Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being Kind to Your Future Self

One of my unofficial mottos in life is to try to always be kind to my future self. This can be expressed in so many ways. Simple things, like washing the dishes promptly after eating, when the food residue is all still easily rinsed away, rather than leaving them to pile up and become a daunting and difficult task, or remembering to always put things where they belong, so that you can find them quickly and easily when needed. The latter one was an oft repeated bit of advice by my undergraduate field geology teacher, who insisted that we *always* put our compasses and rock hammers back into their holsters if we needed our hands free, even if it was only going to be “for a second”, because distractions happen, and it is easy to put that all important tool down on a convenient rock, get interrupted and called away, and not notice it is gone till you reach for the holster hours or miles away from where you left the hammer or compass.

Another way we can be kind to our future self is to distribute our work evenly, and not procrastinate until facing a hard deadline with too much work still needing to be done. This one can take years of practice to get right. When first starting out in graduate school it can be very tempting to translate the freedom of setting one’s own schedule into “I can take any time off that I want to take”, but students who take this approach often regret it later in their project, as their scholarships are running out, and the work isn’t yet done. I know that I tried to make the effort early in my project to work steadily, so that I’d have the same level of work-load throughout, but I’m not certain I managed as well as I might have, if I had only known more then about what I would need to have done by now. The end is in sight, but the effort being put forth does, at times, seem to have been exponential in its increase. Fortunately, even when one wasn’t perfect in distributing the work-level across the entire project, still projects are finite in duration, and the effort I’m putting in now will make life easier for my future self.

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