The performance review

It’s here. Another ‘performance and development review’. It’s another chance to reflect on what I achieved at work and what I left behind, and why. And another chance to think about what I want to be and do, and how I am going to get there. Where did the last year go???

Over the past few years, I have been really fortunate to develop a number of research networks and work with several very, very talented people. As a result, I have a relatively high number of research projects on the go, and papers in various stages of development:

PDR table

[The colours denote the type of output: green = 4* journal; blue = 3* journal; orange = 2* journal; no colour = other (e.g., book); The 4*, 3*, and 2* classification follows the ABS journal ranking system]

These are all great projects. I am excited about every single one of them and I think that they all deserve to see the light of the day – but that will only happen if I am very focused and productive. Does that mean that I will be blogging less?

Well, funnily enough, I don’t think so. I find that blogging has helped me to develop reading and writing skills that transfer into academic writing. For instance:

  • I read more because I want to sustain my goal of posting at least once a week;
  • I read from a wider variety of sources because I do not want to ‘bore’ you with narrow views;
  • I look for connections between what I am reading and what I have read elsewhere (in my mind, I visualise those connections as hyperlinks, just like in a blog post) which helps me identify different sides of an argument in academic writing;
  • I am much more focused on the ‘so what’ of what I read, write and do, which helps me with productivity as well as with clarity of message.
  • I use down-time (e.g., when I am running) to plan the structure of a piece of writing. It  started with blog posts, but now I use this approach for conference papers and journal articles, too. This means that I have less instances of ‘staring down at a blank piece of paper’ or ‘writing and deleting’;
  • Through blogging, I developed a simple(r) writing style. Just a couple of years ago, one of my co-authors commented, in despair, that my sentences were too long and complex. ‘Go straight to the point’, she pleaded. I now use shorter sentences, more active voice and more direct arguments than I used to.
  • When I have asked for help with some aspect of my research here on the blog, you have been extremely generous. You have answered my questions, provided contacts, shared links… You have truly helped me. Thank you.

So, no. I am not planning to blog less. I may have more posts about the writing process, though. You see, I keep a research journal (offline) where I note down what I am working on, emerging ideas about the data that I am analysing, or how much time I am investing in the various stages of a research project. At the end of the month, I look back reflecting on progress, and I look ahead noting potential barriers to productivity and making plans to minimise them. I find this exercise extremely helpful. It’s like have a mini-performance review with myself, every month – warts and all 😉 I recommend it!

I am planning to blog more about the writing process itself. The only thing I am not sure is whether I should do it here, or set up a blog just focused on the process of writing, keeping this one focused on the content (e.g., research findings). My instinct is to keep it all in one blog – but I am worried that it will make this blog too broad and, hence, irrelevant. Do you have any views / advice on that?

7 thoughts on “The performance review

  1. Hi Ana,
    Wow, that looks like a great and filled pipeline of research. Also looks like you have a well organised tool to use.
    But, what I think is even more interesting, is how you feel that blogging has impacted your writing style in a positive way. That’s great.
    Also, as for starting a separate blog, I think you shouldn’t. It seems like this blog is about you and your work, and the writing is part of it. So it will stay relevant. As for being too broad: I think that with all the digital connectedness we have, the lines on some of our digital channels are blurring, and they come more to represent us, than just parts of us. Especially with blogs. I’m not sure how other do/see this, but I hardly go to ‘blogs’ anymore via the homepage. I see a new post from someone whose writing I’m interested in pop up in my rss-reader (as with this blog), on Twitter, or on Facebook (or occasionally another place). And based on the one sharing that link, the text surrounding it, and several other random factors, I decide to click the link and read the post, or not. Hence I will only read the posts on any blog that are relevant to me.
    When there’s a good option to follow reading another post on the same blog (one of those ‘you might also like’ pop-ups, or previous/related posts section, or links within the text) I might explore the blog further, or find posts I’ve missed. And in that way, you can surprise the readers that are more interested in the content of your research, with posts about the writing process – which they might think are not relevant to them, but actually are – or vice versa.
    Anyway, you are in my RSS-reader, and if you decide to start another blog somewhere else as well, I’ll probably add the feed for that one, too 🙂

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    1. Thank you, Arjan – you are very kind, as always.

      Yes, I am with you: I usually read the usual blogs through the RSS feed, and if I find a new blog that looks interesting it is less hassle for me to add it to the feed and remove it later (if needed) than checking every day.

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  2. I’m with Arjan on this: keep it in the same blog. I think the blog is about representing what you do – rather than just a part of what you do. Btw I love the overview of your projects!

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  3. Your performance review sure looks great. Look like you had a great year and I’m sure this year will even be better. I just did my performance review and I was just thinking to blog about it. Of course, mine is nothing spectacular like yours but it’s a good start for me since I’m still new in academia. Haha!

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