Sometimes It’s Time to Organize the Closet
Not surprisingly, life in academia often involves a lot of thinking. Sometimes you will sit for many minutes or more (hours?) just thinking. While I won’t go so far as to say you are “paid to think,” I think it’s important to just ponder your research every so often, bringing to mind the various things you are working on, or would like to work on, and trying to make connections.
One of the most fruitful results of such pondering is when you have an “ah ha!” moment. This occurs when a new connection is made somewhere in your brain. The new connection is exciting because it often means you have a whole wealth of new inferences to explore. For example, let’s say you have an “ah ha” and realize that idea A and idea B are connected in some way. You have never thought about A and B in the same context, but you realize that you should be. Then, you take everything you know about A and say “What does it mean for B?” Likewise, you take everything you know about B and say “What does this mean for A?”
So, what does this have to do with organizing the closet? Well, after a long day of thinking, you sometimes get the itch to quit thinking, and go do something productive! There’s something rewarding about getting the closet organized or pulling the weeds or painting the shed. And I think the same applies to your research. Some of us are “thinkers,” and some of us are “doers.” I will humble myself and admit to being too much of a thinker. If you are a thinker, sometimes you need to quit thinking and start doing.
But, I’m willing to bet that most of us in academia are wired the other way. My only data point is a book I read recently entitled “A Ph.D. Is Not Enough!” by Peter Feibelman. In this book, he points out that many researchers are too focused on techniques, methods, and certain technologies with little regard to how their products fit in with the big picture, or how they are helping to answer the “big questions”, or what the “big questions” are for that matter. Maybe the issue here is so much “doing” that we are forgetting to just stop and think a bit about all the “doing” and what it means. So, my advice to the thinkers is to start doing, and my advice to the doers is to stop and think every once in a while.
Well, enough of this for now. I’m going to organize the closet.