Podcast

Episode: 107 |
Zachary Schrag:
How Historians Read:
Episode
107

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Zachary Schrag

How Historians Read

Show Notes

Our guest today is Zachary Schrag, a Professor of History at George Mason University.

Zach has been a close friend of mine for nearly three decades, and I asked him on the show to share some practical tips that management consultants can learn from a professional historian.

Zach gives me some advice on how to read a non-fiction book to get the most value (hint – read the introduction and the conclusion first.) He also shares some book recommendations and discusses five core aspects of the historian’s approach.

Zach has prepared this list of recommended reading for the intelligent, generalist reader:

https://historyprofessor.org/reading/a-laypersons-reading-list-in-american-history-2018/

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman: Hey Zach, it is great to have you on the show.
Zachary Schrag: Thank you, Will. It’s good to be here.
Will Bachman: Zach, tell me how I should read a nonfiction book.
Zachary Schrag: Okay. So, there’s no one right way to read a book. I recently had a little Twitter fight with people about … there’s an article in Slate commenting on a historian’s advice to graduate students, and former graduate students saying, “No, that’s not the way to do it.”
Zachary Schrag: It’s kind of a silly debate because the point I made on Twitter is a book is like a museum. If you’ve got an hour, then you want to spend an hour in the museum. If you’ve got a week, that’s great, you can go back and really dwell on things.
Zachary Schrag: Any book with an index, you can use as a reference book. I’m interested in one person, I’ll look him up in the index, or you could read it cover to cover. And books are made to allow for different kinds of readings depending on what you’re trying to get out of it.
Zachary Schrag: If you are reading a history book, you particularly have two choices. Most history books tell stories. That’s what history is. A lot of history books, not all of them, make explicit arguments as well, and you might decide whether you’re trying to be convinced by that.
Zachary Schrag: And so, one decision to make early on is whether you’re just listening or reading for the story, or whether you’re trying to assess the argument and the claims that the author is making, and be in a kind of conversation with the author about that.
Will Bachman: So, what if I’m reading nonfiction books, and … partly just because they’re interesting, but also to just make myself smarter about the world, and to … because I want to retain certain part … either ways of approaching a certain thinking, or particular facts, retain those for the future, like nuggets.
Will Bachman: Like, let’s say this book … recently, I read, The Box about the history of the container. Fantastic book. Not really for professional historian audience but, you know, it was fascinating. About how the container was kind of originally created, and kind of took over shipping. So, let’s say I’m reading that book, which is full of great stories.
Will Bachman: What I currently do is just sort of say, “Ah, that was a pretty interesting book,” and file it away in my brain, but I’m not really taking notes in Evernote, or scribbling a lot in the margins. And it kind of, I’m sure, half-life … a year from now, I’ll kind of vaguely remember it.
Will Bachman: What should I be doing instead to capture more value from that time I’m spending reading?
Zachary Schrag: Okay. So, first of all, I want to challenge your assumption that there’s a big gap between more popular and more scholarly history.
Zachary Schrag: The Box is a good book, and I’m pretty sure I recall being at a conference where Levinson was presenting some of his arguments. Particularly, what I remember him talking about was how when you take away the longshoreman’s job, you’re taking away a lot of other jobs in cities like New York City.
Zachary Schrag: And so, when we think about New York in particular, never had that many factories, but if you count all the people who were working on the waterfront, and all the people who were supporting them in some way or another, whether selling them food or clothes. That’s a lot of jobs, and that really helps explain some of the transformation of New York City, and the fiscal crisis in the ’70s. So, there’s an argument there, as well as a lot of stories.
Zachary Schrag: And so, one thing I would try to do in reading particularly history book, also ethnography, also journalism, is to try to figure out, “What are some of the key claims that the author is making?” Sometimes, they’re easily discoverable in an introduction, conclusion, and that’s why professors will sometimes tell you to read the introduction and conclusion first. Sometimes, they are more hidden in terms of subtle choices that the author makes, but with luck, you can find them.
Zachary Schrag: I never like any card games. I’m just really not good at remembering what’s been played and what is still in the deck, but the game of bridge is great metaphor for scholarship in that it takes two phases. First, you’ve got the bidding phase, where someone goes out there and says, “I can make three hearts.” And then, you’ve got the play, where they actually have to do what they promised to do. And the bigger the claim they made, the bigger the reward they get in terms of points.
Zachary Schrag: So, a lot of nonfiction works are actually like that, where in the introduction, they make the bid. They say, “I am going to … by the end of this book, you’re going to believe this.” And maybe they make their bid … I don’t remember the bridge terminology … or maybe they fail. Maybe they only make two hearts, and so they fall on their face, and lose the hand, or rubber. I don’t remember bridge terminology.
Zachary Schrag: My point is they’re making some claim in the introduction that they want you to believe by the end, and so one thing I like to do with a book is to see if they’re actually proving their case.
Zachary Schrag: And I write in my books always. I like to write in blue pen. I do not highlight because that mars the text. I don’t need an underline. I like to leave the text; that’s for the author, and the margins are for me. So, I’ve got a blue pen. The author’s in black. And I am constantly arguing with the author saying, “Wait. You haven’t persuaded me,” or, “My goodness. That’s a really good piece of evidence you’ve found for that claim.” So, I’m writing in the margins.
Zachary Schrag: And at the end, in the flypages in the back, I’m usually writing about some broader themes that I see coming up again and again.
Zachary Schrag: Part of this is because, a lot of times when I’m reading a book, my key question is, “Would this be a good thing to talk about with graduate students for a class that meets for 2 hours and 40 minutes?”
Zachary Schrag: And sometimes I’ll read books where I say, “Yeah. I completely believe the claims, but that was kind of a one-club claim. It’s just not that interesting.” So, while I’m persuaded, I don’t care all that much.
Zachary Schrag: Other cases, yeah, it’s like a five-spade claim, but it doesn’t work for me, so throw out that book, or maybe I do want to work with that because maybe they’ll have other ideas.
Zachary Schrag: And then, there’s some books where I’m completely persuaded by the end. And I like to, in that case, highlight particular examples, particular bits of evidence that really swung me over to the author’s point of view.
Will Bachman: And then, do you personally, or do you recommend others, after you read it, kind of try to capture those key lessons-learned, or findings, or perspective on the claims electronically somehow? Do you do that? Do you recommend it to people? Or, for you, is it the notes in the flyleaf, and in the book that retains it?
Zachary Schrag: If I have the time, and particularly if I’ve decided to assign the book, what I’ll often do is use the built-in dictation software on my Apple computer to read my notes into the computer.
Zachary Schrag: I only have two hands, unfortunately. I think the human body would be much better if we had more hands. If I’m holding the book open, it’s easier for me to dictate to my computer than to type, and so I can have notes on each chapter. You know, put in a subheading fold for the chapter title, so I have notes from each chapter, and then overall notes that I take from the notes I made in the flyleafs at the back.
Will Bachman: And what software do you use for that?
Zachary Schrag: Mac OS. If you hit the function key twice or something, it just turns on dictation.
Will Bachman: That’s amazing. Do you have some system for storing all these notes?
Zachary Schrag: Well, again, I usually store them depending on the seminar I’m teaching.
Zachary Schrag: And this is actually another point, is not only is a book a conversation between the reader and the author, it’s also conversation with other books. So, a lot of times, you know …
Zachary Schrag: Last seminar I taught in the spring was United States since 1945. So, one of the folders I have on that in the computer are my notes for every book I taught in that seminar. Some of those books I taught before, so I have that from 2018, as opposed to my 2015-thoughts on that book, which may or may not be the same. I do try to reread the books, or at least my notes, each time I teach it, so it’ll be fresh. And depending on what’s going on in the world, or what else I’ve read, I may see different things.
Will Bachman: Let’s talk about some specific books. So, why should consultants or independent consultants read books, read history books in particular? And are there particular recommendations that you have? I mean, we can go by time period, or by genre. What are some of the insights that we can get from reading history?
Zachary Schrag: So, one word that I’ve heard you use a lot on your podcast is “change.” I think you use expressions like “change agent” and “change leader.”
Zachary Schrag: One of the things that consultants are interested in, I assume, is how organizations change, either for better or for worse, and history is the study of change over time. That’s what we study. We try to understand why things were one way in one year, and a different way in a different year, and who made those choices.
Zachary Schrag: People think that history is the study of the past. I like to tell my students, “History is the study of people, and the choices they made.” So, there are a lot of ways that reading history, I think, can help people understand the processes of change.
Zachary Schrag: If your consultants are interested in business history, there are great business histories out there. It’s not a subject I mostly teach, so I’m not going to recommend titles. I do teach history of technology, which is closely related, and I think there are some really great works there that people could learn from.
Zachary Schrag: One of the things I want to pitch to your listeners is that they don’t have to stick with what’s on the Barnes and Nobles’ shelves, that if you look at Barnes and Noble, if you look at the Pulitzer Prize winners, it’s mostly what you might have seen in high school: a lot of presidents, a lot of generals.
Will Bachman: That stuff is boring. At least to me, right? So-
Zachary Schrag: Well, Hamilton did very well.
Will Bachman: Yeah. I mean, he’s good. You know what? I got to say that kind of kings and wars … I mean, it can be okay.
Will Bachman: But the kind of stuff that interests me is, “All right. How did they actually collect taxes in 1804?” or, “How did people get milk in 1862?” You know, you read the Civil War, but I [inaudible 00:11:01] took a whole course in the Civil War, but there was nothing about, “What was the kind of economic system that actually produced the uniforms, and how did they order them. And before computers, before telegraph, how did they get the orders out? How did they coordinate? How was it organized? How did the War Department work?” So, at least for me, kind of getting that very fine level of more granular detail of how things actually worked in the past would be fascinating.
Will Bachman: You mentioned history of technology. Would love to hear some titles. We can also put up a longer list in the show notes, but are there some titles that you’d like to mention to listeners?
Zachary Schrag: So, here’s a pitch. A book that I’ve taught repeatedly in my history of technology course by someone who I don’t actually think considers, or at least considered himself a historian of technology when he wrote it, a guy named Andrew Needham, who’s at New York University, wrote a book called Power Lines.
Zachary Schrag: And the story is of Phoenix, Arizona, which is this beautiful place in the desert. It’s a very popular tourist destination prior to World War II, but the boosters of the city want it to be more. They want to have a greater economic base, and they actually want manufacturing without destroying that beautiful clean air that everyone is coming to Phoenix for. They’re coming for the sunshine, they’re coming for the clean desert. How do we have manufacturing that isn’t dirty?
Zachary Schrag: And here’s what they come up with. First of all, they’re going to have electronics because electronics are not a big smokestack industry, you can run them off of electricity, and that doesn’t have to have the smokestack right there. But you do need the electricity, and that can mean burning coal, and that can mean pollution.
Zachary Schrag: So, where are they going to put the power plant where they can have the economic growth they want without polluting their precious city of Phoenix?
Will Bachman: I don’t know. Where?
Zachary Schrag: Well, think about it. If you know American history, one of the big themes in American history is that white people dump their problems on people of color. So, the nearest people of color to Phoenix are the Navajo, and that’s way where they built the power plant. And then, they have these high voltage wires coming down from the Navajo reservation to Phoenix. So, Phoenix gets the electricity, and the Navajo get the pollution.
Zachary Schrag: Now, it’s a little more complicated than that. Navajo also get some jobs from mining the coal and burning it for power, but there are real questions in that book about the social justice, the economic and environmental justice about Phoenix thriving while basically exporting its pollution to some people without a lot of power. So, the term “power lines,” obviously bit of a pun. Electric power, but also social power.
Will Bachman: Great. Great recommendation. Any others?
Zachary Schrag: So, another one, not coincidentally, I think, from Princeton University press, which publishes some really great books on 20th century American history.
Zachary Schrag: A book that I just love to teach is called the Second Red Scare by Landon Storrs, and it’s about a group of women who work in the New Deal, and have visions for daycare, visions for a social welfare program, for healthcare, a lot of things that are still being debated today.
Zachary Schrag: And in the 1940s, they are charged with disloyalty. They’re charged with being communists or communist sympathizers. And as a result of this, some of them are chased out of government, some of them have to lie about their friendships with people who truly were socialists or even communists. Some of them have to become more conservative in order to be able to maintain a public career.
Zachary Schrag: And so, this is a moment in the late 1940s, where … that we’re still dealing with. I mean, we’re still having these tremendous debates over things like daycare, and healthcare, and the distribution of wealth in this country. And one of the things that you learn from this book is, first of all, things could have been different.
Zachary Schrag: Historians, American historians especially, I think, try to stay away from the jargon, but one word we use is contingency: things could have been different if people had made different choices. And another thing this book is great about is showing just how important gender is to a lot of debates about politics, and power, and those kinds of matters.
Zachary Schrag: These women were attacked for being too-much mothers, for not being mothers enough, for their sexuality, for not being sexual enough. You really see just how significant things like family life were to American policy. And so, I think it’s a great book that will complicate not only people’s views about the 1940s, but views about what counts as political power and political history.
Will Bachman: And maybe one more recommendation.
Will Bachman: So, we hear so much about startups today, and kind of the startup culture. And I think I’ve seen some data that says that actually there was more people working in small startup companies in 1970 than today. I’m not sure if that factoid’s true.
Will Bachman: But are there any books that you recommend, that kind of give you a real perspective on that kind of cycle of innovation in the U.S., or the cycle of startups? I mean, maybe back in 1900, there was startups of automobiles, and then startups for radio, and then …
Will Bachman: I don’t know if you know want to talk about Tim Wu and some of his books, or are there other ones that could help give us a perspective on those kind of cycles innovation, and history of business?
Zachary Schrag: So, the one that occurs to me is Proprietary Capitalism by Philip Scranton, where he talks about firms that were not the great big firms of the 19th century, but a lot of little workshops, especially in Philadelphia, family-owned firms, proprietary firms, rather than the joint-stock companies.
Zachary Schrag: Another one … this may not quite be responsive to your question, but another book I really love is called Auto Mania by Tom McCarthy, which is about the automobile industry. And he tells the story, for example, of the catalytic converter, how so many different kinds of engineers were involved.
Zachary Schrag: You had engineers in the automakers, Ford and GM, and the Ford guys were against it, and GM guys were for it. But you also had government regulators, you also had activists like Ralph Nader, and then you had these independent engineering firms that were really important in pushing the technology.
Zachary Schrag: If you think about the automobile industry, a lot of people think about the big three, but Auto Mania makes the case that these smaller engineering firms, the suppliers, were quite important in shaping the way that cars were designed and built.
Will Bachman: There’s this French term that I think is somewhat derogatory. I believe it’s “déformation professionnelle,” or “professional deformation,” I suppose, and about how your profession kind of affects your way of thinking.
Will Bachman: Would love to hear about your perspective on how is the approach, and the thinking process that a historian takes different than other social sciences, different than a sociologist, or an economist, or an archaeologist? What would you say is sort of distinctive in your training of how you’ve been taught to approach your topic?
Zachary Schrag: So, the historian’s question is basically, “How did we get here?” The slogan … I think that’s the right word of … maybe not slogan, but a recent motto, or expression promoted by the American Historical Association, my main professional organization, is, “Everything has a history.”
Zachary Schrag: So, you’re walking down the street, you’re ordering lunch, you’re reading the newspaper, and you’re constantly asking, “How did we get to this point? Who made the decisions so that we are walking across this bridge, or threatening war with Iran, or watching the richest 1% of Americans get more than half of the wealth in the country?” Those are somewhat different questions, I think, from other professions in that it is a question of, “How did we get here,” rather than, “Where do we go from here?”
Zachary Schrag: So, you know, a lot of professions, I think, are based on problem-solving; historians don’t solve your problem. You know, you get a flat tire, they’ll walk back on the road, and find that patch of broken glass that you hit. That doesn’t actually solve your tire, just tells you how it happened, right? Maybe it will give you some guidance for the next time, but the basic project is just to trace back events.
Zachary Schrag: So, you know, I wouldn’t want to live in a world with just historians. We’d all starve to death, and not make any progress. On the other hand, I do believe that it is a fundamental human activity, to know where we came from. And it’s also can be a very practical activity to say, “Oh yes, we’ve been here before.”
Zachary Schrag: My first book is about transportation in the Washington Metro, which had a lot of cost overruns. A couple days ago, the New York Times runs a story about high-speed rail in California. You know, this has resonance. This seems familiar to me. And so, you know, I’d like to think that while economists and sociologists would have a lot to say about whether high-speed rail should continue to be built in California, having some good history would be part of that discussion as well.
Will Bachman: So, the overarching question, “How did we get here?” Are there some kind of questions that a historian asks when first approaching … when thinking about a problem that you think would be good questions for a consultant to have in the consultant’s back pocket?
Zachary Schrag: So, one tool is clearly chronology. Chronology is in everything, and if you had a high school course where all you had to remember were names and dates, I’m sorry for you.
Zachary Schrag: It can be very helpful to say, “When did this thing first happen?” because, you know … In my classroom, I don’t allow students to say, “Always,” because, you know, 4 billion years ago, there was not an earth. At some point, something started.
Zachary Schrag: So, if someone tells you, “Oh yeah, we have this system going. That’s the way we’ve always done it.” That’s not true. Someone put this system in place, and you might want to know, “Okay. When did that happen? What were they trying to achieve before that system?”
Zachary Schrag: Quick example for your listeners. Chris McKenna’s book The World’s Newest Profession is about management consulting. Well, once upon a time, there were no management consultants.
Will Bachman: How did companies survive?
Zachary Schrag: How did companies survive?
Zachary Schrag: Well, the answer, and I’ve only read the introduction, is that the functions were often provided by bankers, but with Glass-Steagall Act, bankers were forbidden in the United States from providing some of those functions because of antitrust concerns, and that opened a space for a new profession to emerge.
Zachary Schrag: So, you know, just knowing that the profession may be young, but the functions were older, may help your listeners think about their own roles, and some of their professional or even spiritual antecedents.
Will Bachman: Yeah. And then The Lords of Strategy talks about how kind of McKinsey, and BCG, and Bain sort of invented this field of strategy consulting in the ’60s.
Will Bachman: I mean, when I read that, I was like, “Wait a minute. Before that, people didn’t think about strategy?” Like, “How is that?”
Zachary Schrag: Right, but everything has a histories. Everything has a start point.
Zachary Schrag: So, one thing that your listeners could do, if they’re looking at an organization, and they tell you, “Well, we have these three divisions or five divisions.” Say, “Well, how long have you had those divisions?” Maybe they still make sense.
Zachary Schrag: I wouldn’t go in just pulling out wires because you don’t know what they’re doing. Maybe there’s still good reasons for having that divisional structure, or maybe no one in the company knows why they have those divisions and it’s time for rethinking.
Will Bachman: So, we only hit chronology. So, what’s the toolkit here? So, chronology is number one. Like, “Who made the decisions?”
Zachary Schrag: That’s called agency in the world. Yeah.
Zachary Schrag: So, again, I try to stay away from jargon, but agency is a really good one to know. You know, we ask questions in history such as, “Who freed the slaves?” And a lot of Americans, if you ask then, “Who freed the slaves?” They might say, “Oh, Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves.” Emancipation Proclamation. Okay. That’s part of the truth.
Zachary Schrag: Well, what about that whole 13th Amendment, right? President officially has no role in the constitutional amendment process. “Oh, so maybe congress and the states freed the slaves.” Okay, that’s good.
Zachary Schrag: What about the slaves, right? What were they doing? Well, the answer is during Civil War, a lot of them were escaping, and getting to Union lines, and earning their freedom that way. And one of the things that Lincoln realized in 1862, 1863 was this was happening, and that spurred him to write the Emancipation Proclamation. So, a lot of historians would say that, at least in part, enslaved African-Americans freed themselves.
Zachary Schrag: So, that’s agency. When you start asking, “Okay, who are the people who are in charge here?” And you see this-
Will Bachman: So, chronology, agency.
Zachary Schrag: Yeah. We hit contingency. Contingency is a favorite one.
Zachary Schrag: Related to chronology, we talk about periodization. When are the turning points, right? So, if you ask …
Zachary Schrag: Again, if you were to talk about a business that’s been around for a while, General Electric, right? What if you had to write a history of General Electric. How would you divide that into chapters? What do you think the key turning points are? And these days, jet engines is a big deal, so maybe, “When does General Electric start making jet engines?” would be an important turning point, or even just the founding. Why does Tim Thomas Edison decide to join this larger group?
Zachary Schrag: So, periodization is taking that stick of butter, and rather than just slicing it at even intervals, saying, “Okay, here are the key turning points in this institution’s history that we need to attend to.”
Will Bachman: Okay. So, chronology, agency, periodization, contingency.
Will Bachman: There’s got to be, like, a number five.
Zachary Schrag: Does there? Why does there have to be a number five?
Will Bachman: I got five fingers. I’m holding up my fingers for listeners who can’t see.
Zachary Schrag: Yeah. You know, it’s really so straightforward what I do.
Zachary Schrag: Well, it’s related to agency, but I might say voice, point of view because every story has multiple possible observers, right? Rashomon is a great film, and, you know, picked up so nicely by The Last Jedi, where they show the same scene with three different interpretations. So, one thing that I think unites consultants and historians is they need to think about whose perspective they are going to represent.
Zachary Schrag: If you’re trying to, again, tell the story of a railroad, are you doing that from the owners, the managers, the engineers, the track-builders, the farmers, the Native Americans, right? There are a lot of people who are affected by that railroad, and the historian gets to choose, must choose, whose story to tell.
Zachary Schrag: And I think that’s true of consultants as well. If you go into a firm, are you only talking to managers, are you talking to shareholders, are you talking to customers? And when you write up that report, you might say, “Look, there are different ways of seeing this that … ” you know, here’s why Facebook thought this new tool would be great, but here’s why so many users got enraged by it. There, you’re looking at voice, and perspective, and point of view.
Will Bachman: Yeah. I think the parallel, or at least one parallel in consulting, is like, who is your client? Not the company, the client, but the individual executive that you’re serving, right?
Will Bachman: Because sometimes it’s a little bit unclear. Is my client the board of directors? Is my client the CEO? Or is my client the VP of operations? Maybe the CEO hired me, but the VP of operations is the person working with day to day, but the board of directors wants your report. So, as you’re kind of crafting your recommendations, sometimes those people are all aligned, and that’s great, but sometimes, their interests might be different.
Zachary Schrag: Okay. Maybe I should take back that last fifth one.
Zachary Schrag: Maybe the fifth one should be empathy because this is something we talk a lot about more in history teaching than in history research. That they go together is …
Zachary Schrag: One of the best pieces of advice I ever got, as a historian, came from Johns Staudenmaier, who was the editor of technology and culture at the time, whereas …
Zachary Schrag: I had written my master’s thesis about the decline of streetcars in New York City, and the villain of the piece was Mayor John Hylan of New York, who I thought was pretty dishonest, and was treating the streetcar companies quite unfairly.
Zachary Schrag: And Staudenmaier said, “Well, okay. You can say that, but if you’re going to say that, you really need to research him. You need to find out as much as you can about why he was acting this way, and make the best case for it.” Devil’s Advocate, if you will. Maybe it’s not coincidental that Staudenmaier was a Catholic priest.
Zachary Schrag: So, you know, I did my best. I didn’t end up admiring Hylan in any way. He was a kind of machine politician, tool of William Randolph Hearst, right? I don’t think he was a very deep thinker.
Zachary Schrag: But in other cases, I think I’ve had a little more luck trying to say, “I’m going to make the best case possible for the people in the story who don’t come out well.”
Zachary Schrag: So, I would think that if I were looking at a firm or an industry, and there were … Let’s say, you feel that the industry is tied down by federal regulators. Well, maybe you need to spend a little extra time researching their point of view, and understand why they think that you shouldn’t be using that much asbestos.
Will Bachman: All right.
Will Bachman: And we can get a list of books for the show notes.
Will Bachman: Last thing. I want to shift gears a little bit. I always like to ask guests: are there any daily routines, or morning routines, or habits that you’ve had, either for a long time or that you’ve recently adopted, that you really recommend?
Zachary Schrag: So, for my work, writing, a big one is word count. When I start the day writing, I take a note on how many words the manuscript is, and then at the end of the day, take another note.
Zachary Schrag: And sometimes that’s discouraging, but sometimes I feel like I haven’t gotten anything done today, and then I look, “Oh, I hit my 500 words. That’s good.” They may not be 500 words that I’m going to keep in the final version, but I gotta write the rough draft before I start cutting. So, that’s been very helpful for me.
Zachary Schrag: I mean, I’ve been keeping a diary since high school, but, you know, trying to move some of the professional stuff into the diary is helpful. I’m currently using an app, whose name I don’t remember, but, you know, there are a lot of apps that allow you to do sort of daily entries, and then I do compile those into a longer diary when time allows.
Will Bachman: With the diary, do you try to make it kind of chronological, like capture the main points? Or is it more of a Julia Cameron, morning pages, sort of just write about whatever is on the top of your mind?
Zachary Schrag: I try to write down what happened to me that day because, you know, a lot of days, I find, can slip away, and it feels like I didn’t get anything done. And if I can write down, “Oh, I advised a student, and I had a conversation with my chair about this thing, and I made a dentist appointment, and I wrote 300 words, and … ” you know, at the end of the day, I just feel a little better about myself for not having completely wasted the day.
Zachary Schrag: So, really, a lot of my initial journal entry is just, “Here’s what I did. Here’s where the time went,” and that is … can be reassuring.
Will Bachman: Zach, I want to thank you. This was awesome. I’ll have to have you back on the show, talk about some more book recommendations. Really appreciate your time. It was great catching up with you.
Zachary Schrag: My pleasure, and thank you for having me.

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Neeraj Monga