a new skill set

January 6, 2011

managing my day
it’s so interesting to me: when i was working 80-hour weeks on the wards or in the intensive care units during residency, managing my time didn’t require much thought. every minute was precious, so there was no room for questions about motivation or whether i ‘felt’ like doing something at any given time.

if i wanted to work out — and i did (marathon training while in the PICU? well, why not?) — then i had to do it in the few windows of time that i had. if i wanted to write this blog — and obviously, i did — i had to crank my posts out in the wee hours (nothing like a rousing meme at 4:40 in the morning! huh . . .).

i learned a lot about managing time and planning ahead during those days. however, one sad result is that my skills do not translate as well to a (much) less structured schedule. in fact, in some ways the experience may have been detrimental, because residency conditions you to grab rest and free time whenever it presents itself. after all, with those hours, it’s a matter of survival!

but you can see how that mindset might become problematic when all of the sudden, your schedule is a wide open frontier of ‘research time’ . . . and i believe this is why i am struggling a bit now. it’s not that my work ethic sucks or that i don’t want to get anything done; it’s just that this shift isn’t that easy!

don’t get excited: “hope valley day care” = volunteer project, not a personal errand!
as you can see above, i am attempting in my own nerdy way to give my time some structure. i also have emailed my PI because i would like to start doing some actual, hands-on research — but i honestly need some concrete suggestions on what to start on, and someone to help (re-)teach me some of the ropes, as i haven’t touched a pipette in about 5 years.

i’m not complaining about this research time — no, not one bit. i am thrilled to have the chance to do things at my own pace. and hopefully, i will start to gain a time management/productivity skill set that works in this realm, too! if you have a ‘wide open’ schedule that you’ve learned to manage well, share your secrets!. phD students and graduates, i’m talking to you.

pre-prenatal nutrition advice update
i have gotten some great questions from you all to send to heather! i will compile and send them off to her tomorrow, so email me today if there is anything you have always wanted to know about eating for pre-gestation.

things that are awesome
alycia‘s 2011 inspiration board! love this.

angeliki‘s post, which inspired my thoughts above.

(never home)maker. how was i not reading this blog!?

♥ free dave farmar podcasts

yoga is growing on me!
this bag, which graced the cover of anthro‘s january catalog.

so linear and pretty and . . . blue.


workout: 75 minute yoga class @ blue point. this class was better than the last one but still not as fun as the first (i miss those plank handstands!). i really do like yoga to be challenging — since i am doing it as my only workout on some days now, i want to shake and sweat a little.

no cooking night: because the kitchen was still stocked with leftovers! that thai chili is a gift that keeps on giving . . .

reading: no formal reading b/c i got home after 6:30 pm (from yoga).


  • Reply haya March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    i am really good at planning out big blocks of open time with smaller projects/tasks that are supposed to get done not as good at staying focused and sticking to the plan!
    i&#39m not sure how well i would work on a really free-form schedule (as opposed to my daily 7-3:30s). i think it might be fun to try, though, and i&#39m sure after a short "learning intro curve" you&#39d get the hang of it.

  • Reply Michelle @ Chasing Ambulances March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I&#39m not sure if you&#39re in front of a computer for your research, but my husband uses a pomodoro counter to keep him on track (www.pomodorotechnique.com). The Simple Dollar (www.thesimpledollar.com) had a post about staying productive yesterday that might inspire you.

    I really like the blue anthro bag! I also really like the mustard one in the same style.

  • Reply RunningOnCoffee March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I&#39m a huge fan of neverhomemaker too!
    I agree that time management was never an issue while I was a busy undergrad working nearly full time and doing an internship and being an active member of some clubs… or while a newlywed full time grad student, also working full time. Now that I *only* have a job, I have all this time, but I feel I don&#39t use it as well as I used to! I try to schedule my runs/classes at the gyms, but other than that I don&#39t often structure my time well and end up losing an hour here and there getting sucked into the internet.

  • Reply Anonymous March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    My experience is "research" grows out of tickling the knowledge base. Discoveries often come out of you applying what YOU know to some other related field and just noodling around. So were I you I would start with some in depth reading like 4 hours a day in various fields with your antenna raised for ideas. Once you get YOUR idea the rest will tend to fall into place depending on the money you have available to spend and the colleagues you have to bounce your ideas off. This is what engenders excitement in the project.

    Example I was an electrical engineer and wound up implanting silver/silver ion electrodes into rat brains to measure FM waveforms (EEG&#39s are AM waveforms) Turns out brain damage is not continuous over time but due discrete incidents, and I could measure the discrete components of ongoing brain damage ipsi and contralaterally over time. Ran out of money but it would have been a very useful experimental paradigm for looking at therapy for brain damage. I knew about FM, waveforms, and amplifiers and the guy who lived behind me had a neurophysiology lab and rats.

    I worked in a guy&#39s lab who was an expert in low resolution NMR. He applied his low resolution knowledge to high resolution NMR and came up with NMR shift reagents. He became the most cited chemist in the world due to noodling his knowledge and expertise into another field.

    You never know what will trip your trigger so I would worry less about schedules and spend some time immersing yourself in the knowledge. Once you get excited there will be no stopping you

  • Reply Anonymous March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Sarah –
    I&#39m a local reader and am enjoying following your foray into the local yoga studios. While I love blue point I find that their all levels classes are not all created equal. In my experience, Brooks and Andrea M generally teach a more rigorous vinyasa style than some others. Also, have you considered franklin st yoga? It&#39s got a fun vibe and I&#39ve never had a bad class there.

    As a phd student myself I should have advice on managing open windows of time but instead I always find myself feeling underwhelmed most of the time and then overwhelmed near due dates. For me it helps to schedule backwards. I map out weekly goals from the due date backwards to present day that will allow me to accomplish the task in a reasonable time frame. Of course, following the task timeline then becomes a battle, but at least those unchecked boxes are staring me in the face. It also helps to really capitalize on my most productive time of the day (for me, mid morning to lunch). If I can get on a roll with the most challenging tasks then, I can save the easier ones for my afternoon slump.

    I&#39m looking forward to reading what others have to say!

  • Reply Angeliki March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I do agree with having a to-do list (daily, weekly, monthly), plan meetings with PI as frequent as possible to set deadlines and monitor progress and of course do the writing or any other important and not urgent stuff the time you feel more productive.

    In my experience, the first year I felt at lost with much time at hand and not a clue of what I was suppose to do but after this initial phase you&#39ll have to work on so many tasks that your previous skills on time management will prove very handy. And of course as time goes by, other project will come along, conference talks, writing papers, peer-review papers, teaching, marking etc etc. I find it so much easier to manage my time when I have many things to do rather than one big and vague task. But maybe it&#39s just me.

  • Reply Anonymous March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    I love the pretty blue purse! And I&#39m so excited that Staples carries those awesome pens. I am definately stopping by Staples tomorrow. Plus, I still have to get my school supplies- my fav shopping of all!

  • Reply Anonymous March 10, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    Hi Sarah,
    I struggle with this too. As I am just about starting on actually writing my thesis (as opposed to doing research and writing papers), it really is time to get this straight. I have some ideas I am trying out, and I will post about it on my blog soon. I think the internet is the biggest enemy of productivity for me, and this is definitely the issue to beat right now. Have you heard of a program called freedom? I just bought it, and it seems really useful.

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