Goals for the new year

Jan 04 2016 Published by under Uncategorized

Happy New Year! 2015 was filled with changes, challenges, and successes too. I’m sure 2016 will bring much more of all of those, hopefully with the balance weighing toward the good. To ring in 2016 we will share with you some of our goals for the year ahead, and maybe you can share some of yours with us.


Since I’m expecting a baby in early 2016, this year will be all about new beginnings and balancing my new family life with work. Here are my goals, in chronological order:

  • Submit (and later probably resubmit) an application for a K99/R00 career development grant to NIH.
  • Have that baby!
  • Work with my partner to learn how to be good co-parents.
  • Work to be gracious (and not show annoyance) to my mom, who is giving us the amazing gift of coming to take care of the baby for several months as I transition back to work.
  • Find a way to transition back to work while maintaining time with/for family.
  • Balance work for myself (i.e. grant applications, preparing for my career transition) with work for my lab/boss – until now I’ve really focused on the former and I think it will be important to work more on the latter.
  • Apply for faculty positions next fall.
  • And all the while, listen to my body and take care of my sleep and health!


For me, it’s all about defining what’s attainable, setting goals, meeting those goals, and finishing my dissertation.

1. Time management

Set aside 5-10 to write down the goals for each day. Pause to check that the day’s goals are actually attainable. Break down into smaller chunks if goals are not attainable. Break goals into “writing/reading/thinking goals” and “lab goals”, and set up at least one from each category each day.

Set aside 15min on Monday to sketch out goals for the week, and 15min on Friday to assess the week.

Make note of how long all protocols actually take. Even jotting down times for each step will be useful.

2. Reward

Defining both “lab goals”  and “thinking goals” as describes above, then cross them off the list with gusto to help impart a small sense of accomplishment when the goals are met.

Save rewards, like going to get a coffee, for when a goal is met. Rather than going to the coffee shop to read a paper, read the paper, make notes on it, and then go get the coffee as a break.

3. Overcommitment

Write every appointment in the online calendar and paper calendar.

Avoid more than one appointment per day.

Limit meetings to 30min, 60min if necessary. Bring a timer and pretend you are in the middle of something (this is a good strategy for dealing with my boss).

4. Anxiety

Keep a running list of post-dissertation things (jobs, fellowships, programs, things to look into, articles to read. Look into these things on Sundays during nap-time. When you come across these things at other times, add them to the list for Sunday. Don’t get sucked in.


Due to my lack of discipline, I have never kept a New Year’s Resolution. In the last several years I have not even set one.

But this year my friend and an organizer of this blog suggested that I have one.  So here it goes:

Resolution #1:  Find a passion that can translate into a new career.

Step 1 of sticking to the resolution:  Do a Google search “How do I find a passion”

Resolution #2:  Lose 40 lbs, mostly for looks.  My friends, including the organizer of this blog, convinced me that is too unrealistic and to set the goal at 10 lbs.

Step 1 of sticking the resolution:  I downloaded an app to calculate my daily calorie intake. I stop eating once I go over my daily allowance.  I’m so hungry.

Resolution #3:  Publish a post for this blog on time.

Step 1 of sticking to the resolution:  Don’t schedule a post.


I like goal setting, but resolutions are hard for me because they tend to be less tangible; because of this, it is often hard for me to evaluate my progress towards reaching the particular goal. Mine this year is no different. Objectively, I love my new career and really feel like I’m making a difference as a high school teacher. A part of me is still unable to let go of what I perceive to be a drop in career “prestige.” In graduate school, I was awarded multiple fellowships, published papers and felt successful. I’m also a great teacher, but I don’t feel like saying “I teach high school” holds the same wow factor as “I’m working on my Ph.D. in Neuroscience.” I want to fully let go of this hangup, as I seem to be the only one that is unable to get past it.


Personally, I would like to keep working on appreciating the moment, and maybe start meditating.

Professionally, I would like to brush up on chemistry so I can better understand what’s going on in adjoining departments.


My number one goal for this year is to regain my confidence. I believe that I once felt like a competent person who would accomplish something in this world. Somewhere along the way a combination of career uncertainty and work environment has made me question whether I am good at anything. I know that this is not true and my goal for this year is to feel like this is not true. Any tips on concrete actions I can take to accomplish this would be appreciated.

My number two goal for this year is to try to enjoy the ride. Whether or not my work-life balance or my career is exactly what I want I have many good things in my life. My children will only be this age once and the two best things about my job are the flexibility and the intellectual stimulation, so stressing about what my future looks like is just not worth it.

2 responses so far

  • Pascale says:

    You need to read "I Know How She Does It" a wonderful study of time management of high-achieving mothers. It reflects how I juggled lab, clinical practice, and a home with spouse, two kids, and a cat.

  • Collheesi says:

    I love the "find your passion" goal. I think it's easy to feel the weight of all the work you've put in, combined with the monumental task of actually writing your dissertation near the end of your PhD. I do think it gets better once it's finally done and you can move forward. Husband's research is in neuroscience, so I'll keep my fingers crossed for you!

Leave a Reply