I am feeling far from serene today, and may even have had a bit of a tantrum today. We are in the process of moving, and even though it is only a local move, it is a flood of new stresses added to our already packed lives. We are dealing with contractors and service providers, and today was one of those days that left me feeling unhinged. There are so many details to track and sort through that it makes it hard for me to think straight, especially when dealing with conflicting priority lists and contractors giving the run-around.
So, to compensate for the lack of serenity that I am feeling, I am posting photos of a relaxing walk in New Hampshire with friends from a few years ago.
This picture of an adolescent lion cub yawning cracks me up. And given how tired I am right now, and how cranky I realized the tiredness had made me, it seemed to fit the mood.
(Actually, I am generally quite happy tonight, bursts of crankiness aside. My mother has come out for a visit from California, and I am looking forward to her company. I am also very appreciative of the help she is planning to give me with some of the overwhelming home projects that are leading to my cranky tiredness.)
This year has been a bountiful year for tomatoes where I live, and given my CSA membership and friendship with a successful gardener, I am certainly supplied with an abundance of tomatoes. But this post is not actually about that kind of tomato.
The tomatoes I’m talking about are chunks of time: I’ve been using the Pomodoro technique to get my work done. I’ve mentioned before that I have found this method of working in timed stretches to be helpful to my productivity.
A little more than a year ago, July of 2013 to be specific, I started to meet regularly with another PhD student from my program to commiserate and work on goals together. One goal I set was that I would work at least one tomato, that is a 25-minute stretch of time focused on the task, on my own research.
With all my other obligations for group research as well as parenting and home commitments, my own research had been regularly getting pushed to the back burner. While I’d work in impressive bursts for upcoming deadlines, such as when preparing for conference submissions and presentations, l would regularly go days or even weeks without looking at my own research when the other obligations had their own crunch times. I might make reasonable progress during the week, but a busy weekend or school vacation would come up and push all thoughts of my research out of my head. A family crisis or even a fun time like a family trip would come up, and even longer would go by. When the time would come for me to dig back into my research, it would feel alien to me. I actually had the experience of reading papers I’d written almost as if they had been written by someone else. (I’m happy to say that I did at least find them to be interesting and well-written!)
Since making the commitment to myself to do at least a tomato a day on my own research, I have made much steadier progress. There is much greater continuity, and I feel connected to my projects. Some days I manage to put in more time on my research, but I’m happy to say that I have always managed to get in at least one tomato before bedtime. (I had to give up on getting the tomato in before midnight at some point–there were days when I was travelling when it just wasn’t feasible.) Friends and family have come to know about my daily tomato.
Over the past year, there have been times when I have really wanted to just go to bed, or at least just goof off, at the end of a full and exhausting day, but I have not let myself off the hook. Even when travelling. Even when falling asleep at my laptop. 25 minutes is always an amount of time I can fit in. Even when the work is not my best or most focused, the gains to my sense of continuity have been immeasurable. I can much more easily pick up where I left of the day before.
I am feeling connected to my research every day in a way that I haven’t before.
Posted in life, photos, school, work
Tagged grad school, life, photos, productivity methods, school, time management, tomatoes, work
This sculpture is in Larkspur, California. I have vague memories of seeing this regularly while growing up, as I lived in this part of Northern California for many of my childhood and teen years. I never actually knew anything about the sculpture, but its stark silhouette caught my eye during my trip to California earlier this year while we drove towards the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge one evening after an excursion to the Marin Highlands.
The wonders of Google allow me to learn that this is a statue of explorer Juan Batista de Anza, something I hadn’t known. Really, I just picked this photo for the flag because the word “flagging” had popped into my mind to describe the way I am feeling. In my tired state, I can see the statue as the pose of a weary traveller.
It’s been a really hectic stretch, with even more rushing around than normal, and tonight my energy is flagging. I will keep pushing forward, but I really just want a break.
This summer brought its share of rainy days. The Fourth of July turned out to be one such rainy day, leading to many cancelled plans for picnics, barbecues and fireworks. I was in the middle of a frantic work stretch, however, so the rain didn’t much dampen my spirits.
Some friends were kind enough to entertain the kids along with their own kids for the day, while John and I both did work. In the late afternoon, while waiting for my children to be delivered home, I noticed that the sun was trying to break through the clouds, and was lighting the leaves and flowers on the tree next to our front porch.
I grabbed my camera, and stood under the shelter of the porch, and was captivated by the sparkling water drops. (I am such a sucker for water drops.)
Really, I should have also grabbed the tripod, but I didn’t intend it to be an extended photo shoot.
On a side note, I don’t actually know what kind of tree this is. Its deep, dark red blooms appear in early summer. I do like their understated appearance.
This photo was one I took the weekend before last, during our trip to New Hampshire for a day at Canobie Lake Park, an old and old-fashioned amusement park. It has become a tradition for us to go there the last weekend of August, to finish up the summer with a big bright and shiny adventure of lights and rides and noise and sugary treats and junky souvenirs. One last hurrah before the school year starts and the days start to grow noticeably shorter and darker.