Regaining Momentum

To compliment the “Distractions” posting by KRED, I thought it would important to mention not only distraction management, but the regaining of momentum following the holiday.  As I am sure many people feel, you rush, rush, rush to get to the holidays, make sure that all gifts are bought and social events attended, you collapse in a heap after New Year’s and then it’s just… January.  Some of us enjoy a month-long break.  Others take the few days off for the holiday and get right back into it.  I returned back to work on January 3rd, ready to tackle what I hope to be a productive Spring semester.  Thus far, it has been exactly that.  Unfortunately, it has meant that I have been not up to too much blogging and I’ve been a bit swamped.  So, in honor of the crazy thus far, I wanted to get a little post up so I could help regain momentum. First, a video! And then I will explain my reasoning for including this:

Human-Based Percussion and Self-Similarity Detection in Electroacoustic Music from Anderson Mills on Vimeo.

Sometimes, our research gets a little stale. We face the long winter ahead, reworking a draft, staring into a void and hoping to make it through to the other side. It’s easy to slide into a funk about your writing, especially something as arduous and far-reaching as a dissertation. So, my intention for including the clip above (which, by the way, is from a fabulous “Dance Your Ph.D.” competition run by Science and the AAAS), is that sometime it takes trying to make your research relate-able through a different medium or to a non-expert can help rekindle your interest.  Aside from dancing your Ph.D., here are a few ideas for regaining your momentum:

  • Write your dissertation’s elevator speech.  Oftentimes you get asked, “So, what do you research?”  When trying to relay the information to someone not in the field, I get self-conscious.  I worry first that I am going to bore them and second that I will realize that I am boring them as I am boring them and will not be able to shut off the ramble.  The antidote: craft a 30-second elevator speech to convey what you study to the widest audience you can.  Ask yourself why your research is important, and relay that as concisely as you can.  This is a great exercise for not only you, but for when you are heading into the job market or looking for venture capitalists to invest in your great innovation.
  • Create a Pecha Kucha.  A Pecha Kucha is 6.20 minute (20 slides x 20 seconds per slide) feast for the eyes that presents your research in a way that highlights the art and human message of your work.  It is another great exercise to help you for the job talk and also flexes your creativity.  This art form has become so popular, that Pecha Kucha Nights are held around the world.  Here’s a great one on compassionate signage from Wired.
  • Pomodoro!  I know that I have mentioned this before, but it bears repeating.  The Pomodoro Technique is based on the idea that you set a kitchen timer and make yourself concentrate on one task for ~25 minutes.  I sometimes get into a stuck phase where I feel like the work has piled up too much, and I can’t make headway.  You just don’t know where to start.  The Pomodoro Technique makes you sit down and get as much done in 25 minutes as you can, which is usually a good amount of work.  You will not only have a bit of the work tackled, but a health sense of accomplishment that will help you regain that momentum.
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