I’m Meredith E Coles, a professor of clinical psychology within the psychology department at Binghamton University (aka SUNY Binghamton). As a faculty member my time is divided into three primary domains: teaching, service and research. I teach and supervise both undergraduate and graduate students. My teaching ranges from teaching statistics to classes of 240 undergraduates to doing clinical supervision with two advanced doctoral students. Service means being on committees (eg., overseeing department finances, helping with the department’s speaker series or promotion cases). In addition, I am also the Director of the Binghamton Anxiety Clinic. The clinic allows us to provide low cost services, train future clinicians, and have a venue for patient-oriented research. Our research focuses on ways to improve the lives of individuals with OCD or anxiety disorders. How we do this ranges from trying to better understand barriers to seeking help to mechanisms involved in the course of these disorders and ways to improve treatment.
Location: Binghamton, NY
Current Gig: Professor, Director of Anxiety Clinic, Mom, Wife
One word phrase that describes your work style: Flexible
Current computer/mobile device: Dell desktop at the office, Lenovo laptop at home, and iPad and iPhone most places I go.
What apps/tools/software can you not live without? My favorite is Meditation Oasis. It is an amazing collection of guided meditations of different topics and of different lengths. I often mention it to supervisees and clients and I use it myself. The brief meditations for taking a break from work get a lot of use! At work I also rely on Epocrates. Epocrates is a user friendly source for medication information that is useful when working with clients who are also receiving pharmacotherapy. Finally, Mendeley makes organizing and citing references much easier.
What is your best time saving shortcut or life hack? Acceptance. During my internship year I realized that I have Parkinsons Disease. This was not part of my career/life plan, ever, and definitely not at the age of 30. The experience has made me realize that I can only go as fast as I can go. No matter how badly I want to submit a paper by Friday if it’s not done then it’s not done then. Life unfolds despite us. A friend shared an old saying with me, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” Or said differently, “Whether or not it is apparent to you, the universe is unfolding exactly as it should.” Work hard, be passionate about what you do and accept that sometimes the universe is right there with you and sometimes it’s not.
On a more practical level, when I became a mentor and my students started producing more and more papers, reports, etc. it became increasingly difficult to keep track of which ones were ready for me to review and what the latest version was. So, on a shared network I created two folders, 000_inbox and 000_outbox. Anything ready for me goes in the inbox and after I read and edit it I move it to the outbox for my students to retrieve. The leading zeros make the folders show up at the top of the list of files so they are easy find. Having these folders saves me a ton of time not searching through emails for things. It also helps me maximize my time because I can quickly see all of the things I have to work on and select the one that best matches my availability at that moment.
What’s your work space set up like? I often have a hard time getting comfortable so I work all over, at home, at work, in my office at my desk, laying on the sofa or at the kitchen counter while cooking. Wherever I can, whenever I can. I do try to keep things organized. Being organized definitely saves time.
How do you keep track of things you need to do? I use two strategies. First, I have a sign taped on the side of my nightstand (so that I see it as soon as I wake up each morning) that says “Breathe In, breathe out.” If I accomplish that it was a good day. Second, I use the Reminders list in my phone. Nothing fancy. I also try to do things that I want to do and enjoy doing, which makes me less likely to forget them.
Besides your phone or computer what gadget can’t you live without? None. If I have my son and my husband I’m good to go
What everyday thing can you do better than most people? What’s your secret? I focus on doing things that I like. Working on things that don’t interest you or don’t have meaning for you is likely to be a long, arduous task that you can’t wait to finish. Instead, focus on things that are interesting to you or you find meaningful. Of course you’ll have to do things that aren’t your favorite; find pleasure in them too. We learn and grow from all of our experiences. If you’re at a talk you can’t follow, pay attention to different ways to arrange slides. If you’re at a meeting on a topic that doesn’t interest you, pay attention to how to run a meeting or remember that taking breaks from what you’re working on helps.
What do you listen to while you work? I don’t really listen to anything most of the time when working. I do take breaks during the day to listen to guided meditations.
What are you currently reading? I am reading a book called A series of catastrophes and miracles: a true story of love, science and cancer by Mary Williams. I rarely read fiction. I find myself reading books related to medicine, human rights, and meditation/simplifying life. In my car I am currently listening to The old man and the sea.
How do you recharge? I love being with my son and my husband. We laugh a lot. I also like to make or build things. To create. Recently I taught myself to emboss glass, upcycled a dresser, and I am teaching myself to sew.
How do you balance your work life and your home/family life? I don’t know how I do it. Really. Am I balancing them? I grew up in a small town where none of the moms worked so I have guilt about not being home with my son. But, when I do leave work early for something, I feel guilty for not being at work. So, I try to accept the way it is and really embrace the time I do have with him and my husband. I’ve also gotten better at accepting help. If your neighbor’s son also goes to the same camp, tennis lessons, etc as your son and offers to give your son a ride, let them and then return the favor. Letting people help you, and vice versa, makes everyone’s life easier.
What is your sleep routine like? I try to go to sleep before midnight and sleep until 7:00 but this rarely happens. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease frequently have trouble sleeping so trying to get adequate sleep is a constant goal. Doing yoga, meditating and doing calming activities in the evening help some.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Be kind.