Friday, March 21, 2008

It needs Focus

To be a scientist, you don’t need necessarily get a PhD. But doing a PhD is a good practice to learn that being a scientist does not need genius but needs focus.

Although I write this blog for scientific and academic discussions, I want to abuse it a little bit to report a workshop I recently attend. I went to Grad Cohort workshop in Seattle, which was generously sponsored by Google and Microsoft, and arranged by CRA-W. The workshop’s goal was to train women in computing science to have a successful academic life as a PhD (or Masters) student.

So back to the requirements to be a scientist, I learned in this workshop that although I feel I am a hardworking PhD student, but it might be a myth. I learned probably I am doing my PhD horribly, very horribly. By horribly, I mean I am wasting too much time, I am not doing research by its real meaning, and I am slaving myself while I could do things in a much easier fashion.

For example, in a time management session, the speaker shocked me by telling us that checking e-mails is the most time-consuming task we do in the entire day, even when we are not in our offices. We open our mailboxes several times, and by several I mean a huge number.

So I’d like report back some of tips that I found useful, for all ambitious students, scientists, researchers, or scientist-title seekers:

- Don’t check e-mails in the morning. You are scarifying the best best best hours of the day on nothing. Honestly, it is really hard: We, people in computing science, wake up in the morning with a hand searching for the power button of our laptop, and the other hand may be searching for glasses to read the e-mails. So I started with this practice: I open my mailbox, but I just look for very important e-mails, like ones from my supervisor. I don’t read spam-like ones, I even delete half the e-mails that I guess I am not going to read any ways!!

- Practice Time-Sink Finding for two weeks. I started doing this. Every 15 minutes record what you did in that last quarter of hour. Don’t think it is a stupid test, and don’t think you should start doing it when your deadlines are over. At least I promise you due to the Hawthorne effect you work much better, because you are observing yourself, and you will feel the Hawthorne effect on yourself. The findings of this experiment for me is amazing: I put more time on hanging out with my labmates, friends and colleagues than doing research. I don’t know how my friends would feel about it, but I and my supervisor would seriously think about it!!

- Put some time on deep thinking. I have not yet started doing this, but I am sure it is a good advice.

- Have a place to hide: When you have a deadline, a very important conference is coming, or your PhD Qual exam is approaching, you should have a corner of a library that no one knows you (probably social science library is an option !!). I have such a corner, but I can't reveal its name !! You go there, don't move, work for 12 hours in a serial!

1 comment:

Christopher Collins said...

Thanks for posting this -- I think a lot of PhD students could use this advice.