I’m Gordon Asmundson, Professor of Psychology, and This is How I Work



Gordon J. G. Asmundson, is a Full Professor of Psychology at the University of Regina and Registered Doctoral Psychologist. He received his doctorate in Psychology from the University of Manitoba in 1991 and in 2005-2006 trained as a Beck Scholar at the Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research in Philadelphia. He holds several editorial posts, including Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Anxiety Disorders, and serves on the editorial boards for nine other journals.

His research and clinical interests are in assessment and basic mechanisms of fear, the anxiety and related disorders, and chronic pain, and the association of these with each other, maladaptive coping, and disability. He is known for his pioneering work on fear and avoidance in chronic pain and his shared vulnerability model of co-occurring PTSD and chronic pain, which have led to significant advances in understanding and treating these prevalent, disabling, and costly conditions. His empirical work on PTSD and other anxiety-related conditions has also influenced changes in the most recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Most recently, his efforts to revitalize exercise as a treatment option, and CBT augmentation strategy, for PTSD and other anxiety-related disorders are receiving increasing attention in the scientific community and popular media.

In addition to numerous prestigious awards received over the course of his career, in 2009 Dr. Asmundson received the highest accolade available to scientists and scholars in Canada – induction as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada – and in 2014 received the Canadian Psychological Association Donald O. Hebb Award for outstanding contributions to the science of psychology.

Asmundson is currently focused on making significant contributions to understanding and treating fear and anxiety-related disorders and mentoring the next generation of scientist-practitioners. In pursuit of these interests, he has published over 290 peer-reviewed journal articles, 60 book chapters, and 6 books, most co-authored by his trainees.

Location: Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada
Current Gig: Professor of Psychology and Editor-in-Chief for Journal of Anxiety Disorders
One word/phrase that describes your work style: Focused and efficient
Current computer/mobile device: 15 inch MacBook Pro and iPhone 5

What apps/tools/software you can’t live without?
I’m not a big user of apps; however, for collaboration, data analysis, and writing I would struggle without email, SPSS, and Word. Spotify for streaming music. Endomondo for tracking exercise pacing, distances, and activity.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
I think, for me, its all about balance. I work with considerable focus and efficiently when working and I completely shut that down when not working. This allows me to fully enjoy time with family and be engaged in dong non-work activities.

What’s your workspace set up like?
I have several workspaces. These include my lab, my departmental office, and my writing perch at home. When in the lab I am usually on my feet observing or rearranging equipment. I do most writing in my departmental office, where I have a sit-to-stand workstation equipped with a space for my MacBook Pro and a 27-inch iMac. I generally spend an equal amount of time sitting and standing. At home I write on my MacBook Pro. Importantly, both primary writing spaces overlook treed park areas.


How do you keep track of things you need to do (any to-do-list apps)?
I guess I’m fairly old school in this regard. For the most part I keep track of things in my head and try to get them done as soon as possible. For larger tasks that span several weeks or months (or longer), I place files on my desk top, removing them once the work has been completed. Some ongoing activities, like journal editorial responsibilities, are scheduled into specific weekly time slots.

Besides your phone or computer, what gadget can’t you live without, and why?
Albeit not a gadget, I really do need my morning cup of coffee with two cream and one sugar. Why? Its become an enjoyable habit that really kick starts the day.

What everyday thing can you do better than most people? What’s your secret?
Maintain balance between work and the other important things in my life, the latter of which include my family, my health, and enjoying life. Maintaining balance facilitates focus, efficiency and productivity. Its also requires selectivity in the things one elects to tackle.

I apply the same approach to my writing. To illustrate, I seek to find balance in the story that each empirical piece or review paper has to tell. I also try to balance my desire to have things written perfectly (which, for me means being as clear, concise, precise and transparent as possible) with the need to recognize when good is good enough. This approach has really helped me in my writing pursuits.

What do you listen to while you work?
Alternative rock, mostly from Octane, streamed online through Spotify. Foo Fighters, Seether, Linkin Park, and Shinedown are reliable favourites. I’m also currently enjoying Saint Asonia, Halestorm, Disturbed, and numerous other newer bands.

What are you currently reading?
I enjoy biographies, most recently completing Boys In The Boat by Daniel Brown; and An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield. On the work side, numerous weekly submissions to the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

How do you recharge?
Running, cycling, and erging (rowing machine) at moderate to high intensity at least 4 times per week. Chilling with my wife and kids in the evening. I am also regularly inspired and recharged by my daughter and son and very much enjoy watching their various sporting activities and events. Their energy really feeds me and keeps me feeling youthful.

How do you balance your work life and your home/family life?

Keeping a healthy balance between work and home/family life is very important to me. The elements to be balanced have, of course, always been in flux and this will undoubtedly always be the case. As a graduate student I became proficient at working in a focused and efficient manner during the day so that I could have time for working out, playing sports, and spending time with my family and future wife, Kimberley. Having time to do the latter really reinforced the former. The habit of focused and efficient work during the day and devoted time for family and leisure pursuits continued when Kimberley and I were married toward the end of grad school and, with some tweaks, continued when our daughter and son respectively joined us 9 and 16 years later. From the get-go I have loved spending time with my kids. It is a priority. Thus, I started scheduling my work, where possible, to accommodate their schedules. For example, in the early years I would slide in as much work as possible during their nap times or when they were on play dates and, in more recent years, while they are at practice/training or while waiting to pick them up from other activities. Interestingly, my daughter recently received her drivers license and I am now having to adapt to the 50% loss of work time that I had conveniently found during those daily “taxi dad” periods, which are now exclusive to my son. It would be unfair to suggest that I have not and do not work at home some evenings or at some periods over the weekend. I do; but, again, I tweak my schedule so my work does not conflict with family life. For example, although it was quite an adaptation initially, I now get up about an hour earlier than the rest of the family and, when desired or necessary, sneak in some work with my morning coffee. Despite what sounds to be a general separation of work and home/family life, we have also always sought to make conference and other work travel a family adventure as much a possible. This has resulted in some wonderful and memorable family/work trips to amazing places that we might have not otherwise had the opportunity to visit together. I think the essential element of my approach to keeping work and home/family life balanced is being able to minimize distractions while at work which, in turn, allows for maximum focus and efficiency of productive output and the reduction of the frequency with which work intrudes on leisure and family while at home.

What’s your sleep routine like?
I do best with 6.5 to 7 hours per night. Anything less and I’m lacking in energy and anything more I have a headache and a little edginess. As such, my sleep habits are pretty consistent from day to day, going to bed around 11 and up at 6. I rarely have sleep onset issues, perhaps except for the first night or so when travelling and away from home, and daytime naps do me no favours and are avoided.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I received two pieces of advice that have shaped my life considerably. My doctoral advisor and mentor, Dr. Ron Norton, is credited with one of those pieces. Ron, through advice and modelling, emphasized for me early in my academic pursuits the importance of striving for and attaining balance in life. I internalized this advice and have always sought to maintain a balance between my work and non-work/family life.

My mother, Eileen Asmundson, is credited with the the other piece. As a young boy I had troubles falling asleep on my own after my older brother, with whom I had shared a room, moved away from home. My mother took me aside and explained, “Before you can do it, you need to think you can do it.” Her simple and insightful advice shaped, and continues to shape, my approach to many opportunities and challenges of my life.



Gord Asmundson

Website: www.aibl.ca


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