Destroying The ‘Innate Workaholism’ Myth

Recently, I had this career planning workshop for high-performing young female researchers. We talked about many things like time management, finding our values, preventing burnout and so on. But one very common theme, at least for me, was the question of “work life balance” (a bad term actually) and something which emerged around it: I want to call it the assumption of ‘innate workaholism’ in this post.

 

What do I mean by ‘innate workaholism’?

Most of these high-performing successful women from the workshop felt like “I can’t not check my emails during a holiday” or “There just is so much work where I’m needed” but also didn’t see that it’s really a mentality issue they have and that this behaviour is probably something they were socialized into. They argued that “No, it’s not a problem: I think it’s more a question of personality. I have always been like that.” Well, yes, maybe you have. Or have you really? Have you really been like this as a small child? If you think and listen closely, can’t you determine the first time you did this? Why did this behaviour serve you at the time? In this post I want to argue that I think it is dangerous to embrace the assumption that workaholism is a character trait. I say it is a behaviour instilled in us by socialization and the societal pressure of what has been called ‘the busy bandwagon’.

 

The societal problem of the ‘busy bandwagon’

Have you ever heard an obvious workaholic justify themselves by stating that they it’s not a systemic problem that overwork is the societal norm and systemically encouraged but much rather, it’s supposed to be a question of “personality type”? In the American discourse, workaholics would be called “type A” personalities. That this is a cultural construct becomes obvious already in the fact that I wouldn’t know how to translate this to German without using some New Age Denglish terminology. Denglish, by the way, is a term for German-English, the fact that many English words become part of German vocabulary or become ‘germanised’ (eingedeutscht). In fact, studies have actually shown that this concept of popular psychology is actually bogus; see here (de) and here (en). If you don’t remember where you’ve already heard the term “busy bandwagon” before, you might want to check out the review of Make Time and my digital minimalism project of last year again.

 

Workaholism as an addiction

In this workshop, I was reminded a lot of some Mel Robbins audiobooks I had been listening to (they’re like coaching sessions). So she will coach a person with a specific problem and then explain the point in a larger perspective. Many of those are audio only and you can’t get them as “real books”. Especially relevant for this particular workshop is Work it out where she coaches women for career success. There are many different situations and problems addressed, different kinds of bosses, not being heard or visible, doing lots of “invisible work”, etc. But she also has definitions of workaholism.

Because how can you really tell whether you “just like work” or are a full-blown workaholic? Like any addict, we tend to be in denial, after all. Most smokers will also respond to you that they “just like cigarettes” when really hardly anyone truly “likes or enjoys cigarettes”. But you don’t want to see that this is a place where you’ve lost your self-control and freedom to an addiction, especially if it’s a socially rewarded activity which, essentially, made you successful in the first place, like it is the case with overwork or an unnaturally hard work ethic.

First point: What made you successful in the first place is not necessarily what will make you successful in the future (as seen in Essentialism One and Two). So the assumption behind societally accepted overwork isn’t actually valid. Saying yes to all opportunities maybe gave you initial success but you will forever plateau there (or burn out) if you continue to do so. So the rationale of “Work hard and you’ll be successful” isn’t necessarily true. It might have been at some point. But it sure as hell isn’t now.

Secondly, addiction really is a quest for connection. Mel Robbins also cites this TED talk where Johann Hari explains that addiction mostly only fills a void. What people really want is connection. You strive for connection but don’t really know how because you’ve linked being loved to achievement, so your default solution is to work harder. Engaging in the addictive behaviour will ultimately ever only be a substitute for what you really want and that is connection. But, obviously, you’re never going to get real connection with real people by throwing yourself into your work and being stressed. So the addiction becomes self-perpetuating and hard to break out of.

The image behind burnout is that of a house which looks really normal from the outside. It might even look nice. But it’s only when you get really close that you see it’s all burnt out on the inside. That’s us. We look successful. The fact of being burnt out is so well hidden that we even fool ourselves.

 

Find the underlying psychological issues

Mel Robbins always maintains in her coachings that even most seemingly strictly work-related problems have an underlying psychological issue which might not at all be obviously connected to or the root of the superficial problem at hand. It’s her philosophy that you need to find this problem. See where you first reacted this way. Most bad habits are behaviours which have served you in the past. Mostly, way back in the past.

For me, working (too) hard, it turns out once I started reflecting about it, is not something ‘innate’ as I had always thought. It’s not ‘part of my character’, even though I have firmly believed so for a long time. I have just built a self-image around hard (over-)work so much that I can fool myself. Thanks to this exercise of asking when and determining the first time this has happened, it turns out that it started when I was nine. It started with a small thing really. My parents probably didn’t think much of it. It happened when my parents told me I had to quit one hobby (ice-skating) to focus on studying more, so I would get into a good secondary school. It was a tiny incident looking back. But it implicitly taught me that my worth is linked to my success. And that’s where I started collecting achievements when I wanted to feel valued.

I’m not saying I’ve solved this since I am still working on this problem myself. But it gets better when you start acknowledging it. You can reverse this. I’m still at a point where I’m really only happy with myself when I perform. But at least I’ve seen now that this is not some a priori innate trait of mine. I have learned to behave like this because it served me in the past. But it doesn’t serve me anymore now. So I owe it to myself to change. And so do you.

 

A utopia to shake up your concept of work

In case you’re still not convinced, here’s a little utopical thought experiment I came up with to help you rethink if you really just work so hard because “you love to work” and “couldn’t imagine another life” or whether it’s something differnt.

Imagine this other society, this utopia where it’s normal to work between 4-5 hours per day. It’s ok to hover in between, to go over 4 hours if you need to finish something. But it’s actively discouraged, even financially retributed if you go over 5 hours because the policy makers’ opinion is that it will make you ineffective to work too long. (This is an actually true and not all that utopical part but that’s probably hard to imagine or believe for a high-performing young professional like you who is expected to work 10+ hours.)

You work your 4 hours like everybody and are pretty much expected to have a very rich life outside of those four hours, for which there is ample time and financing provided. They pay you well in your job because they like the quality work you do. They like how you focus on what’s essential and disengage with any superficial work. In such a society, overwork is discouraged, looked down upon and even punished. There is no way you can access your work projects or data to continue to work after you’ve left the workplace. It is even prohibited.

Do you really think you would still be working 10+ hours “because it’s your personality”? I hardly think anyone would. 4-5 hours is more than enough to make most of the work you love. To come back to work refreshed the next day and perform your best. To not be stressed and feel “haunted” by your work.

 

Jump off the “busy bandwagon”

If our societal definition of success weren’t “being busy” anymore, we could see through the systemic nature of the problem. We would value someone as successful not because they work long hours but because they have banished superficial work from their lives. Then, it would be easy to jump of the busy bandwagon. But if it’s what everybody else is doing and expecting, that’s much harder to admit. Your boss, after all, is a role model everybody is secretly expected to emulate. Especially if you’re a woman who is afraid she could make a bad impression and that then, not everybody would like her anymore. Because apparently that’s what a women should strive for: to be liked by everybody and be very careful. Even tough that’s not exactly a behavioural pattern which will make you successful. How many (successful) men have you met who care about whether somebody might not like them if they did thing XY (which is essential to their career)?

 

Conclusion

I don’t want to say that I am “better than you” now because I’ve started to see through this system. I’ve only made headway on this path over the course of the last year. It’s has been quite a journey. I read lots of books, listened to audio books, took time to reflect, to try out new things and rearrange my habits. It’s not been easy. Things have not worked out right away. Old habits where more persistent than I thought. I have had to face hard truths and investigate psychological issues.

It requires courage to really look into your own mind. We overworkers especially have trained ourselves to look to work for solutions for all the problems in our lives. Or at least to help us ignore them.  But, plot twist: your actual problems won’t just go away if you bury yourself in work and your underlying psychological issue won’t solve themselves. You have to unlearn this habit of throwing yourself into work to avoid your problems. To do so, you have to make an active push against what’s valued in our society. That’s hard. It requires courage. But I encourage you to at least try.

 

So much for now,

Best,
S

 

 

Book review – QGIS Map Design by Anita Graser & Gretchen N. Peterson

While finally doing my revisions and corrections on my dissertation text, I spend my last days of work (meaning work I am actually getting paid for) on maps. In our project, we are working on different names of deities and it would be nice to give a summary to all those names and – a distributional map.

So, I built the map – when there will be enough time, I hope to do a proper tutorial on that – and I collected the data and now I am sitting here in front of my screen … and I do not know how to actually design a proper map, with a layout, with a meaning. It seems rather rude to myself saying that I have not a clue how to do map design, because I am quite fit with the software and I can handle my data quite well.

I know that I need a distributional map as well as a map where I can show how many objects have been located in my known finding spots. I started googleing around on map design and then I found it: “QGIS Map Design, Second Edition (for more information click here), by Anita Graser & Gretchen N. Peterson, with new and updated workflows for QGIS 3.4.

QGIS 3.4 is the current long term release (LTR) and available for Windows, Mac and Linux. I am now working on Windows with QGIS 3.10, and there are not so many differences to 3.4, so I am quite good with it. And I have to say, it actually never crashed: 3.10 works fine as well.

But now, the review: Actually, the book is designed like one of those nice programming recipe books you may know. Its build up in three main parts: Layer Styling, Labeling and Print Map Design.

By flipping through the pages of this book it is possible to gain an understanding of the wide variety of mapping possibilities within QGIS. These pages provide in-depth, step-by-step instructions on how to create the maps shown, a variety of genereal cartographic techniques, and plenty of design inspiration. – p. 205

On more than 200 pages there is a collection of different maps and layouts, focusing on the further use of the map and the shown data. I found this book at our university library and I flipped through it in my coffee break – and I was convinced by chapter 3 that this was the book I needed desperately.

I am no tech native, I am no programmer and I am a learning-on-the-job archaeologist trying to give a proper geographic insight on our project work. A map is like a picture – it tells you a whole story and answers a certain question.

So, when getting started with the tutorials described in the book, I first downloaded the ressources accompanying the tutorials. I played around on various examples. The descriptions are step-by-step and easy to follow. As with all technical stuff, the key to understanding is reading your instructions calmly and concentrated. I was quite impressed by my results and on the next day I started immediately to try the techniques on my own data – you see a glimpse of one of my maps I am going to use for my dissertation project in the header.

I discovered a whole new world beyond the the functions of QGIS I am now quite used to. I suddenly felt a new interest in trying things and I understood the way to think and work with my data so that there will be proper and effective results.

You should have some basic training in QGIS, but there are enough ressources online and as books to get you into the material and the fun part of it. I am still impressed by the great simplicity of the explanations and the possibilities you have as a user of the whole package data you can work on.

So, from one happy noob to the world of academic warriors, especially those in need of nice map designs – try the examples and tutorials in this book! It will change your life!

Have a great time experiencing the wonderous world of QGIS!

Yours,

Astrid 🙂

Block’out Montpellier

I spent some time in the south of France recently. Of course, I couldn’t leave without checking out a local boulder gym. Out of the numerous options available, I chose the Block’Out company’s branch in Montpellier, or, to be precise in Castelnau-le-Lez.

The welcome and setup

I received a very warm welcome with a super friendly employee showing me around. They have a kids’ area on the first floor with short routes where you can warm up and there is this pipe slide you can use to get back down. I didn’t want to try it but it must be a lot of fun.

They have a café where you can sit outside in the summer, an inside and an outside bouldering area, locker rooms with showers, as well as a mixed sauna which is included in the price (you have to wear your bathing suit however). There also is a strength training area, which unlike at most other gyms, is not on the first floor 😉 While there would be lockers in the changing room, most people seem to put their things in the common Ikea Billy style square things close to the mats which many gyms have. And so did I. They also have a water fountain where you can recharge your water bottle for free if you brought one.

Difficulty levels and selection of routes

The levels seem quite similar as in most places, however I found the first two levels weird. They had extremely many holds (like crazy many) but they were not very usual ones I hadn’t seen before. Both those difficulty levels were extremely easy and thus, a bit pointless, I found. The thrid level (blue), however, held many nice challanges. And, like I was pleased to see in Amsterdam as well, they have lots of easy slopers. In many gyms, especially in our home gym sadly, I find that there are very few slopers in general and those usually only start at the difficult levels. So that when you don’t easily master those levels, you are confronted both with your difficulty with the route level as well as having to adapt to this new hold type. I think this is pretty shit didactically and thus, was very happy to find those easier slopers (and even slab routes!) in Block’Out Montpellier and Monk Amsterdam.

I tried out many routes. Flashed a few. But as usual was also not my normal (at-home) fitness level because of the holiday. It’s so extreme how fast a little less training has an impact on your bouldering. It’s scary! But I met a few people and had a nice chat, so it was a success after all.

The price

The price of 16€ for university students or 20€ without reduction for entrance and renting shoes is quite steep. I am always astonished, time and time again, how expensive a hobby bouldering really is. I mean, ok, many people stay really long but I usually come for an intensive workout and see no point in lingering much longer after I’m tired. I don’t usually do multiple sessions in a day. I find it much more effective to come regularly and have quick and efficient trainings. However, the steep prices don’t really allow you to do that when you’re not at your home gym with a monthly pass which makes it a bit cheaper. So yeah, this is the only criticism and it really also applies to our home bouldergym, Boulderclub in Graz.

Hope this review helped someone,

best,

S

Monk Bouldergym Amsterdam

Last time I went conferencing, I also checked out a bouldergym for you guys, Monk Bouldergym in Amsterdam. Here’s the review.

The price

15€ for entry and shoes wasn’t cheap but I wasn’t going to bring my smelly climbing shoes for conferencing in my tiny handluggage. And, then again, it’s a crazy prize if you don’t stay really long (say all afternoon). But you’d pay the same amount in our local gym at home. However, I do think bouldering is really expensive in many places. In Braunschweig’s Fliegerhalle as well as Aloha Sport Club, I paid around half the price compared to most other gyms (!) – around 40€ for a monthly pass.

Observations

I didn’t know the Dutch were so correct. I always thought that was just Germans. But I had never seen people be so “correct” about boulder gym rules like “Don’t sit on the mat”. According to my experience, nobody ever respects that rule more than necessary. At Monk, the mats are relatively small (as opposed to covering all the floor) and there is a sort of pathway in between them with a bank to sit on. People actually sit on this bank. I was even told off for crossing through on the mat rather than the pathway (there was tons of space between the guy on the wall and me – in Graz we often don’t even have the luxury of this amount of space at all). Maybe it was a gendered thing because the guys who did it looked like too much testosterone and I am a woman with rented shoes after all, so they probably thought I needed telling what to do. (Which is actually the most likely explanation for this event. Sadly.)

Another guy who seemed kind of new to bouldering and couldn’t climb my level (which is not massively high since I only started at the beginning of last summer term, despite a good amount of progress made) seemed completely in awe that a girl can climb better than him and followed me around like a (very obvious) ‘shadow’. This seemed to be meant in a nice way. He might have been trying to pluck up the courage to talk to me all along and never ended up doing it 😀

After one and a half weeks of not bouldering due to extended conference travel, I wasn’t fit as usual and tired much too early. I would have wanted to try out many more boulders, so I ended up trying many of the easy level boulders without using any strength. I have been using this technique at many new boulder gyms on my trips now and I feel that it’s actually a really good way of working on your efficiency and body positioning. I highly recommend this exercise / game for days where you’re just feeling tired. Also, don’t forget to climb the route back down to the start without using any strength too!

The routes

The routes, by the way, were really interesting. The levels were similar to Graz. First is yellow in Graz, orange here. Then green, then blue. I am at ease with blue right now, usually. However, here most of the blue ones were a challenge since they were all very sloper-y and we don’t have that much in Graz. But without the practice (I only got around to going once), many weren’t feasible or I didn’t get through until the final pull. Maybe I also just lacked that little bit of strength that day, which can make all the difference in the world with slopers.

Summary

Overall, Monk was a really fun expericence. They also have a nice strength training area, lockers for valuables and a cafe. It’s better to reach by bike. I was there on foot which was some walk from the metro station (and it was raining all along).

I wanted to try more Amsterdam gyms but in the end, there were many social evenings at the conference so I didn’t have the time.

Best,

S

Diss-cembering to the End

Okay, I am actually feeling like Frodo, except for not standing on Mount Doom and being totally wrecked by an evil power. I am actually feeling like Frodo, sitting at my desk, enjoying some Christmas cookies, tea and writing this blog post, next to the wonderful Christmas tree I decorated with my dad.

So, I am just sitting at my desk, in front of my PC, listening to music and surfing the internet. Two books are lying next to me: one mystery novel to relax my mind and “The professor is in” by Karen Kelsky (for more info see her website!).

Well, I am almost done with graduate school – you know why? The Frodo-feeling I have is actually caused by my sending my thesis and my catalogue to my supervisors the day before Christmas.
So… actually, I am waiting now for their opinions. I have time for my corrections and revisions in January – and I can reach my goal of submitting my thesis in February. If you remember my first Diss-cember post, I actually planned to sent my text by end of December or the beginning of January, but now I am two weeks in front of my schedule and I am so relieved… well: I feel you, Frodo!

It was not easy to sent my thesis to my supervisors. I always panic in front of the sent-button. And I admit it, I had my mum on the phone – the only human being with the perfect ability to calm me down (next to my love, who empowered me with choclate before going to work). This is what I meant with asking people you love for help during the time of finishing your thesis. There were several occasions in the last four weeks where I stopped working in the evening, perfectly relaxed and proud of what I did that day – only to start crying or shaking nervously few minutes after going to bed.
These were no attacks of panic or fear, just signs of my stress level. My brain literally could not stand the pressure, so movement and tears were necessary for my balance. I acted like a maniac, but I know that a lot of people did so, even some of my peers told me not to worry – we are all mad when it comes to submitting your PhD thesis.

I had and I am still having a lovely Christmas break. I was in desperate need of this break, to be honest. I  have a little cold, I am constantly tired and I am not doing anything at all except for sleeping, eating and reading funny stuff I want to read. And I am not even thinking about my thesis. There is no need. To cite the last line of Harry Potter: All was well.

There was no reason to check it again for mistakes or filling in new literature quotes or for re-phrasing certain parts. There may be need to check it again and do corrections and revisions, but I am not able to do them now without the help of my supervisors; there are some points we have to discuss again, we all know this. I have collected my arguments and I have written them down and I liked it. Really.

Remember: A good dissertation is a done dissertation.
So, I am done, and I am eager to reset my brain for the corrections to be done soon, for I will be back at my work on Thursday. But that is okay, I can scroll over my things I have to do in January and I have two days to write a new plan for corrections and do some proof-reading before hitting the last miles of PhD-road again.

I thought it would be very hard for me to let all my thesis stuff be all this time after Christmas until the New Year will catch me in my cosy reindeer socks and cuddled on my couch watching Christmas movies. Actually, it was nothing near hard or stressful.
I made it clear to myself on the evening of the 23rd – I have done the best work I was able to do, I have written down all my good and precise arguments, I am sure that there are not too many nasty misspellings in my text (yeah, I grew really blind on them, I am sorry) and I was really brave for standing up against that enormous workload and getting all my sh*t done the way I wanted it. And I was able to let go an hit the sent button.

I am still too tired and exhausted to figure out how all that worked so well, but everything is good and I am concentrating on my health and my sleeping rhythm to re-collect my strength.

So, shoutout to all my dear writing buddies who are working on their thesis right now, or are thinking really hard about how to get back to work after Christmas break. The silver lining is real and the end is near. You can do it!

Enjoy the last days of 2019 and I wish you all the best for 2020 – make it your year, make your dreams come true!

Astrid 🙂

Why “just focus on your thesis” is not entirely good advice

Which doctoral student has not yet heard the infamous sentence “You just focus on your PhD”? Of course, this advice is given in all sorts of contexts and I can’t talk through them all here, but I will discuss one reason why it is good advice and two why it’s not good advice. It’s not particularly Christmas-y, but then again, this is a PhD life blog and not a Christmas blog 😉 

 

Pro: ‘Extras’ only count once you have the PhD

Extras are great and important (see point below). That peer-reviewed paper, being the head of the student committee, that stay abroad, a fellowship at a prestigious institution. All these things are assets on your CV, no doubt. But they only really count once you have that PhD. You won’t get a post-doc because of your nice CV unless the PhD is done. 

So while these extras are priceless once you have that thing in hand, they are practically worthless if you don’t get the PhD done. So the advice “Just focus on your PhD” is valid in a way, especially when you’re at a point where you already have so many ‘extras’ (which are also all around the same ‘value’) that new ones really won’t upgrade your CV any further. This is the point where the degree is the only thing standing in the way of applying to the next higher positions. 

But there are (considerable) negative sides to his (usually well-meant) advice as well: For example, when you don’t already have those extras hiring committes nowadays want to see beside the PhD, then it’s not good advice. (For more info, read: Karen Kelsky’s The Professor is In.)

 

Contra 1: Nowadays, you need extras as well, so you can’t completely neglect them to really focus on the thesis

In The Professor is In (great book, review to follow!), Karen Kelsky writes in her chapter The Myths Grad Students Believe (23-28):

[Ph.D. students] rest all their hopes in the completed dissertation as a magical talisman of scholarly success, unaware that is is scarcely more than a union card – the bare minimum proof of eligibility […]. Certainly, they are encouraged in this by faculty advisors, who, when confronted with the anxious reports from the job hunt, offer the easy evasion “just focus on your dissertation”, as far preferable (for both advisors and advisees) to a hard conversation about an academy in crisis, on the one hand, or flaws in a student’s record, on the other. (Kelsky 2015, 23)

When reading Kelsky’s more-than-useful guide, it becomes quite obvious that the “just focus on the dissertation” advice, many times, is a lazy excuse. Sometimes it is well-meant advice because, after all, this strategy used to be really good and worked 30 years ago. So your advisor might not even have it in for you when they repeat this advice. But it is still bad advice for the job market now.

You need to add some other high-value items to your record which result in additonal quality lines on your CV. Kelsky’s tip is that you should try to add one (quality!) line to your CV per month. However, mind that not all lines are worth the same, so don’t only go for easy-to-get items. Rather go for easy-to-get items only if you really can’t help it one month. Otherwise, plan ahead which item you add to your CV every month. People will know which ones were not really great achievements. (A book review doesn’t count as a quality item, in case you were wondering.) Respect some basic rules while doing that, mainly well-known truths such as: Peer-reviewed papers should always be preferred to conference proceedings and excessive conferencing. But, of course, nobody’s expecting you to deliver a peer-reviewed paper per month, so you’re allowed to “fill up” with some of the above. Just remember to fill your time-planning glass with the big rocks first, then add the pepples around them.

 

Contra 2: It’s demotivating to not have goals ahead

Now for the first time in my life, I have no perspective. When I was in school, I worked for graduation as a “middle term” goal, but I always had going to university in mind as a long term goal. When I arrived at university, I worked towards a degree but I also always knew that I wanted to do a doctorate afterwards. So my long-term goal was the doctorate. But now, I have no real long-term goal. And I find it devastating. That’s the main reason why for me, recurring repetitions of “Just focus on your thesis” are hurtful and counterproductive. I don’t want to blindly focus on a writing text which might or might not give me a perspective for the future, in the future. I need a perspective now.

 

So dear advisors, well-meaning friends and loved ones,

the next time you think about saying “Just focus on the PhD” or similar sentences, do us all a favour and don’t. Just shut the fuck up. Thanks.

If you’re an advisor, think about what Karen Kelsky preaches: Your job is to prepare your advisees for the (current!) job market (not the job market from 30 years ago). And repeating “just focus on the PhD” just isn’t enough. If that’s all you do, you’re not doing your job.

 

So that’s it for now.

Best,

S

 

References

Karen Kelsky, The Professor Is In: The Essential Guide To Turning Your Ph.D. Into a Job, NY 2015. Do get that book, its value is priceless!

 

 

 

What’s your *one thing* which will move you forward in 2020?

Recently I witnessed a class at our climbing gym. It was about which strength training exercises you can do for antagonist muscles which are neglected in climbing. But those are not what I want to talk to you about. After having witnessed 10 minutes of this class while streching out after my climbing session, the trainer had already enumerated about 15 different exercises. I coulnd’t even recall them all. And all I wanted to do was yell over to him: “Can you please proceed to show us the *one thing* which will have an actual effect?” This will be a post about effective mini-habits, new year’s resolutions and some strenght training geekery.

 

Keep it simple

I find that many self-improvement measures, be it in the climbing gym or office productivity, tend to be too complicated and too much. But complicated and excessive things will not get done on a daily basis, especially as those things (such as strength training for antagonist muscles) are things you have to do aside from and in addition to your actual work. If these self-improvement routines are too complicated, too hard or too time-consuming, you will not keep them up very long. Like I have preached many times now: If you want to make it sustainable, do less than you could. Leave one in the bar, so it remains fun (or as fun as possible). Don’t ask yourself to do something which is maybe even harder than your main work. Keep the mini habits mini.

It is my experience that if you look close enough (sometimes you’ll need tons of reserach), you can always find the mini-habit which has a tremendous effect. For years, my ballet teacher screamed at me because my arabesque supposedly wasn’t good (=high) enough. But she also persistently failed to show me the *one* exercise which actually works. I found that only years afterwards on YouTube. (If you’re interested: The point is that lifting your leg higher than 90 degrees up requires a different muscle group than up to 90 degrees, but that muscle group is hardly ever used and difficult to even ‘find’ or activate when you haven’t really used it before. The trick is to do a développé-based strength training: You lift the leg to the knee and from there, lift not from the foot but from the hip – it’s just a tiny, hardly visible movement but gets hard after a few reps already – then you slowly open into the développé but only a bit, not even until the leg is (half-)streched because the stretched leg tends to evoke the wrong muscle group again. Do that only once you built that strength).

 

“What’s the *one* thing I can do?”

It’s not like I am the only and first person to realize this. Famous self-help gurus such as Tim Ferriss have made this the key piece of their philosophy. Tim Ferriss call it the ‘minimum effective dose’. For getting fit, he suggests you train with a 20-24kg kettle bell two times a week and do 75 kettle bell swings each time (work yourself up to 75 in sets while you can’t do them all at once). 10-20 minutes total training time. That’s all. He has proven that you can have amazing, replicable results with this technique. Or, if you don’t want to work out, try his “30 in 30”, that means having 30g of protein (such as in a shake) within 30 minutes of waking up. This charges up your metabolism and he was also able to show than you can achieve dramatic changes in your weight if you do just this morning routine, even if you change nothing about your other habits at all.

 

Simple is sustainable

Many people think running is a good way to get fit. But really, if you genuinely don’t really like it and you’re only doing it to keep yourself fit, it’s incredibly ineffective. The cost in time (and suffering for someone who doesn’t like it) is high and the results will stop coming in once you’re body has adapted to it a little bit, so you’ll have to do more and more. Human beings are very effective runners, so especially endurance running is probably your worst bet ever for getting in shape: rather try High Intensity Training (HIIT). Also mostly, I think running is just too complicated. You need to change – whereas you can kettlebell in you pyjamas. You need ‘equipment’ – at least I totally tend to go overboard with making running complicated because I used to train quite ambitiously in my youth.

So to get back to the trainer from the beginning: After ten minutes, so many techniques had been enumerated that I couldn’t even remember them all. The Tim Ferriss stuff has become so popular because it’s simple. And simple is sustainable. If you have trouble even remembering what exactly you have to do only five minutes in, it’s not “habit material”.

So what can you do? From what I’ve gathered from Youtube videos, especially “Grundkurs Bouldern”‘s Ralf Winkler offers the supplementary training trias of push-ups, pull-ups and squats. I think that sounds good. They are well-known, no-bullshit exercises pretty much everybody knows how to do and they plain work. 

Also, you always need to remember that training is highly specific. Often trainers will enumerate tons of exercises but the only thing an exercise really does is train exactly this movement, so it might not even be transferable to the skill you actually wanted to learn (!). That’s why push-ups are good. They train your whole body. People of different skill and fitness levels benefit from them, but they also don’t “pretend” to train bouldering – they only give you some additional fitness. They train you to do push-ups, not much else. Most “bouldering exercises” don’t actually do much for your bouldering. That’s why Louis Parkinson from Catalyst Climbing (London) suggests you do your boulder strength training directly on the wall.

 

The one thing and the Pareto principle (80/20)

Most of you probably have already heard about the Pareto principle. It’s probably already a bit dated by now, but the idea behind it is still universally good: 20% of your work will give you 80% of the results. The other 80% of work only give you the additional 20% of perfecting your output. Whether a PhD student can afford to just ditch the last 20% is another question, but the principle is still worth using at least with annoying everyday tasks. Often you just need to hand in *somehing* and perfection will give you no additional reward whatsoever. So dare to keep it simple and effective.

 

Make better new year’s resolutions this year

When you make new year’s resolutions this Christmas, please think of my post and come up with a way of simplifying what you were planning to do in the next year. Even if you think your resolution was already quite simplicistic – cut it in half and it will be perfect. Always be very concrete in forming your goals, have cues to trigger the activities (see the review on Atomic Habits, to follow) because unconcrete goals (like “Learn French”) don’t work. Come up with something concrete such as “Learn 20 items of vocabulary per day” or “Sit down to learn French, in a timer-timed timebox of 20min every day”.

So if you want to do something for new year’s resolutions, don’t just pick some classic line everybody else uses. Take time to reflect on your goals, what exactly it is that you want and especially take the time to research what the single most effective, super-simple mini-habit to achieving that goal is.

I’ll follow up with some more new year’s resolution themed posts to go with the holiday season over the next weeks.

Have a nice pre-Christmas panic attack at work and be sure to eat some cookies while you do 😉

Best,

S

How letting your inner feminist out will make you more successful

Today I wanted to tackle a common fear, i.e. that you will be disadvantaged and disliked once you let your inner feminist out. While I can’t speak for everybody and my environment certainly isn’t exceptionally conservative or ‘backwards’ in that regard, I think it is quite safe to say that becoming a feminist is likely to make you more successful rather than turning you into the universally-hated, notorious ‘feminazi’, like many womxn erroneously believe.

DISCLAIMER: I am neither a professional advisor nor actually qualified to give you any kind of advice! Apply this only after reflecting whether you think it’s appropriate in your workplace. It should be, but if you’re stuck in a clearly very backwards environment you might better not do anything to make the situation even more miserable and dire. Check with a local gender equality advisor how best to proceed.

 

Don’t “dial down” on the feminism, level up

For a long time, I felt that I was somehow ‘holding back’ on the feminism, even tough on the inside I really wanted to be more of a feminist. Society tends to tell you that it will make you look bossy, undesirable, etc. But at some point, I realized that this is exactly one of those subconscious habits which cause womxn to be less successful than they could be. Because not daring to displease some, trying to be universally liked, accepted and appreciated by everyone is a ‘trait’ which might end up making you seem less qualified than your male peers and  come off like you’re not leadership material (btw, it’s actually literally not possible to be liked by everyone, even though womxn are taught to strive for this goal!). Because being edgy makes you interesting. It makes you look like a leader.

 

Don’t swallow your pride – swallow other people’s expectations

Daring to be yourself, asking for what you want and deserve, and not giving a hoot whether some idiot colleague (who doesn’t even matter to your success) might end up disliking you for your feminism will make you seem confident. People who only like you when you’re miserable and disadvantaged really don’t deserve your worries! Standing up for yourself will actually increase your worth in other people’s minds and once you start drawing boundaries and saying no, they will respect you more. In the beginning they might be a little annoyed; nobody really likes change after all. Change is hard. Gendered discrimination used to be the norm and it will remain so as long as we’re accepting accomplices to it. Just recently, I have personally had the experience that I felt so much more valued in the workplace after standing up for myself and against sexualized discrimination.

 

Love yourself first

Maybe it wasn’t even other people who behave differently now, maybe it’s just my perception which has changed. But I feel so much more empowered for it and thus, ready to tackle all sorts of things, not only discriminatory colleagues 😉 I feel much more respected and valued now, but that might just be a by-product of me respecting myself more. Standing up for your rights is a sign of self-love and self-respect. And like they say, maybe you need to love yourself first before others can love you.

 

So show yourself some self-respect! Love yourself first and allow yourself to unleash your inner feminist – we all have one of those!

 

Best,

S

How to Diss-cember without losing your mind…

This is it. This is the last month of my intensive writing bootcamp to finish my dissertation. That was the reason why you have not seen any posts from me recently… I was busy. Busy with writing, reading, writing, planning my writing, … and nearly lost my mind on it.

The last phase of your PhD is the most exhaustive one in you career, trust me on that.

Oh, and it is December already, so, I have to get all my Christmas presents for my loved ones as well, next to finishing that dissertation.

But December also means candles, cookies, lights and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – and yes, I admit it, I LOVE that time of the year. The play on words “Diss-cember” is not that new, I know, but it totally seemd accurate for the first sunday in Advent. I even picked a nice image with a candle to provide you with some seasonal flair. 🙂 I hope you like it.

Here comes my list of how not to lose my mind – I hope it will help you, too:

  1. Make a plan.
    Okay, yeah, this is the most obvious thing, I guess.
  2. Stick to it, but be gentle with yourself.
    Allow yourself to miss some of your own deadlines. Calculate enough time spots for breaks. After all, you have to take good care of yourself, because you cannot afford to drop out for days or weeks beacuse of getting sick or ill or whatever stress can do to your body and mind.
  3. Ask for help and tell your friends about your last phase of writing.
    You may need some eyes to get through your text, doing corrections. I am just saying… I, myself, am perfectly unable to see my mistakes, and I want to thank all my dear test readers on this occasion for helping me with my corrections and revisions.
  4. Reward yourself when you finished a task or a bullet on your huge to-do-list. And YES, you have time for that, because you have your plan, right? 😉
  5. It’s allowed to shout, cry and being frustrated. This is actually called soul hygiene. It is allowed to say that you want to f*ck all this sh*t. Really, without such little controlled breakdowns you will harm yourself. I have them at least three times a week. If you are not working with Microsoft Word, there might be less occasions. 🙂 Sorry, not sorry.
  6. Celebrate your good days – good days are days where you get a lot of stuff done and can relax in the evening.
    This is also an opportunity to reward yourself with some self-care-stuff like watching a movie with a huge mug of hot chocolate on your couch. It is as simple as that. And it is so important, because you have to enjoy this feeling of being satisfied with your work.
  7. Be actually satisfied with your work.
    Yes, I know, I am a perfectionist myself and I am never ready to submit a paper, even if I had the time to review it at least three times. Therefore, tell one person about your good work and tell them that you need help to enjoy the feeling, too. Really, try it.
  8. Get fresh air and do some physical training.
    You need your body to be trained – and yes, just take a walk around the block, it’s 10 important minutes to get your mind clear again.

I am buried with books, in the middle of revisions and quotations still to check and verify, half through my writing plan, and highly desperate for the Christmas cookie season to start. (image: Pixabay)

Until now, everything just worked out fine for me. I try to keep moving, I try to stick to my plan and I try to be at least proud of me by doing so. Yes, the last thing is the actual hard work to do. I could spent another year on doing research, on writing, on reading, but: A good dissertation is a done dissertation.

There is a silver lining: I plan to submit my thesis in february at last. I am still good in time, I planned even a nice Christmas break and I am pretty sure to get enough work done to actually enjoy it without any bad conscience. 😉 And soon, I will have finished my good dissertation!

So, I am sorry that you have not heard from me and that I had no time to do any posts, but I guess you can forgive me. 😀

Have a very nice and not too stressful December, enjoy picking your presents for your loved ones, eat a lot of cookies and do not forget to celebrate the important things in life.

Stay tuned, dear fighters of academia!

See y’all,

Astrid

What to make of the Online Cult of ‘Ultra-learners’

Yet another post which almost became a book review but ended up becoming a reflection! I really wanted to do something else, like a tutorial along the lines of “Transkribus for Dummies”, but since that’s already done and Scott H. Young’s Ultralearning popped up on my screen, I just had to review it. It has received praise from Cal Newport (Deep Work, So good they can’t ignore you & Digital Minimalism) and James Clear (Atomic Habits), two authors who are definitely among my inner circle of personal development books. And it also treats a subject which has fascinated me for a long time – Ultra learning. That is the art of ‘aggressive self-directed learning’. To early-modern-ize the title a little bit. (Yes, the fellowship left its marks, but I’d do it again any time!)

 

Preface to the Readers

But first, let’s not get carried away. I have a word of caution to go with this (a real review will follow some time later). Ultralearning is a book promising techniques for self-learning. That is, especially self-learning to reach ‘amazing’ spectacular results, like – of course -the author has achieved. This, in my opinion, is problematic. By putting all of this down on paper in a very ‘meta’ way, Scott H. Young epitomizes a whole generation of online ‘superlearners’ who market their own learning results. While the empowerment is great, this can also easily frustrate people: Especially imposter syndrome prone PhD students might end up feeling belittled by these marketers’ apparent lack of humility. So let’s get to it. And, if you haven’t already noticed, the theme of this post is ‘early modern’ 😉

 

Liber I: On Sensationalism

Since I myself have gone through a period of phdlife-induced imposter syndrome just now, I also wanted to point out that listing amazing feats like “Pass a Maths/Analysis one semester class in 10 days” can also end up frustrating people. Especially if you have high standards. After all, to do our position as a Humanities blog justice and put the critical into thinking, essentially, these so-called ultralearners do nothing but capitalize on sensationalism in the end. If we break it down to the roots. Which, I am sure, they don’t really want us to.

Just like extreme athletes have to break one breathtakingly crazy and dangerous world record after the other, ‘learning gurus’ on the internet will tell you about one crazy intellectual feat after the other. About how they ‘hacked’ skill XY. And you, as a dutiful Humanities person with sky-high standards, might end up feeling inferior because your definition of mastery is quite different from the goals they have set for themselves. You will know this and still feel inferior. You catch yourself wondering how it is that these people are able to learn all sorts of great skills with apparent ease in no time while you’re still not done with your thesis. It can’t be that hard, right? Wrong. Don’t let internet personalities pretending to be real-life superheroes make you feel like an idiot. After all, they earn money from making you feel like they are better than most others, regardless of their frequent assurances that “really anybody can (learn to) do what they did.”

 

Liber II: The Art of Marketing

This is a dangerous trap, one might say. So I can’t give a 100% positive review, because I dislike this tendency behind it all. Tim Ferriss, Benny Lewis, Steve Pavlina and what all of their names are. They all fashion themselves as the greatest ‘meta-learners’ ever (self-fashioning also was a big thing in the early modern times, if you wanted to know. I happen to have read multiple papers about it over the last few days 😉 ). And, I get it. Meta-Learning is important. I totally acknowledge their achievement of making the public more aware of this. I was even deeply influenced by some of them. But at the same time, I can’t help but notice – in my capacity as your very Enlightened (with a big E) Humanist – that essentially, they don’t primarily learn to accomplish those amazing feats because they really want to learn them.

 

Liber III: Modern alchemy

The main outcome is that they make money from sensationalism, just like extreme athletes or any kinds of people who make money online nowadays. But that means that they don’t learn a skill to learn that skill, but rather: to blog about it. Because they make their living from that blog and the coaching business built around it. The skills they learn are sales proposals. Just like early modern alchemists would give sensationalist demonstrations of experiments and (some) tried to make people believe they knew how to make the philosopher’s stone and were perfectly able to reveal this secret to others.

Just like our ultra-learners do. This technique of promising greatness and riches taps into all those very human longings we can’t seem to shut off, even at a time when most of us don’t believe in the philosopher’s stone anymore. But in reality, we still do believe in it. Because we want to believe in it. We just call it differently and it comes in disguise. But essentially, it’s still the same thing all over again.

Conclusio: Redefining “success”

A big part of what they do is redefine “super-human success” and “mastery”, more or less achieve it and then sell to people the idea that they are not special: Everybody can achieve what they did and here’s how. (And input your credit card number below, of course). So, let’s have no doubt about that this is not only and not innocently about learning. Another component of their magnum opus pointing at this conclusion is the fact that they hardly choose boring projects. The projects they choose mostly also make for a great sales proposal, are apit to cause quite a stir, and yield the possibility of going viral &c. Alchemists sometimes did that, too.

 

These are my reflections for now 😉

Best,

S

Book review: Essentialism. Part II

A while ago, I wrote a book review on Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Today I wanted to follow up with a part II. “Why?” you might ask. I gave the book to my dad for his birthday (as an actual book this time). He loved it but when we talked about it, I noticed that he had remembered completely different things than I had. So I decided to listen to it again and this time, other things stuck with me. I always find that the really good books can be read millions of times and every time, you will find something you hadn’t previously noticed. Essentialism definitely is one of those books.

 

Essentialism is the disciplined pursuit of less but better

But what does ‘disciplined’ mean anyway? The author gives the following example: the normal state of the closet is to get more and more cluttered if a conscious effort is not made to get rid of non-essentials. Consciously making this effort over and over again is what he calls ‘disciplined’. You need to re-do it all the time even though you might feel like you just did it. But the clutter piles up again and everytime it does, you need to act even though you don’t want to. You need to know where the next thrift store is and when it’s open. You need to have a plan in case somebody drops off their clutter in your closet.

 

Do less than you want to do

This might be known to some of you as “Leave one in the bar” from working out. McKeown realized that it would be difficult keeping up a journaling habit every day because people tend to write more and more every day. This ends up making the habit harder every day and one day will come when you won’t stick to it anymore. So he asked himself how he could overcome this limitation. And he decided that the solution was to always do less than what you want to do. This helps to ‘keep the fire going’ and stops you from losing motivation.

I have this problem with my own routines, be it exercise or translating some of this Latin text every morning aside from my actual PhD writing. I tend to think “Well this went well today. I might just to two pages of translation tomorrow, then I’ll get done earlier.” But the text is 250 pages long. And after three days of translating two pages every morning, I lose motivation. Apart from the fact that two pages takes away enough energy that I am not very effective with my PhD writing anymore. I decided that I need to do less than I feel I could. That’s what makes it sustainable. I have been much more successful doing one page per day now. It’s for this reason that some ‘habit formation philosophies’ like Mini Habits (Steven Guise) or the Japanese Kai-Zen have become popular. In order to make it sustainable, do less than you could. This also goes for working hours, in my opinion, though I’m still trying to figure out what works best for me and is most sustainable.

 

Protect the asset and have more fun

This is kind of self-explanatory. But probably worth mentioning again here: One of the main reasons high-functioning people sabotage themselves is by not getting enough sleep and not taking time for fun, play and rest. For me personally, I have decided I need more active rest (=play/fun), not passive relaxation like binge-watching 😉 Otherwise, my work-life-balance project is going ok: I never work evenings anymore (at least until this week where I succumbed twice already) and I take one day off completely every weekend. However, without some more prioritization on what I work (not only taking into account how long), I feel that I am still not doing as well as I could.

Also, by the way, did you know that being tired and dehyrdated both reduces your brain capacities as much as being a little drunk constantly? It’s sound cheesy and simple: But I think we could all do with some more sleep and water. Also, getting enough rest helps you prioritize which is one of the most important skills ever in this busy world full of distractions. Which leads me to the next point:

 

What’s important right now?

If you don’t know what’s important right now, what’s important right now is to find out what’s important right now. This is my new credo at the moment. Over the last stressful weeks, I have noticed that the biggest factor in me sabotaging myself, except for procrastination probably, is not knowing what’s the most important thing and thus, wasting time on non-essentials. Your time and energy will be gone no matter what you do. Your dissertation will only get written by you writing your dissertation.

 

This is it for now. But actually, there were many more takeways, so I’l probably do a part III at some point 😉

Best,
S

 

(PhD) Life Wisdom Learned from Bouldering. Part I

At some point recently, us to Epigrammetrists were in the boulder gym bouldering and we realized that bouldering actually teaches you quite some insights for life. And not only life in general, but also the PhD life in particular. When I started typing the blogpost, however, I realized I had material for way more than just one single post. So you will get a little series now to which I’ll add every once in a while 😉

 

You don’t have to take bad holds

In life as in bouldering, we often feel obliged to take all the footholds, handholds, opportunities and possibilities we are offered. But in bouldering, at least on routes where there are more than enough holds, you always have the possibility to avoid some of them. Often, with bad holds just as with opportunities we feel we have to take but don’t feel comfortable with them, we don’t even realize that we have the possibility to just not take them. I often find that I can climb routes much better when I find a way of leaving out the dubious holds. Then I don’t need to be fearful about it and usually, you realize:

 

There is more than one possible path

There is more than one possible solution. In bouldering, this quickly becomes visible because people just tend to do the same climb in hundreds of different possible ways. But they don’t remember this in life. Also related:

 

You don’t need to reach the top the way the others did.

Getting inspiration is a good thing, of course. But often, we end up putting pressure on ourselves afterwards. Unlike in bouldering, in real life we often feel that we need to do it exactly the same way as the others. In bouldering, it quickly becomes obvious that we just have different strengths and prerequisites and thus, what works for someone else might not work for us. Then we just find another way. Maybe the other person is already at a higher skill level, is taller or has more strength – of course they can pull off other ways, even more elegant ways of doing things. But maybe you can’t. Then deal with it. Get over it. Remember you can find your own way. This is definitely something to apply to life.

 

Sometimes it’s a leap of faith

 

Sometimes all that is needed to succeed is for you to take that leap of faith. To trust in your ability. To just do it without worrying, maybe you even have to shut your brain off. When you hand in that paper, when you’re standing in front of that big audience to give your paper (maybe not so much then), or when you need to let go of both handholds so you have a chance at throwing yourself at the next one.

 

This is it for now. But there are many more bits of bouldering wisdom to come your way, so stay tuned 😉

Best,

S

R you ready for archaeological data?

Since I am trying to work myself into the use of programming with R and accomplishing my data analysis with this tool, I have struggled more than one time with the way of thinking “programmer-style”. As trained archaeologist I have practically no idea of the thoughts and ways to work with code.

You may know that really old joke when a programmer gets to do the food shopping and you tell him “Bring one package of milk, if they have eggs, bring 10.” So, the happy noob will head to the market and get one package of milk and 10 eggs. Programmers are used to a different kind of thinking – so they will bring you 10 packages of milk, because they see the condition for it: They have eggs in the store.

I am so grateful that there are no loops necessary in R programming. I tried it once for a course in C++ and it was… well, a decent catastrophe, but still, a catastrophe. I gave up in the end, after hearing most of my tech colleagues saying that an archaeologist has no need for programming. I might have answered that tech people have no need for history, and guess what, some of them really believe that. Because computer science is a modern thing. I did not tell them about the long history of cumputer science – that maths actually was a subject for women, because all man had to be philosophers. History is full of fun facts, my dear hardcore-tech-people, maybe you would like to try it sometime. (Forgive me the bitterness).

I still have to work and think hard on the analysis I want to do. I am not just heading for a simple quantitative analysis, I want to discover certain patterns of motiv combinations, considering the different samples of different temples and other finding spots – just naming one example of the questions I have for my data.

But, again, I had to start at the beginning, meaning cleaning my data. I had to think about naming my categories, about the facts I want to analyse. So, I once again found myself cursing my ex-computer science teacher at school, because we were girls and all he explained to us is not considered necessary knowledge for compter science at all. Well, if you call powerpoint and MS Word computer science, yes, we did that. It was back in the year 2005 and I am a victim of gender-biased teaching, I am afraid to say so. I am a girl, I am so talented in languages, and so interested in Latin, ergo I do not need any kind of technical knowledge. Or stuff like computer science, chemistry, physics, etc. Actually, I always thought, I am too dumb to do stuff like programming scripts for data analysis. Guess what – they made me believe that I am more talented to do other stuff like history and Latin. Maybe that is even true, but how can anybody be too dumb to use certain tools and methods for his or her work? It took me a  long time to figure this out.

I cannot imagine doing anything different than I am doing now – I love my job. I am used to people looking at me in a very bewildered wax, because I tend to say things like “I am not interested in people as long as they have not been dead for at least a 1500 years” and stuff like that. They are wondering why I am working with things like GIS and SFM and now programming languages, because old and dead stuff means… I don’t know, maybe they think, we are still using stone tablets to write on. A lot of people are very fast to ask questions like “Why would you need to learn computer science stuff? Why do you need geoinformation systems, I thought, you are analysing stones?”

I have stopped being angry about these kinds of questions. If some poeple cannot understand your way of working, then you have to do it anyway and maybe in the end they will get your intention when seeing the results. I figured out how to use R for an analysis of two categorial variables – meaning, I can show you now the distribution of motifs on the right and left side of stone altars in my geographical area of investigation.

Well, for a first try it does not look that bad… And there is more to come.

I have not found out everything yet – there is still a lot to do with the layout etc., but I have now found a way of basic understanding my data and a basic way of working with it.

I will present charts like that in my thesis and I love doing so. I will work on my 3D-skills and I will keep on trying new things with GIS software, no matter what.

I am doing all that stuff in my own way: When I have time, when I have my head free for this kind of task. Individualism is one great challenge when you are an archaeologist. Idealism is one mightier challenge and it is hitting me hard sometimes. But hey, I guess, I like it. More than I used to do.

R you ready for something new?

Stay fierce, dear fighters of academia – yours, Astrid 🙂

To err is human – to R is happy pirate noob

Okay, I have to admit it, I saw the quote “to err is human to arr is pirate” and I totally loved it first sight.

Then the love decided that I should try an introductional course in R – and suddenly I am here, writing about this 2-day-experience with a really catchy headline…

So. R. Some of you may know that this is a programming language, very used and beloved by data miners and statistic-geeks. For more information have a look here.

I am not going to do any tutorials on R or so, because I am still a total beginner – but a really happy noob, as you may know. I decided some months ago that the word “newbie” or “noob” is not a negative term for me – I am at the start of something new. So, this is just the beginning of a learning process, another one, because I am learning all my life. 😉

If you want to learn a new programming language, you might take a look to my dear Ninja’a blog on this, this and this blogpost concerning programming and learning programming languages (oh, there is even another one…).

First things first: NO, it is not easy. Learning a new language (no matte if spoken, dead, programming or fictional – now, do not tell me, you never tried Elvish or were fascinated by the Navi-language) is not easy, it takes a lot of time and practice and a lot of thinking and remembering and a lot of mistake-making.

I am currently finishing my dissertation – and it will be done by end of December, hear me!

And I have an amount of 432 objects in my Excel-file that I need to analyse. Okay, I could do it with Excel, BUT: there is a nicer way of building graphics and of analyzing a lot of data (I am really proud of resisting and not calling it “big data” 🙂 )

So, I just managed to combine all my relief motifs of different trees, plants, cornucopiae, sacrificial servants and so on and I ran my very first script with this new defined variables.

And I know, these things are just peanuts for every experienced programmer out there, but I guess for a 2-day-course I am quite successful.

I have to rush now, I need to go to a quite interesting talk – so forgive me for being so late with this post, but maybe I can please and entertain you in your coffee break on this nice monday with his litte blogpost.

Stay calm and keep going, my dear readers!

All the best,

Astrid (also known as the happy noob) 🙂

Don’t check your phone first thing in the morning

Since many of you enjoyed my post on procrastination, I thought I’d follow up with a tip already mentioned here in more detail. It’s her tip to not check your phone first thing in the morning. I have tried it, highly recommend it and these are my experiences.

How to do this

I didn’t actively plan on actually implementing this tip. But when I woke up in the morning and was about to grab my phone for the usual checkup (which usually ends up taking much longer than the intended 2 minutes), I remembered Oakley had said to not do this but to first do 10 minutes of work instead. So I thought, I need to get through these bills anyway. And I did that. And I had the first achievement of my day. Then I checked my phone and still lost a lot of time.

10 minutes of productive work instead

Now this doesn’t work every day for me and I’m not enforcing it either. But this morning, I realized I broke the habit of having to check my phone first thing in the morning. I still do sometimes. But I don’t have to. And when I don’t all the effects she described really set in: you are primed for a productive day. After those inital 10 minutes of work, you often continue working because it’s so rewarding. And after the initial urge is past, I sometimes don’t feel the urge to check my phone for hours. This has downsides too, of course. Yesterday I didn’t know our first meeting had been canceled because I hadn’t checked my phone (or at least my work email) since after 5 pm the day before. It was a small setback in the moment. But it’s really a victory. I feel like I’m gaining back my freedom.

The “priming effect”

I also really feel like the “priming yourself for a productive day” thing really works. It’s easier to exercise willpower during the day or at least to overcome the barrier to start getting work done. It’s easier to resist the urge to check the phone. (In some situations I still want to procrastinate, of course, but hey – it’s ok to leave some improvement for tomorrow, right?)

Also, some say that checking your phone puts you in this passive-aggressive reactive mode – instead of clarity, purpuse and empowerment – because of information overload. This is not a mindset you want to have in the morning because you should first get 2 hours of dissertation writing done, am I right?

 

It triggered a chain reaction of positive change

Sometimes things are urgent. But when they are, people tend to try to call you or reach out to you in a more aggressive way anyway. So you won’t miss anything crucially important. But you gain a few good early morning hours where you can get work done. And after I got work done during the day, I feel that I don’t need to punish myself in the evening by working long hours or checking email constantly. This little mini-change actually triggered a chain reaction of positive change.

Next step: Write down todos the night before so your brain can pre-process them

Another one of those tips I more or less subconsciously implemented is to write up todos for the following day the night or evening before. This lets your brain work on it overnight and you’re more ready to get going the next day.

Maybe the next thing I implement will be to prepare my things for the next day or to tidy up before going to bed. I am really motivated to step up better routines right now 😉

Hope to pass on the motivation,

Best,
S

Loving bones, climbing stones. Stories of everyday phdlife