Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Motivation... such a fleeting thing

I just defended my PhD in January... and when I thought I was done the really boring part started: revisions.

It is amazing how motivation just flies away as soon as there is something boring to do... at least this is the case for me. Procrastinating is sooooooooo nice! Despite the good intentions that hover around on Monday morning I usually start getting stuff down around Wednesday (unless... there is a deadline! See below). And I love multitasking, which makes it even more fun to have 12 internet tabs open at the same time and word in the background... (This usually drives A. mad :D). Let's just say that there is a chance of 1 in 13 that I will have the word document open at any given time...

This comic explains everything:
(by the way, PhD comics was a constant source of realism and laughter - and procrastination - during grad school, well worth reading)

But my current case is even worse... I've been staring at different bits and parts of my dissertation for the last 3 years and I feel like I cannot make myself read the !@#%$^%& draft once more. But having a perfectionist as an advisor means that there are always changes to make, something to add, some new model to estimate, some new article that just came out and needs to be included in the literature review... And this is how I find myself at the end of April, 3 days from the deadline to hand in the final manuscript and still rushing against time to get it done.

That's when a more benign version of motivation kicks in: deadline syndrome. I admit it, I work better under stress. Not rarely would I have things to do in grad school that were due a month later and would just travel somewhere exotic,  for 10 days and then cram the rest of the days with lots of work. It always worked! I mean, whatever I handed in was far from perfect and could always use at least a few more hours of work, but it was good enough.

Searching for motivation in Morrocco...

I think research aims at explaining what goes on in the world from different perspectives and therefore, almost by definition, it will never be complete. Therefore, how can your paper be perfect? It won't! I think research is mostly a bunch of building blocks that make little sense by themselves. During undergrad in Brazil we used to say that it takes 80% of the effort to go from a B to an A, and 15% to go from C to B. A+? That was a whole other 90% on top of the A (Note: Brazilian grades a less inflated than in the US. Getting an A here is huge). So you can kill yourself studying to get an A+ or lead a more fulfilling life with an A in school and some fun on the side.

And then comes the part I really like about research... it goes with you wherever you want. I can work in Brazil or in the US as long as I have the cherished data and a laptop with internet connection. And this is precisely what will happen next semester, I'll be working for a university in Norway, while A. will be studying in Paris. So I'm hoping to spend most of my time in Paris... :D

Does anyone else operate like this? Or is it just me? According to A. I'm a pretty extreme case...

Ideal office pic to relax a little :P


  1. I can't work on a beach without losing concentration, but I admire you for being able to! (And I love ph.d comics. I still read them even though I'm not in a program anywhere.)

  2. Yeah... me either. I don't really work while traveling, it just motivates me to work harder when I get back (when the deadlines are closer).

    I also keep going through phd comics, they are great!