Wednesday, 15 December 2010

motivation, 1000 a day, and winter holidays

A year and a half ago I was finishing up my PhD thesis, working really, really long hours and totally focused on the one goal: finish up before boarding that plane on my way to my first post-doc position. Many of my friends commented at how motivated I was, and I replied that plane tickets are a huge motivator.

Jump ahead to the present and I once again have plane tickets waiting for me at the end of the month, but this time they are taking me to visit friends in Scandinavia and enjoy some real winter weather while I keep applying for jobs. Since my friends will have jobs to go to during the days the prospect of not being quite finished with my current research isn't as worrisome as the prospect of not completing that thesis before boarding the plane to head to a job—I know that it will be possible to keep working, even once funding ends. As a result I have not been putting fort the same sort of concentrated effort I did a year and a half ago, but am instead permitting myself some distractions.

One of the biggest distractions, of course, is the need to continue to apply for all of those positions which sound interesting and related to any of the research I've done to date. Each of these applications takes time, and each has a deadline by which if I have not yet applied they will not consider me for the position. One of the other distractions has been my social life. I flew to Scandinavia on the last weekend of November, and to the UK on the first weekend of December. Both trips were to attend events focused on Medieval Dancing. I very much enjoyed both trips and got to renew some old friendships and make some new friends.

Prior to the first of those trips I had been wondering what to do about my 1000 a day—I had chosen to fly carry-on only, and wouldn't be bringing my computer—this means that I'd need to actually print out a pdf or bring a text book so that I'd have something with me to read from the geologic literature. Sadly, a couple of days before my trip I forgot to read my 1000, thus ending a streak of 321 days in a row. My record, by far, and I am pleased to have achieved it. But oh, wouldn't it have been nice to manage an entire year in a row of reading 1000 or more words from the geological literature?

I know how it happened that I forgot, too. Much the same way as the last time I broke a record-breaking streak. Step one: get into the habit of reading your 1000 right before bed for many weeks running. Step two, switch to reading during lunch for a week or three. Step three: encounter a particularly busy day, with no time to read your 1000 during lunch. Think about it a couple of times during the day that it still needs doing, but only while actively in the middle of another, important task. Finish up everything else for the day, do yoga, brush teeth, crawl into bed, and pick up some fiction. Read till you sleep, and don’t remember that the 1000 hadn't been done till you wake.

Having forgotten I then made a decision to take a hiatus from reading my 1000. I will start back up after the first of the year, but I am taking December off (I wound up taking off much of last December, too, as I traveled and visited friends and family after attending AGU). It is strangely freeing to have one fewer "must do" on my list each day. However, I strongly suspect that I will be very happy to start that task back up again with the New Year.

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