How Sarah Read Works


Location:  DePaul University (or Starbucks, where I am right now?)
Current Gig:  Assistant Professor, Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse
One word that best describes how you work:  Interval training
Current mobile device: Iphone 4S
Current computer: MacBook Air

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? My At-A-Glance paper planner (without it I am a useless woman) and Dropbox, which means I can move seamlessly between work and home and the coffeeshop.

What’s your workspace setup like: Minimalist and open. I use a fully adjustable computer desk. I’m a short, small person, so conventional desks are just too big.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? Do you automate something that used to be a time sink? Do you relegate email to an hour a day? Back when I ran track and cross-country in high school and college my greatest strength was pacing. I wasn’t the fasted member of the team, but I always ran my intervals during practice at a consistent rate; i.e., I didn’t tire myself out on the first few and then die through the last ones. This is my approach to research projects and writing. Small chunks. Over time at the same rate. The down side of this strategy, however, is that I don’t accelerate very well. In a nutshell, I don’t do all-nighters.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? Good ol’ fashioned At-A-Glance monthly paper planner. I am very visual person and I like to see my whole month at once. I also find it that takes less time/thought/energy to enter a few cryptic notes with a few scribbles of my pen.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? Do I need to mention the almighty At-A-Glance planner again? Seriously, without it I am a woman without a plan or a life.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?Tracking the family to-do list and the contents of the fridge (which I can recite from memory at any given time). It drives my husband crazy. My secret? Well, my theory is that girls are trained to pay attention to things like the contents of the fridge (to plan the shopping list), the location of items (clutter clean-up) in the house, and the chores that need to be done (no one else will do them) by just observing what their mothers’ paid attention to as they grew up. My parents had a traditional division of labor at home, and this is how it imprinted on me, whether I like it or not.

What do you listen to while you work? Mostly the chatter of my own mind. However, if I am grading or doing administrative tasks I listen to WFUV FM (public radio from Fordham University in New York City—new alternative/folk/rock music) via the web.

What do you do to stay inspired? Who are some of your favorite artists?  Right now I am educating myself about contemporary dance choreography by attending all of the amazing contemporary dance company performances in Chicago. I am a particular fan of Hubbard Street Dance Company, a truly world-class dance company born right here in Chicago—their creative and interesting choreography and world class technique blow me away. As a language person, I am enjoying learning about the language of dance and how to join the conversation about it.

What sort of work are you up to now? Right now I am finishing up ethnographic field work about technical documentation and reporting processes at a supercomputing research facility int the Chicago area. I am starting to work on my book project, Writing Infrastructure.

What are you currently reading? Pride and Prejudice (By Jane Austen), the graphic novel (not by Jane Austen)

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both?  Total introvert, although I have to come out of my cave sometimes in order to maintain my sanity. Teaching is good for that.

What’s your sleep routine like? Totally regular. Sleep by 11pm. Up at 6:45.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see__________ answer these same questions. Woodstock.  

Why? Sorry, I only have goofy answers to this question.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Wow—this is the toughest question. I couldn’t tell you the source of this advice, but for me an essential insight has been to have the courage to believe that my ideas, my writing, my work has value and to put it out there in the conversation. It is an act of courage to declare oneself a writer (an academic writer, creative writer, etc.) and to just start doing it. I feel like I have to be courageous in this way almost every day. Writers, of all kinds, are incredibly courageous people.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? Thanks for asking these questions. And thanks for reading.

The How I Work series featured on the re/search blog is shamelessly stolen from Life Hacker’s How I Work series.  The SSRC’s version asks DePaul’s heroes, experts, and individuals of note to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr AT


Author: Jessica Bishop-Royse

Jessica Bishop-Royse is the SSRC’s Senior Research Methodologist. Her areas of interest include: health disparities, demography, crime, methods, and statistics. She often finds herself navigating the fields of sociology, demography, epidemiology, medicine, public health, and policy. She was broadly trained in data collection, Stata, quantitative research methodology, as well as statistics. She has experience with multi-level analyses, survival analyses, and multivariate regression. Outside of the work context, Jessi is interested in writing, reading, travel, photography, and sport.

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