What keeps me moving forward?

i-9dc84d4d9156dccb30d5f62466b4219a-swblocks.jpgDespite being the one to pick the topic for the upcoming Scientiae, I have struggled and struggled to come up with anything to post for this month's Carnival. As Alice alluded to earlier, I'm having a particularly tough month, feeling like I am treading water most of the time, and not making any headway against the current.

I tried to write a post in which I listed the things I had gotten done this month, but it was just too damn depressing. Especially when I compared that list to the optimistic list written on the whiteboard in my office. And even more depressing when compared to the list of tasks that Outlook reminds me about. According to Outlook, I should have had a paper submitted and another full draft written weeks, no months ago. So that post about how I am moving forward remains in draft status in Movable Type, and it will probably sit there buried in the detritus until the end of this blog.

Back to the drawing board, I contemplated writing a post about the revisions to one particular paper, and I how I was moving forward in the face of rejection, and each round of revision was truly making it a better paper and better science. But, damn, that depressing post never even made it out of my head, because I've had the latest rejection letter since March, and there's been no substantive change to the paper since then.

This morning I once again found myself contemplating my Scientiae theme and reading some of the great submissions y'all have been writing. (Keep 'em coming, even if you end up a bit after the deadline.) How am I moving forward? What keeps me moving forward? Dammit, I needed to write a post for the carnival; I wanted to be able to cross it off my list.

AHA! That's what keeps me moving forward on even the glummest of days. Making lists, checking them twice, finding out who's been naughty and nice and crossing things off those lists. I love lists.

  • Bulleted.
  • Numbered.
  • Multi-colored.
  • Black and white
  • Digital.
  • Post-it.
  • White board.
  • Notebook.
  • Mental.
  • To-do.
  • Accomplished.
  • Categorized.
  • Made first thing in the morning.
  • Made during seminars or meetings.
  • Made at the end of the day.
  • General tasks for the next few months.
  • Detailed lists for the day.
  • Lists with (realistic) timelines are even better.

The making and keeping of lists is, for me, a big part of what gives structure to an otherwise fairly unstructured job, especially in the summer. They help me balance multiple-projects at once, and they theoretically help me balance the urgent, unimportant versus the non-urgent, important tasks.

Part of what has made the past month so incredibly stressful was that I couldn't check things off lists. Actually, I couldn't even make lists of the things that needed to be done, because so many of things in my life were conditional on the behavior of others beyond my control. Fortunately, I am hopeful that this phase of the storm is about to pass, and I will regain some sense of control over my day-to-day life. (And don't worry, Minnow and I are OK.) In fact, I hope to finish June with a tangible sense of accomplishment and relief.

And now, whatever else occurs, I can check one thing off my list. Post for June Scientiae. Done. :)

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I hope this phase passes soon. It's very difficult to feel like others are in control. Maybe you need a different list until it does--a list of pleasant things to do, a list of what you do every day that you enjoy, whether it's listening to music or having an ice cream cone (personally I think ice cream is the cure for everything) or whatever.

Sorry that you're having such a difficult time, but it's so nice to hear that I'm not alone. I've felt this way for months now! You've inspired me to check something off my list today. Thanks!

By Junior Faculty (not verified) on 30 May 2009 #permalink

I'm with ya on the motivation of lists. If a task isn't on a list, right in front of my face, there is a very high (so sad to admit!!) likelihood it will not get done. My students often comment on the thoroughness of my list, and one student even stopped by at the end of the semester to proudly show off *her* list. Her excitement? Every item was crossed off.

Oh, yes. I rarely use them when everything is moving along on its own, but when things get tough, there's nothing like being able to cross things off my list.

I'm definitely with you on the lists. Lists are like a comfort blanket - I do like to have them around, and they give me some sense of control even when everything is chaos.

Also, I find that lists can be good DE-stressors, contrary to what my non-list-making colleagues always say. If it's on a list I know it won't get forgotten so I stop worrying about it at random moments, so I have more brain space for focus and less 'hamster wheeling'.

I do hope this phase passes and that at the end of June you are placed for a brilliant few months of research and Minnow-Mummying!

I hope things get better for you soon, ScienceWoman. In the meantime, could you break your list items into smaller tasks so there could be a better chance of crossing something off?

I love your list :) that's all.

Making lists is also a big part of my life to get things done (even the home-things), and if I don't, my work immediately shows it. I guess that's why I'm a big fan of Backpack - there's another post about them waiting to be written.

Your list is fantastic! Have you ever seen "My Dinner With Andre"? Great line from that movie - "But I like making lists, and crossing things off!"

Hang in there SciWo, we love you.

SW, I missed the scientiae deadline again. It definitely didn't get checked off my list. I'm a list maker too. Usually daily, but always with carry over of all the stuff I didn't get done from the previous list. Hope your situation improves soon. I've been thinking about you, at least it's good to know that you and Minnow are ok.