Friday, January 4, 2013

Resolving to make more lists

  Actually, I don't do resolutions. Perhaps it's because a list of resolutions becomes yet another to-do list (related: for example, a Christmas list becomes a to-do list). To-do lists are actually a lifesaver for me, with multiple lists floating around the house for home improvement projects, groceries, and of course my academic lists of analyses to do and applications to submit. I'm sure everyone has their own way of staying organized, and lists are mine - last week I gave myself the luxury of a notebook for my weekly lists, instead of random pieces of paper that cause me to panic when they're lost (because then I don't know what to do. Kidding. Kinda.).

  Lists were a lifesaver in grad school as well, though not always in the way you think. I've always had a hard time falling asleep at night, and while contemplating what needed to be done on the thesis, it was a guarantee that I'd lay awake for hours before finally giving in to sleep. I would think of phrases to write, points to make, references to include, tweaks to figures...and even if I told myself I'd remember it in the morning, my brain was smart/stubborn enough to know that wasn't the case. This probably sounds familiar to many/all of you. One trick to help ease into sleep was to write it down on the mandatory piece of paper by my bedside, tricking my brain into thinking the issue was taken care of. Lists kept me organized and helped me get some sleep, sorely needed by most grad students, because we are all invariably stressed out.
  Not that we had the most stressful job on the planet. With a bit of objectivity, it's easy to see that it was a pretty good gig, especially at my institution. As a TA, I got paid, my tuition was covered, and I had comprehensive medical insurance.  I got to pursue my education, take classes, and have money for beer. I know, I know - it sounds like I'm belittling the stress we went through and the amazing amount of work we put in for our research and students. This stress is real, and it has amazing ways of manifesting itself. Among my acquitances, grad school stress has triggered migraines, ulcers, and Celiac disease. This stress has diminished following the submission of my thesis and I no longer have to keep paper and pen near the bed for late-night brain dumps. But I'm under no illusions that life is stress-free and that paper may reappear soon.
  If I were to make a resolution, then, it might be to make more lists and get petty facts and worries out of the mind and onto the paper. Perhaps I've already failed, though: one resolution can hardly be called a list. And perhaps, just perhaps, you have suggestions about ways to stay academically organized in order to lower stress.

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