying diverse topics, and by and large, we don’t compete for resources. My friend’s dissertation about women of science is in no way competing with my dissertation on corporate media. So, I just had to concentrate on doing my best work, not THE best work. It resulted in success for me because I was confident in my ability to perform quality scholarship.

3. Just Get It Done: It’s easy to have flexibility in the timeline of a graduate program. Barring serious issues (illness, death, etc.), try to stick to the fastest timeline. The longer you take, the more money you lose, either in tuition or lost employment. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I’ll just take one class this semester,” but if you can handle two, by all means, get it done.

4. Be Proactive: Have a back-up plan for everything. Save your work to Google Docs or a flash drive every day that you write. Have a babysitter on call or a way to take your kid to school with you if you are able. Don’t wait to register for classes, because if you can’t get the ones you need, you need to set up an independent study or readings course right away, which can be a challenge. Do not leave things to chance.

Now I’m continuing work on the dissertation, which is going well. I have numerous chapters in process, and I hope to be done in a year or so. I’ll try to take my own advice.

– The Lady Americanist

**This post is copied from my personal blog, but I felt it applied to both realms.

Carrying On.

I bet you thought this would be an inspirational post about persevering through adversity.

You would be wrong. I don’t write inspirational posts in that vein.

Until about a year ago, you could say I was terrible at packing for trips. The best example of this was my honeymoon. I bought the biggest suitcase I could find and filled it to the gills. It was almost half my body weight. Those who know me know that I am not a fashionista, nor am I terribly high maintenance in terms of my hair or make-up. I just wanted to be prepared. But for what? It was 3 nights of cruising followed by four nights at Disney World. I knew what to pack on both fronts, but I feared not bringing enough. It was unseasonably chilly in Florida that year, and I ended up wearing my one pair of jeans almost every day in the parks. I used about half of what I brought as a result.

Anyway, when I started attending conferences in graduate school, I realized that I needed to pack more efficiently. On my first multiple night conference as a Ph.D. student (PCA/ACA in D.C., 2013), I found I struggled with my luggage on the train (we had to change trains in Philly to get to D.C.; it was a challenging ride, to say the least). I brought way too much. The next long conference was to D.C. again, and I again overpacked. I thought the event was more professional dress, only to find that I was over-dressed. Oops.

Last year, I flew to Chicago for a conference that lasted 6 days and 5 nights. I’m a nervous flyer, and I didn’t want any issues with my baggage, so I committed myself to carry-on only. I managed to pack an outfit for everyday, plus my presentation outfit, PJs, shoes, toiletries, AND my camera bag in a carry-on suitcase. I also took a backpack for my laptop and such. I wore everything I took and my only regret was my shoe situation. I only packed Toms (which I wear everyday from March to November) and heels. Well, it rained the day we left and my Toms got soaked. They dried out fine and worked OK, but I wished I had a pair of back up flip flops or something.

When I packed for ASA in 2014, I was a seasoned packing vet, and I decided to share that advice with you (with pictures!)

Almost done packing!

1. Plan Your Palette.

This tip is perhaps the most helpful. Attempt to bring clothing and shoes that all coordinate, or at least mostly coordinate. I am a huge fan of navy, white, and grey, so that is what I tend to pack, with a few accent pieces in mint, coral, and yellow / gold. This allows you to re-use pieces if you need to, especially pants, shoes, and jackets, which take up a lot of space. It also prevents me from bringing too many scarves. I love scarves.

2. Minimize.

Get the tiny toiletries. If you can, use the hotel stuff. It’s not for everyone or every product, but it cuts down on bulkier items like soap. I put my hair products (wax and straightening cream) in a contacts case. It was more than enough, because I use so little, and took up very little room. If you are traveling with close friends or family, perhaps coordinate toiletries. On my Chicago trip, one friend was checking her bag, and she brought body lotion for everyone in our room.

This tip also applies to HOW you pack, not just what you pack. Use all the space in your suitcase. There are a lot of handy guides on Pinterest, and the best advice is to roll your clothing. Socks into shoes. I even roll my underwear. Not only is it a space saver, but it prevents wrinkles. Put things where ever they will go. My camera bag also houses my presentation cards (for conferences), tea bags, and hot chocolate packets (in a separate pocket and Ziploc bag, no worries).

With your personal item (backpack, purse) you can get a lot of use out of those items as well. If you have a lot of reading to do, just pack a Kindle or e-reader. It may not be your preferred method to get your reading list completed, but your back will thank you. Ditch the extension cord part of your computer cord. Take unnecessary things out of your wallet. Little things make a big difference!

3. Know the Itinerary.

Have a good idea of what each day holds. Perhaps you are going to a wedding, but know exactly what events are planned for each day. For conference trips, I know what day I present and coordinate my casual and presentation outfits accordingly. You won’t be caught off guard, and you’ll have just what you need. For ASA, I wore a lace skirt with a blue blazer. After the presentation, I ditched the skirt and went for a pair of khaki shorts. Plan outfits that go from day to evening (or presentation to sightseeing) easily.

My flying outfit: blazer, comfy but nice pants, t-shirt, scarf, and shoes that are easy to remove at security.

4. Civilization is Near.

Unless you traveling to a more remote locale, you are always near a mall, drug store, or grocery store if you forget something. No one wants to spend extra money on a trip, but it’s not the end of the world and you won’t spend as much as you would to check the bag.

I have some other items that I like to bring on trips. I always bring a soft purse that I can pack during travel, but that I can use once I get to my destination. I also bring a light blanket with me. It folds up small and is just the right size for a cold plane or train. It can also double as a pillow. I also travel with food. I like to snack and eat, but I hate paying for restaurant food all week at a conference. I especially recommend fruit leather, Cliff bars (good breakfast), peanut butter M&M’s, and any other small nosh. I request a fridge if it doesn’t come with the room, and I try to find a grocery store or CVS near by to get some yogurts and such once I arrive. It stores leftovers too!

Graduate school and conferences are expensive, but these are some simple ways to cut costs. The only thing you have to do now is control yourself at the book sale, and you’ll be OK for the ride home too. (And on the book sale? See if you can wait until the last day. Publishers don’t want to take everything home, so they offer much deeper discounts. At ASA, some sold all paperbacks for $5 or $10 and hardbacks for $10 or $15.)

Finally, enjoy the conference! It’s a professional trip, but they always present opportunities to see new things, meet new and fascinating people, and get effective feedback about your research.

– The Lady Americanist.