Joanna Arch on Disciplined Time Tracking, Grant Writing, and the Blending of Passion and Profession

Dr. Joanna Arch is an associate professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is also a member of the Cancer Center in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. Her research initially focused on anxiety disorders, but she’s recently added a focus on cancer patients. Being married to an oncologist and having a personal interest in existential issues helped her embrace her initial reservations about entering work on cancer, which can be very emotional and challenging. Once she braved the waters, though, she found increased meaning, drive, and satisfaction in her work.

An avid runner and trained as a classical musician, Dr. Arch understands the power of discipline, and she brings structured discipline to her work day. In today’s episode, you’ll hear how Joanna stays focused and maximizes her time at work, whether it’s with students, in the lab, or writing grants.

Speaking of grants, her favorite part of writing grants and papers is — wait for it — editing. The hardest part for her is getting started. When it comes to grants, she’s tasted both success and failure, and she understands that rejection is just part of the grant-application game. That said, she’s determined to learn from each failure, each bit of criticism, every line of feedback. She’s also keen on recognizing her own weaknesses and getting help when needed.

In this episode, you’ll learn…

  • How things changed for her about a year ago after she received tenure
  • How she stays healthy and productive as a faculty member
  • About the “zone of genius” and how Dr. Arch monitors her time and plans her week
  • How to stay connected to your purpose and avoid burnout
  • How to deal with rejection in academia
  • Her grant writing tips
  • How Dr. Arch transitioned her career from a focus on treatment of anxiety to including psychological issues unique to cancer patients

Tips from the episode

On structuring and tracking time to increase productivity…

  • Use an Excel spreadsheet to track every minute of the workday
  • Review tallies at the end of each week
  • Brain dump at the end of each week and create a list of what you want to accomplish in the coming week
  • Schedule small tasks for when you’re a passenger in transit
  • Create writing goals and block/schedule writing time
  • Track your mood throughout the day to understand what tasks most light your fire and then plan accordingly

On writing and applying for grants

  • Understand that applying for grants is a hyper-competitive space and have realistic expectations about the odds
  • Be responsive to feedback
  • Don’t give up. Keep hitting.
  • When a paper is rejected, write responses (for yourself) to each point made by the reviewer, even if you aren’t going to resubmit to that journal
  • Be honest about your weaknesses and get help in those areas
  • Break down the writing process into small parts

Links from the episode:

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