It’s ironic really, to go on a course (distracting me from actually working) and be told to avoid distractions. However, I tend to think that a bit of help in re-focusing, evaluating my work scheme and planning can be worth the time spent obtaining said help. With that in mind I signed up for learning the Seven Secrets of highly Successful research students.
The most interesting thing that I got out of the course was that my weakest point is saying no to distractions. The obvious distractions – facebook, amazon, etc. – go without saying but more dangerous are the distractions that feel productive, that are work. For instance, I feel like answering emails is work – which to some extent it is. But when an email arrives and I check and answer it immediately, it interrupts my thought flow and eats more time than if I answered them all in one go. Similarly, teaching or preparing lectures is work but won’t get a paper or thesis written.
I need to remember that the thesis and the papers are the big things. Everything else needs to be fitted around them, not vice versa. Anything that isn’t directly contributing to something being published is a distraction. Necessary distractions very often but distractions none the less.
The result of this course is a new resolution: I’m going to set aside two hours every morning when I won’t allow distractions and I will work on content which will contribute directly to my next paper or my thesis. If the rest of the day gets eaten by distractions, at least I will have achieved something every day. A good theory; we will have to see how this plays out in practice.