Forceing Oneself to do Unsexy Graduate School Work

Yeah but how do you force yourself to sit down and work?
I am painfully bored at this moment in time. I don't feel like working, or studying or doing the paper I have to submit next week for the Korean SCI journal. The emphasis is on the SCI meaning that I should be sitting down and bogging on the little details of my findings and proving them that whatever I have is important to this world. I don't personally think that producing a set of graphs will be an important contribution but that's not the point. It's faking that's important. Faking to show that what you have is important and not the other way round.

One of the perks of being in a scientific community going through a ton of papers and journals is that you find people are more result oriented rather than result driven. Mind you, these are different terms. I would describe a result driven to be an honest take on a research where you think about a process and find a specific result. This comes through understanding, deep study and working your butts off. Result oriented, also requires deep understanding, deep study and working your butts off, however, the process is reversed. You first find a result then track down the process to come to that result. This subtle difference is how the current academic system is fueling a new generation of young Koreans who are more volume of paper writing oriented rather solid, knowledge based, first-process based paper writing.

No one can actually blame them. Research get's funded in the number of papers you publish not on the quality. Quantity is the king. It's no surprise that not writing a paper would not go down with your hierarchical seniors.

However that's not what I want to talk about in this post. It's about being able to work on the first place. Forget papers, without first developing key work ethic it's simply hard to do any research at all. 

What I have noticed, time and again, with people who succeed in their field is to become obsessed about it. Love cooking? become obsessed about it. Love writing? write blogs, read and obsess about how an author find's humor in the worst of scenarios. Love electronics? burn a couple of chips, learn soldering techniques, learn to make circuits and learn to destroy the f**k out of them. 

I know this for a fact, that if you have a compulsive obsessive nature to do a specific thing, anything, you become good at it. The funny thing is that even though you know this for a fact, you can't, at times, just do it.

Just plain sitting down for a couple of hours and working. It's simple yet painfully difficult to do. 

For a few days, I have been seeing how I react to changes in my environment and how that affect's my "work" mood (let's just say). Because I know that if I don't sit down and work on this incredibly boring paper, I won't get an A in the class and I won't be able to make my prof drink with me. So need to hack my brain and make it work.

There were a couple of tricks which I had tried before but I am going to outline some of them here and give my verdict of how it affected my work mood. 

1. Cleaning my workspace: Wasted time to be honest. I spilled coffee twice and it was back to where it was. No change in work mood. Sense of accomplishment on finally cleaning the table yes but no productive work in terms of writing the paper. 

Changing workspace
2. Changing my workspace: Cleaning didn't help, how about changing the workspace? Tried working from home, it's hard to do it because the bed keeps staring at you, seducing you to cuddle with it a bit more. What about the lab space? I had the liberty to change things around here at the Satellite center, so I did. Moved my workstation and tried rebooting that work mood. 

Verdict, well, it did work in some sense that the new space allowed not to be distracted. Don't know why but like will power, the power to sit at a place and do unsexy work died down. Didn't survive a day. 

3. Keeping blood sugar levels up + Caffeine: Who ever mentioned that blood sugar level needs to be constant high to be able to work should be nailed hard on the head. Postprandial Somnolence  otherwise food coma is inevitable. Caffeine cancels out some of that drowsiness but then you end up looking at munchies on youtube craving for more food. NOPE.

4. Changing the temperature: It's december here and I tried turning the heaters off. Bad idea. 

5. Scheduling and setting goals: This is perhaps the most effective way of getting me to do any work. Setting clear goals and scheduling them. So how does the process work and why is it effective in being able to push me to complete a certain task?

Here's some background. When I was back in school, I liked the way chapters came in small manageable chunks. So everytime I used to finish reading and revising a chapter, I would simply mark it and take real satisfaction in the fact that I managed to actually complete that stupid chapter. But when I reached A-levels, chapters became much larger, difficult to tackle and had a lot of things going on. Finishing a chapter was a pain. My system of working through a chapter and on to the next one on designated time took a hit. A bad hit because it stressed me out. I could not keep up with the volume of work I was expecting me to finish. I wasn't happy. 

What changed? If you look at it, books before already were divided into small portions to feed on. Chapters in higher textbooks, unfortunately, had to cram in a lot of info and subsequently had to be longer thus, when my brain was looking for that dopamine hit, it didn't get it on due time and frustration would take over. 

So is it really on the dopamine hit? Yes, Yes and Yes. The reason why I manage to complete my blog is that everytime I finish writing it and share it over on the social media, I get a nice dose of the dopamine on my brain. I crave for that hit again and I write and let people read it. That in turn fuels me to do it over again. 

Same with playing the host. When you call over your friends, cook for them and see them taking satisfaction over the food you have made, the brain takes a hit of dopamine. It's quite amazing hit, I have to say. The hormone basically then forces you to do it again to have that "high" you experienced. 

Same with the chapters. What I didn't realize at that time was everytime I would make finish a chapter, the "happy" hormone would spill into my neurons in the brain and that gave me a sense of accomplishment, however small. 

So what has this to do with the research? Like chapters, I think it's a necessary step to break the my paper into bits of "chapters." Chapters that are easily achievable and have a specific small goal in hand. Once you manage to finish that "chapter" you feel good about it. For me, if I don't have my chapters for the day written down on a pad, I lose a sense of what I have to do and end up doing quite literally nothing, like today. 

It's simple. it's effective. And it get's work done. However small it really is. And most importantly, I just backed that up with science. 

What about scheduling you ask? DUH! you don't have all year to finish those chapters do you?


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