Saturday, September 18, 2010

Intentionally over-committing

Have you ever intentionally taken on a little more than you think you can handle? If you have, why?

I'm doing it this semester because I don't want to give my mind time to wander. My dad is not doing well. I don't want to publicize the details, so you'll have to believe me. The doctors either cannot or will not tell us what his current group of diagnoses mean in terms of prognosis except to say, several times, that it's not good. I don't want time to consider possible implications of his current health beyond an initial thought. Oddly, this situation seems to help me concentrate on work most of the time. I'm making progress on most fronts.

In pursuit of the goal to keep myself busy, here are my major work-related activities this semester:
  1. Prelim: The proposal write-up is due November 23, and the oral presentation is tentatively schedule for December 9. That leaves me a little over two months to write it. My to-do list says "come up with plan for prelim."
  2. Research for AMS 2011 in January: I don't know if I have a poster or oral presentation yet, but it doesn't matter. I need results to present either way. The first step is downloading data. Thankfully I wasn't optimistic enough to believe I could have model results in time.
  3. @#$% MS paper: Yep, still going. The Energizer paper. At least I'm working on a first round of revisions to most of the text. Computers still are not cooperating to finish the final two figures.
  4. Copyediting for the school newspaper: This only consumes three hours one night a week. It'll give me a taste of what working on a tight deadline is like without too much time commitment.
  5. Writing for the school STEM magazine: Only one issue will be published this semester, so I will write one article for print, one article for the web, and two blog posts. It should be straightforward and relatively quick since the articles are supposed to be short. It'll challenge me more to choose a topic than to write the articles.
  6. Intern as a science writer with the university news bureau: I'm excited about this. My mentor actually gets paid to write about science! And she's professional about it! How refreshing. The internship can take as much or as little time as I let it because I accept (or turn down) assignments as they crop up. Finally, some reliable mentoring in writing.
The work for my only class should pull double-duty with my PhD research, so I don't count it as a major commitment.

I also intend to help my family as possible and as needed, attend all the jujitsu practices I can, and occasionally go rock climbing, ice skating, and biking. Oh, and cook tasty food. I have to eat, right?

If you think I'm crazy, you're not alone. I think my mom is the only person who doesn't question me anymore. She's learned that many of my seemingly crazy ideas are some of the ones that work out the best.


  1. I'm sorry about your dad. I totally understand where you're coming from. I had a similar situation the last half of grad school. My personality is such that I don't think I could function if I had too much quiet time during periods of high stress. I had my points where I would breakdown, sometimes for a few minutes, sometimes for an hour or more. Then I would go back to the ridiculous schedule because it gave me some amount of focus, calm, and control. The people who know you best-often parents or spouses-know what works for you.

    Best of luck with your intense schedule. Take care of yourself.