Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Okay, this job is really crazy

As you can probably tell from my last few posts and the space between them, I have been crazy busy. At first I thought that I over-committed, but now I am beginning to think that this is status quo for the job. I am going to need to learn to do less or get better at doing more. So here's what I'm facing over the upcoming month:

# Proposal due Oct 1- only a few pages, thank you, G-D
# Two conference talks in mid-October
# need to get out two papers from postdoc- one for special issue due Nov 1
# prepare three lectures for my share of team taught intro courses
# get lab ready including supervise equipment set-up, furniture install, ordering of supplies
# train new undergrad and grad researchers
# find out when my postdoc's visa is getting approved, train her when she gets here
# possibly two more proposals, one due early nov, one due early dec.

Plus, my husband just started his first semester of B-school and will probably much less available to help at home.

I am hanging in there. I am taking things one day at a time, focusing on getting the most important stuff first. I have a couple hundred unanswered email messages. But I still love this job.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Still here, sort of...

Wow! The last week was absolutely crazy. I mentioned that both my mother and mother-in-law were in town for labor day. That actually went fine, no major blow-ups, at least that I've heard of yet. It was a giant time sink though. My laundry pile was about a mile high when they left and I had to send my husband to the grocery store (which is never a good idea unless you really like Twinkies).

Then, just as I was recovering from the weekend, I cracked a filling necessitating emergency dental work. So in the middle of the most intensely stressful couple of weeks that I've had in a couple of years, I got to spend two consecutive mornings novicained in a dentist chair...and (wait for it) I had to give a presentation in the afternoon each day! I'm just hoping I didn't drool on myself or something.

One of the presentations was an off campus seminar. When I mapquested the address it said it was a four hour drive, but the reality was more like 5 (glad I left early). So I ended up driving for 10 hours yesterday. I got home around 11 PM completely wiped. But I had intelligently scheduled two meetings Friday morning starting as early as 8:30 AM. I was only ten minutes late for that one, not too bad.

On top of all of that, my lab furniture (see previous posts) consists of five pieces, only one of which arrived correctly, and I have been negotiating for the return and replacement of the incorrect pieces (hopefully at no or low cost). Like I needed that. So I guess you could say this week has been CRAZY!!!

I know that all of this sounds like a disaster, and in a way it was, but I want to say that I still LOVE my job. I am having the time of my life and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Oops! I took on way too much.

As you might have guessed by my absence, I have been a bit overwhelmed and trying to dig myself out for the last weeks. I am writing one proposal due 9/15, writing another short proposal due 9/29, giving a seminar at another university (next week), giving a seminar at my own university (next week), preparing for two conferences early october and early november, and writing an invited paper due 11/01. Oh, yeah, and setting up my lab. Umm, it was a bit ambitious, but seemed like such a great idea at the time.

So what do you do when you find yourself committed to way too many things, and not really in a position to back out of any of them? The first time this happened to me was in grad school, when I was taking this class that takes 20-30 hours/week in homework, plus trying to get data out for a conference I was attending. My advisor was practically screaming at me to forget about the class, but I ethically couldn't give it a lackluster effort and feel good about it. In that case, I did end up letting the class slide a little, resulting in a 1 letter grade drop in my final grade. But what did I learn from all that?

Finding myself in this predicament increasingly often (I now understand why no one can ever find professors in their office): I thought I would give you my thoughts. I would also appreciate any of yours.

Digging Out of the Hole
1.Do NOT take on any new projects that are not absolutely required. Even if you really, really want to. [There goes my women in STEM stuff for a while, (sigh)]
2.See if there is anything that can be politely dropped or backed out of.
3.Prioritize remaining projects from most important to least important. This is difficult. Most important does not mean favorite, it means most likely to advance your career.
4.Let the little things go. Get take out for dinner, consider the laundry service at the dry cleaners.
5.Work on the projects with the highest career impact first. As deadlines for less important projects approach dedicate a limited amount of time to completing them. Do not use more than the allocated time.
6.And the hardest part, learn to realize that you don't have time for everything and get comfortable with turning out less than perfect work. Also, learn how to tell when people won't notice it is less than perfect, and economize on those ideas rather than the important ones.

Well wish me luck getting out of my hole. Oh and on top of everything else my mother in law and mother are coming this weekend. Yahoo!

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