Sunday, November 9, 2014

Focusing Your Research: Memos, Advice, and Work--even in Tragedy, Illness, and Crisis

If you write yourself a memo, say every six months, to describe what work you are doing and where you think you might be going--say in the next two? years--you will find that it helps to focus your work. The memo need not be long, surely no more than a single-spaced page. It could be a list.

If there is someone whom you trust and believe is reasonably sensible, even wise, share that memo and see what they say. Indicate its tentativeness. For you are not asking for criticism of your work, you are seeking suggestions for a better path.

And of course, you need to work. Probably 5-7 days/week. If your work is thinking and trying things out, as in mathematics, say, then that is what you will be doing mostly. If it is archival work, for the moment , . . . If you are writing a paper, or writing a book (do it chapter by chapter, section by section, . . .

Don't let anything get in your way. Death of family or friends, chronic or serious illness, disappointments, bad news--perhaps you should stop for a week. But in general, work is healing--and you need not do it all day. An hour or two, snatched from the chaos around you, might be calming and good for you, no matter how bad things be.

If you have too many overlapping tasks, writing say two books at the same time, you might alternate, but for most of us one-at-a-time is likely better. So keep a notebook where you write down stuff relevant to the other tasks, or perhaps just annotate a draft.

If you are feeling ill, depressed, wasting away,... see your physician as soon as possible. Take your medications, practice your regimes, keep your appointments. 

Do not let mechanical stuff get in your way--committees, teaching in so far as it is more of the same, cleaning out your office or garage. Surely, they need to be done but a bout of work before those tasks is likely to be good for your soul. 

Finally, People are More Important than just about Anything. 

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