I will feel productive if…

dreadsci here! akajb invited me to guest-post ages ago and I’m finally going to do it. 8-year PhD, ABD for the last three. *sigh*

One of the things I’m working on in the ongoing quest to be (and feel) successful in grad school is my own expectation management. I always want to do a lot. I think I can do a lot. I think a programming task will take 10 minutes (which generally means hours) and an explanation will practically write itself (which generally means forcing myself to sit down and write anything and then if I stick with it, a small amount of usable text).

So the new year sees me trying to be explicit about what my own expectations are. I’m not going to get my thesis done today. I’m not even going to get a paper done today. But today, I will feel productive if I get X hours of work in. And if I get the graph I’m aiming for, I will feel like a super hero. That’s the deal.

Otherwise, I’ll work for 10 hours but have been wrong as usual about how long a task will take and feel like a failure, even though I’m a good programmer and spent the day working both hard and smart. Or I’ll get the graph I’ve been waiting for, but immediately feel behind because I don’t have the next one, or it’s not paper-ready, or I don’t have the description figured out.

So yeah. Explicit productive-yet-achievable goals. I’ll report on how it’s going later!


2 thoughts on “I will feel productive if…

  1. I can relate to this sentiment. I do a fairly good job of planning for my next steps, but I’m almost always too ambitious in estimating how much time things will take me to complete. I’m working on incorporating the pomodoro technique to work on the time management side of things and track my progress.

  2. The productive/super-hero distinction kinda helped yesterday. It gives an outlet for being ambitious without the crushing sense of failure from unachievable goals. And (presumably) every now and then things will go perfectly and I will get to feel like a super-hero!

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