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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The whirlwind, redeux

I'm learning quite a bit about what productivity is -- and what it is not. More particularly, I'm starting to grasp on a much deeper level what it takes for me, personally, to be productive. And here is the alarming part of that realization: it involves giving up on the classical idea of mental health. I need the almost manic phases to see the patterns with clarity, and to own them. This thing that I've seen so long as a weakness may actually be one of my biggest strengths, also.

I'm most productive, not surprisingly, when I can just ignore everyone and everything else and work at high intensity non-stop, and (this is the surprising part) when I take time to do absolutely nothing. I need both the peaks and the valleys to truly function. "Healthy" doesn't mean the same thing for me as it does for "normal"* people. So I'll take my neuroses and be over there, working, thank you very much.

Now that I've learned this about myself, I'm finding it far easier to get work done. I'm still not as good at getting projects finished as I'd like: I have lots of great ideas, and little nuclei of projects, but shepherding them through to completion can be difficult for me. I prefer to hand them off to the students and start something else. Unfortunately, the ability to finish a project is one of the things that develops in graduate school, so I still need to be good about the finishing part, tragically.

I spent the last ... three? ... weeks in a flurry of activity. I'm pretty sure that I've stored up all of the departmental service I need for the next three years, at least. And at very high intensity, too. And then, I headed off (yes, away from home, again) to meet with collaborators and work at my alternate institution, where the real importance of completion finally hit me. And I hit back. It's been a great few days of pure research -- of working 18 hours straight, napping on the couch in the office, and getting up to keep going. And it's been productive. Normal and healthy be damned! I am back, baabee.

And now, I'm going to try and survive Thanksgiving with my family, in a town that would be charming if it weren't so suburban, sitting on an ocean that I love, avoiding all topics of conversations that I truly care about. Family is the best (well, after cats) because they have to love you anyway -- but it's a bitch to remember.

*Assuming that such a thing actually exists.

Location: Currently, Berkeley, United States

I'm an academic scientist who is both abroad and a broad. I am on the road so often that I have a house solely so that my cats will have somewhere to live.

Okay, fine. If you really really want to, and don't care how long it is between mail checks, you can send email to ascientistabroad  {a}gmail{dot}com

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