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Tall Chai Latte


We arrived at another Monday. Before it leaves us, I would like to take a moment to reflect what happened today.

Today started out as a fairly typical day. I ran into my boss in the hallway and asking her whether an individual meeting was scheduled as usual. She replied yes, so I showed up at her office. The meeting came down as we were not on the same page, with this week being the third week in a roll. I felt like I was speaking calculus while she was saying greek. She insisted on whatever she stated was indeed what we decided to do at the end of our meeting last Monday, while I heard completely different story and told her straight up "this was not what we talked about". I ended up ordering the wrong reagent and she thought I "was not listening".

I didn't walk out of the meeting happy, and it was written all over my face. I was also totally confused on what exactly did we talk about last time, and what is expected of me for next time. The unhappy mood lasted more than half of the day today because I felt I was misunderstood. Good thing was, boss didn't let her temper rolling out of control, which had happened before to someone else. She quickly reverted back to a more cheerful tone, we discussed an idea I plan on pursuing, and that was all.

I suppose these are chances for a grad student to mature and grow. One can learn how to let go of the negative emotions quickly, how to think positively, and come back tomorrow to try again. I can see this time around, the negative emotion affected me less, and I was back to my old self soon after sipping on some hot milk tea at 3pm.

Let's try again, tomorrow.


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Also, do you take notes at the meetings? Maybe you can write things down and spare a minute or two at the end for your advisor to look over them. Then she can clarify any misconceptions / ambiguities.


I think communication is something you can practice and be strategic about. Good luck! :)

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Take notes throughout the meeting and clarify everything at the end by repeating it. This way, you make sure you understand it, and she is held to whatever you agree was said. I do this with my advisor meetings, and it helps back me up in situations like that.

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For some advisors and/or for some situations, I find it helpful to write an email to my advisor before after each meeting, saying like "Thanks for meeting with me today. I am going to do X, Y, and Z now as we discussed" etc. That way, the prof can correct me if I misunderstood and we're all on the same page. Also, emails like this sometimes also help you keep your own informal/formal log of what you are doing, why you decided certain things, which might be helpful later on in the experiment.


Sometimes I also write up longer email descriptions of current results and questions and send them to my advisor before a meeting to discuss the very same. These emails are pretty helpful summaries for myself too and I cut out and paste some of these emails directly into my "lab" notebook!

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I've been taking notes during meetings whenever possible or right after otherwise, for about 2 years now. This is mostly for me to remember everything that was said, but it's helpful for everyone that I can go back to things that we said a long time ago and look at them again. I use workflowy, which also allows me to search my notes and save them hierarchically with an online backup. For some things, I share my notes with the relevant professor, though most of the time they don't have the time to look so it's just for me to have a record of the meeting. 

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Hey guys, thanks for the replies! I have been writing meeting notes and emailed them to her the day after our individual meetings. If she has something else to add to what we discussed, she could reply to the meeting minutes email, and I'd have the comments in writing.


I also found workflowy useful too. The only thing is I can't have multiple documents because I'm using the free version... Fuzzy, do you pay for yours?

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No, I gave out a few referrals when I was just starting out and now I have more than enough free space for a month, so I don't need to pay. I was close to the limit the first couple of months when I was creating my lists and adding lots of stuff, but since my lists have stabilized I probably add a few dozen new entries a month and that's it. I use this now for everything, including my grocery list, to-do lists that are private and also joint with professors and co-authors, events I'd like to go to with friends, conference deadlines, application deadlines for jobs (my professors really appreciated that one, btw), etc. I like it that I am able to break my tasks down into smaller items, and that I can cross them out when they're done but still keep them visible in my list for documentation purposes.


... OK, I checked just for fun (and because I need to be writing and this is a useful form of procrastination) and it says: 


 You've used 273 of 15250 monthly items.


So, yeah. This was a pretty slow month, I've mostly been working on just one project (=a dissertation chapter!), which is unusual for me. But still. That's why I didn't post a link with my referral info here. Maybe someone else can benefit from doing that, it'd be overkill for me. 

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Agreed about the taking notes. But, rather than sending minutes (those get long so people skim or skip), send an email that says "Based on our discussion, I will be working on the following 3 tasks this week: X, Y, and Z. Next week, we will meet to discuss the progress on these and A, B, and C that are also in progress" or something like that. My advisor is notorious for not remembering what he tells you in a meeting. I have spun that to my advantage on many occasions though that doesn't seem like something you can do right now.


Also, I have/had a workflowy account but I never use it for whatever reason. Not sure why, but I make my lists in a paper calendar/agenda thing that I carry around and cross off things that way.

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So this is a silly question, but do you all generally take notes on paper or on computer? I think this is great advice and 'm going to start using it. I generally prefer to take notes on computer, does anyone else do that? Would typing during a meeting be distracting? Thanks!

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I take notes on paper now, or try to jot down mental notes and ask for clarification when needed. But I think if your advisor sees that you are just taking notes, typing on a computer is still okay.

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