Daily Gleanings: Productivity (5 December 2019)

Jory MacKay discusses productivity shame and strategies for coping with it.

MacKay defines productivity shame as the sense that you’ve not gotten “enough” done.

In a whole host of areas, completely finishing work is a state that never materializes. There is always more to do.

So to avoid feeling the shame of having not done enough of the endless work you have in front of you, MacKay recommends five strategies:

  1. Refocus away from getting more things done and toward “being decisive and confident with how you’re spending your time” on what’s most important.
  2. Divide your work into manageable chunks that are completable so that you can see your regular progress.
  3. Set up support systems for yourself using whatever tools or processes you find helpful (e.g., RescueTime, Todoist, GTD).
  4. Disconnect from work at the end of your workday.
  5. Reflect on what getting “enough” done would really look like for you so that you can strategize about how to set yourself up for success in the future.

For more, see MacKay’s full discussion on the Doist blog.

Daily Gleanings: Lectures (4 December 2019)

In the Didaktikos issue for November 2019, Sean McGever has an excellent essay on lecture preparation (24, 26–27).

Using a baking metaphor, McGever encourages chronic over-preparers not to “overwork the batter” of their lectures so that they don’t come out overly dense.

McGever gives several practical suggestions about how to avoid overworking a lecture.

These begin with and derive from careful thought about the learning outcomes for a particular course and a particular lecture within that course and include thoughts about how efficiently structure notes and slide decks.

For all of McGever’s thoughts, see his full essay in Didaktikos.

Daily Gleanings: Finances (3 December 2019)

In Logos’s 2020 seminary guide, there is an excellent essay by Daniel Zacharias and Benjamin Forrest about how to finance seminary or other similar education.

The essay is particularly helpful because it begins with the premise of minimizing or eliminating any additional debt you might incur on your way through seminary. It’s a wonderful thing to finish paying for seminary at or ahead of the time you finish your degree.

To this end, Zacharias and Forrest recommend that seminarians:

  1. Commit to minimizing debt;
  2. Start a budget, and cut unnecessary expenses;
  3. Be smart about housing;
  4. Seek out alternative forms of funding; and
  5. Work like a crazy person.

Zacharias and Forrest’s advice under each heading is what they “wish [they]’d had before [they] enrolled.” The value of what they share rings pretty true to my experience as well.

For the full essay, see Logos’s seminary guide. Or find the original version of the piece from which this essay is adapted in Zacharias and Forrest’s Surviving and Thriving in Seminary (Lexham, 2017).

Daily Gleanings: Focus (2 December 2019)

Corey Pemberton has a very helpful essay on focus. The essay discusses eight specific types of challenges with focus and provides some suggestions for overcoming each type.

In particular, the eight types are:

  1. Trouble prioritizing what’s most important,
  2. Emotional procrastination,
  3. Lack of motivation,
  4. Too much multitasking,
  5. Time management issues,
  6. Physical health issues,
  7. Mental health issues, and
  8. Distraction.

If you work through this list, you will probably identify a trouble spot or two that you have. But, Pemberton also suggests keeping a distraction log for a while if needed to capture what is hurting your focus if you can’t readily identify it.

For Pemberton’s full discussion of these reasons focus can be difficult, see his original post on the Freedom blog.

How to Avoid Imposter Syndrome at Conferences

Reflecting on the annual Society of Biblical Literature meeting, Nijay Gupta openly shares about the “imposter syndrome” that is quite common for both students and faculty in biblical studies.

In addition to these forthright comments, Nijay suggests six tactics for overcoming imposter syndrome at conferences. For those tactics, I’d encourage you to read Nijay’s full post.

“Imposter syndrome” is definitely something I should raise my hand to feeling at times too. And some of you have mentioned to me how you feel it in various ways as well.

So I’d like to take Nijay’s post as a prompt for another take on some of the same themes.

That is, I’ve generally found a helpful antidote to “imposter syndrome” to be, so to speak, “imposturing.”

Posturing and Imposters

When you attend a conference, of course, you want to make a good impression on friends and colleagues old and new.

When this normal desire goes to seed, though, it turns into the kind of academic “posturing” it likely won’t take you long to run into if you attend conferences with any sort of frequency.

Such posturing features prominently an interest in promoting your own work, knowledge, scholarship, status, position, prestige, institution, etc. to the exclusion of interest in others’.

There are at least two aspects to this as it relates to the issue of “imposter syndrome.”

First and most obviously, if you or I try to promote ourselves to others in overly inflated image, we know deep down we don’t measure up to that image. Imposter syndrome is a natural result.

Second and reflexively, if we compare ourselves to the public image of others, we will always find someone else with more or better expertise in some area than we have.

It will also always be possible we’ll run into or give a paper to a room with some seemingly omni-competent polymath in the audience who has an arm’s length worth of reasons we don’t measure up. This again is a fertile bed for imposter syndrome to grow.

Imposturing and Openness

The opposite—”imposturing” for the sake of my discussion here—though means neither the avoidance of speaking about our work nor somehow the building up of our own “self talk” in relation to that omni-competent polymath.

Instead, imposturing requires a fundamentally different orientation. It’s a kind of academic humility that requires not “thinking less of yourself” but “thinking of yourself less.”This formulation is a very fine one. It is often but apparently mis-attributed to C. S. Lewis per the C. S. Lewis Foundation.

It may be a personality quirk of mine. But I generally find “imposter syndrome” to quiet down when I turn away from the question “What will they think of me?” and instead focus on the questions “What can I glean from this interaction? And what can I contribute that might enrich it for others?”

Rather than the one-way evaluative judgment in the first question, the second two create imposturing dialog. And the better dialog is, the more it puts its participants in openness toward each other and creates a bypass around imposter syndrome.Cf. H.-G. Gadamer, Truth and Method.

Of course, that dialog might break down. A person you meet or a session you attend might not reciprocate your imposturing attitude and might instead go for posturing.

You can’t control that. But as Edith Eger reminds us, we can choose a different response to posturing—one that’s kind and gracious but that also says a firm inner “no” to specter of imposter syndrome.

You can still have an inner orientation toward dialog and learning even if that isn’t reciprocated.


In conclusion, it’s sometimes striking how some of the best scholars wear their scholarship most lightly.

It’s always particularly encouraging when those who are recognized as at the forefront of whatever sub-field clearly have an imposturing attitude themselves.

And perhaps this is something we should all strive to do more of—both for our own sakes and for the sakes of those with whom we interact.

What are your thoughts about imposter syndrome? How have you experienced it, and how have you learned to minimize it?

Daily Gleanings: Showing Up (29 November 2019)

In a rare interview, Steven Pressfield shares his thoughts on themes he discusses in his War of Art.

As a writer, much of Pressfield’s commentary will be pretty easy for emerging scholars in biblical studies to relate to. When encountering “Resistance,” Pressfield encourages continuing to show up, do the work, and keep moving forward.

Much of the application in the interview is then done in terms of small business and entrepreneurship. But this too is pretty easily re-translatable into addressing parallel situations in biblical studies.

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