UW Graduate School

March 29, 2017

How Prof. Pepper Schwartz Works

Pepper Schwartz, ProfessorPepper Schwartz

Department/program: Sociology
Research focus: Intimate Relationships, Sexuality, Gender, Communication

Got love problems? As a sociologist and sexologist, Pepper Schwartz has some solutions. She is the author of 16 books, including The Great Sex Weekend, The Lifetime Love and Sex Quiz Book, and Everything You Know About Love and Sex is Wrong. She’s the national Love & Relationship Expert & Ambassador for the AARP, and has written advice columns on love and sex for decades. Got time management problems? Schwartz helps us tackle those, too, with a few tips for getting things done.

Work

Give us a one-word description of how you work:

Focused

How do you manage your to-dos?

I make a lot of lists and constantly revise them (especially when I continually don’t meet my own expectations of what I hope to accomplish on a specific day). I sometimes put them on my phone, but I really am still a paper and pencil girl, so I usually have a sheet of paper near my desk about what I hope to do and what is on the horizon. I am often wildly optimistic and have to deal with the often experienced reality that everything takes longer than you think it will.

What are your essential apps, software or tools?

I use my computer and my iPhone. I am not a technophobe but I am a late adopter to say the least.

Where do you most often work?

I go back and forth between my home office and my office at the University. I almost always working at a desk. I think I am trained to work at a desk. When I am working with someone else it will often be at a table. A few times I have gone away with a co-author just to get away from anything but the project at hand.

How do you manage your time?

Sometimes well; sometimes not so impressively. I tend to write every day, but the time of day changes depending on what else I have to do (teach, see friends, family stuff, traveling). I am very efficient and focused on airplanes. I think of them as big floating offices and get a lot done on them.

What is your best time-saving shortcut?

I have someone else to do some of the library research for me. When she or he has assembled either summaries of things I need to read, or arranged the articles for me to read them, I can write speedily and well. I also try and hire student workers for just about everything I can: to write letters, follow up on lecture commitments, get supplies, you name it.

What are some of your productivity strategies you’ve honed over your years in academia?

I have worked a lot with graduate students which, of course, helps us both. I love having someone to think with; sometimes they write the first draft, but I often do, or edit quite heavily. I also write a lot late at night when it’s quiet in the house and I can get mesmerized by what I am doing without interruptions.

Life

What mundane thing are you really exceptional at?

I write first drafts very quickly.

What are you currently reading for pleasure?

I have decided just this year to read fiction again­ — a seriously guilty pleasure. I read Circling the Sun, a fictionalized story about Beryl Markham, the woman pilot in Africa who was part of a fascinating group of people. I am in a book club and this helps me try out things I wouldn’t ordinarily read. I do love historical biographies too and will go through binges of reading them — and then stop when I need to use that time for something else. I also do some travel writing and research, so I love to read travel writers and travel magazines.

What’s the last thing that made you laugh?

Amy Schumer in Trainwreck. It was a hysterical movie — she is crude and funny and very smart. I love movies that are not tragic or violent — that sculpts my choices down a bit.

How do you recharge?

I ride my horse, play with my dogs, have dinner with my guy, meet a friend for coffee. I love almost any kind of romantic travel.

What’s your sleep routine like?

Uneven. When I am with my fiancé we go to sleep at about 10 p.m. When I am home alone I tend to read or work or watch a movie too late. When I am home alone, my dogs gather ‘round me and my German Shepard takes Fred’s place on the other pillow. Wherever I am, I wake up about 7 a.m.

Inspiration

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Never sell yourself short. Another thing that sounds bad but was invaluable was when my mom told me, “remember you are always alone.” She meant that you had to be true to yourself and not do things just to be liked or fit in. Ultimately you are alone with yourself, and you better learn how to like that and be comfortable with that.

Who’s your support system?

I am lucky, and I have worked hard to have depth and quantity in my support system. It includes many close women friends, a few close male friends, my fiancé, my son and daughter. When I was younger I had an extraordinary colleagueship and friendship with Phil Blumstein. He was my colleague, co-author and best friend for many years. Tragically, he died of AIDS and like many gay men of his time was robbed of the full length of life he deserved. He was amazing and we were continually with each other for twenty years. I have another close friend who teaches in L.A., Janet Lever who has been my friend and often co-author since undergraduate school days. I am close to several ex-students and people who have worked with and for me.

What pitfall do you consistently see students falling into?

Doing their dissertation on something that is not their passion and not something they can build a deep research agenda around.

What do your most successful students do?

Get passionate about a research area, snag a professor to help them develop it, publish early and stay excited about their work.

How UW Works was inspired by LifeHacker’s How I Work.

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