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Self-Discipline and Deadlines


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13 replies to this topic

#1 eco_env

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 04:46 AM

Does you advisor have specific expectations for what you are supposed to get done and when? Do you have any kind of structure to your research? If not, how do you keep yourself disciplined, set deadlines, and abide by them? how do you decide what's a reasonable deadline? The nearest term deadline I made for myself is in late Feb, with a personal goal of getting some data so I can submit an abstract for a conference, but that's still pretty long term, vague, and (probably) ambitious.
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#2 fuzzylogician

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:08 AM

My program goes from being extremely structured in the first year to being quite unstructured starting in the second year. Almost everyone is confused at first and, in fact, falling behind is a serious concern among the faculty in my department (I'm the student rep. so I can tell you it's frequently discussed at faculty meetings). We have deadlines but they are rarely met.

Personally I'm quite good at meeting deadlines - real ones and fake ones. Right now I am the only person in my program who is on schedule (though eventually everyone graduates on time and we have a great placement record). I have short-term and long-term goals which I set in the beginning of the semester. I keep a weekly to-do list, which I update based on my progress, and a semester/~6-month list of all the deadlines I need to meet, divided by date and by topic (abstracts, papers, class presentations, teaching, etc). I usually try to break up large projects into daily-to-weekly assignments which are easily manageable. I wouldn't just set a vague deadline in February because that would make it hard for me to handle. I need to have a clearer picture of the amount of work that needs to be done so that I can spread the load in a more reasonable way. Working last-minute up against a deadline is something that doesn't work well for me, for personal reasons. I sometimes don't feel very well so I can't just wait until the last minute and then cram all the work into a short period of time. Friends often make fun of just how organized I have to be (I write everything down that I need to do, no matter how small, and without my calendar I couldn't tell you where I am going to be tomorrow), but eventually it helps me get more done, I think.
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The advice in this post is based on my own personal experience. YMMV.
Pardon my typos..

#3 eco_env

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 05:31 AM

Oh, I have another part to the question: how do you stay focused on work for a full day when all of your work for a day involves sitting at the computer? I find that when I sit down at the computer in the morning with the prospect of sitting there and working for the next 12 hours or so and working (counting the meal breaks, etc)... it just doesn't happen. I take hours to get myself in working mode.
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#4 fuzzylogician

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 06:12 AM

Oh, I have another part to the question: how do you stay focused on work for a full day when all of your work for a day involves sitting at the computer?


You learn how your body and mind work. I am a night person, there is not much that I can do early in the morning but for some reason I can do some effective writing for short periods at that time. Noon and early afternoon are pretty much useless for me but I can do first pass / non-technical reading of papers to decide what I need to return to and whether or not I need to learn the details in those papers, and I can do first pass grading (looking at solutions to get a general impression). Statistics and programming I do in the early evening hours. I do my best writing at night. I just plan according to the time of day and what I can reasonably expect to accomplish. I also accept periods of less productivity as a natural part of my work. I go back to old seminal papers that I haven't read in a while and try to get inspired, or if possible I just take time off. I'm involved in enough diverse projects that I always have something new to think about if I'm stuck somewhere else.

Edited by fuzzylogician, 12 December 2011 - 06:14 AM.

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The advice in this post is based on my own personal experience. YMMV.
Pardon my typos..

#5 ktel

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 02:34 PM

My department specifically schedules a research assessment meeting at the end of each term for the first year (when you're doing coursework). I'm then motivated to get enough research done to write a report and give a presentation.

My work also involves sitting in front of the computer. I have coursework now so I try to break up the computer work with homework and reading. Otherwise I try to break it up into chunks during the day so that I get decent breaks in between.
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#6 Eigen

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 04:18 PM

We have some deadlines, but I find deadlines in research are really hard- you have to assume things will work out, and that's rarely the case (at least in lab-bench type work).

Our usual deadlines revolve around grants- submission/resubmission times- as we try to get as much preliminary and supporting data as possible.

I had a personal goal set of getting out a publication by the end of the year... But I had quite a few equipment breakages and other issues, and that just won't happen.

I think it's important to mix between hard deadlines and realizing that some things just become un-meetable, and reassessing. I'm more of a fan of setting work goals for myself (ie, how many hours of work I'm going to put in a week) instead of progress goals, since progress goals are much less predictable.

My PI is generally happy with us if we're just putting in the time and we have good directions, and pretty understanding if results just aren't appearing/we have to switch up our projects.
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#7 eco_env

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Posted 12 December 2011 - 07:12 PM

You learn how your body and mind work. I am a night person, there is not much that I can do early in the morning but for some reason I can do some effective writing for short periods at that time. Noon and early afternoon are pretty much useless for me but I can do first pass / non-technical reading of papers to decide what I need to return to and whether or not I need to learn the details in those papers, and I can do first pass grading (looking at solutions to get a general impression). Statistics and programming I do in the early evening hours. I do my best writing at night. I just plan according to the time of day and what I can reasonably expect to accomplish. I also accept periods of less productivity as a natural part of my work. I go back to old seminal papers that I haven't read in a while and try to get inspired, or if possible I just take time off. I'm involved in enough diverse projects that I always have something new to think about if I'm stuck somewhere else.

I guess I'm the only one in the unfortunate position of not having a variety of tasks to work on- at least right now after classes are done. It's a lot harder to keep working throughout the day when you only have one type of work to do.
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#8 rising_star

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:33 AM

I can't imagine that you really only have one type of work to do. I assume you're doing a lot of reading but, that really should be accompanied by writing. Likewise, writing is accompanied by reading.

I'm no longer able to work on my ideal schedule for a variety of reasons but, I've adapted nonetheless. I try to set daily goals about what I want to get done and, though I often fail to meet them, these are quite helpful. I should probably set weekly and monthly goals but I've put off doing that lately.
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#9 ktel

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:36 AM

I can't imagine that you really only have one type of work to do. I assume you're doing a lot of reading but, that really should be accompanied by writing. Likewise, writing is accompanied by reading.


Says the social sciences grad student :P

Not to say I don't write, but I would imagine I do significantly less writing then you do. Unless writing computer code counts.
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#10 Eigen

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Posted 13 December 2011 - 02:56 AM

The sciences have far more varying tasks than the social sciences most of the time. I assume you're a modeling related engineering field? If so you should have plenty of things to read and then apply, not to mention writing up summaries, notes, files of interesting code for future use... Not to mention the actual time writing and editing code.

You should also have plenty of math to work through in terms of theory, derivations, an the synthesis or modification of new equations to use in your models.

Sciences and engineering are some of the most diverse fields in terms of task variety- even those focused on computational work and modeling.

Edited by Eigen, 13 December 2011 - 02:59 AM.

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#11 Andsowego

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Posted 03 January 2012 - 04:55 AM

Oh, I have another part to the question: how do you stay focused on work for a full day when all of your work for a day involves sitting at the computer? I find that when I sit down at the computer in the morning with the prospect of sitting there and working for the next 12 hours or so and working (counting the meal breaks, etc)... it just doesn't happen. I take hours to get myself in working mode.


Are you working at a desktop? or on a laptop? The only way I can keep from going crazy with the long computer hours, is to take my laptop and stack of papers/books/whatever to different locations. It varies from libraries (off-campus for a change of scenary), to cafes (if you don't mind noise), to sitting outside somewhere when the weather is nice (unless you need internet access, then it gets tricky outdoors). It's amazing what a change of venue can do for the work ethic and mental state!
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#12 Iris Johnson

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Posted 05 January 2012 - 06:24 AM

Oh, I have another part to the question: how do you stay focused on work for a full day when all of your work for a day involves sitting at the computer? I find that when I sit down at the computer in the morning with the prospect of sitting there and working for the next 12 hours or so and working (counting the meal breaks, etc)... it just doesn't happen. I take hours to get myself in working mode.


Just stay focused with your goal. It's just the same with sitting for hours in a classroom. So just stay focused and keep in mind that every second counts. You don't wanna waste any of your time, do you?
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#13 helmholtz

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 11:23 PM

Coffee
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#14 SixFender

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Posted 14 March 2012 - 04:37 PM

Plain and simple, if you want to succeed, you will. And yes, lots of coffee.
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