Organizing my life

I've been on the run for well over a year -- I started writing my PhD thesis in July '06, just after I got back from teaching at Woods Hole. At the time I was also interviewing for a faculty position at MSU (since offered & accepted). Since then I've defended my thesis, finished writing it, switched to my post-doc lab and started a whole new batch of projects, taught a few more courses (at LLNL and Woods Hole), and spoken at a few conferences. This month, I've written a 25 page NIH grant, too.

What I have not been able to do is finish off much of anything, other than the grant! In addition to letting some of my computational science lapse, I've completely dropped the ball on twill and figleaf as well as the subprocess patch, and my systems administration is not going well either... I even have two consulting gigs that aren't really proceeding at the moment, although conveniently I've managed to partly shuffle those off onto someone else's shoulders.

The real kicker is that I have a nice deadline coming up: Tracy and I are having a baby, probably sometime in the next two weeks, and I'm going to take the next month or two off. I certainly won't be doing experimental work, and I probably won't get much done on the computational side, either.

The result of all of this is that my TODO list hit a bit of a zenith this last week: I'd been pushing all the non-grant stuff into it while I finished the grant proposal, and it reached 500 messages. As tempting as e-mail emancipation sounds, I think it's really bad manners; and heck, these were all messages I was interested in! My life, except for some of the personal/family bits, is organized through e-mail -- and it's a large part of being an effective scientist these days, I think. So I spent about 8 hours going through and sorting the messages.

The twill/figleaf/testing-TODO stuff got put in my twill-todo folder. (Sorry folks, at the moment the baby and the science get priority.)

I went through all of the journal ToCs and downloaded the papers I was interested in. They're all in my DEVONthink folder now, waiting to be skimmed and renamed appropriately.

A bunch of stuff got moved back into my inbox, which is where I keep my short-term TODO list. This includes messages about the tutorials I'm hoping to write for the biology-in-python list, as well the consulting work -- I'm gonna try to finish that stuff off before the baby arrives.

The interesting & informative e-mails that I'd been saving for a good read all went into DEVONthink, appropriately tagged, so that I will find them if I search for anything related.

The long-term collaboration/data work that I've been saving in my TODO list also went into DEVONthink, under my lab management folder hierarchy. This is fodder for undergrads, masters students, and PhD students -- I'm not going to get to this data anytime soon, and it's always good to have a dozen or so projects lined up for students that get lured into my net.

Everything else -- about 70-80 messages -- I kept in my TODO folder, awaiting random chance and/or some attention from me.

The two points of this blog entry, such as they are, are:

  • don't expect much of out of me for the next few months. If someone wants to step up and integrate patches into figleaf and twill, I'd be very happy; other than that, rest assured that I will get to your e-mails some day... but maybe not soon ;(.
  • DEVONthink is becoming more and more important a part of my life. It's a very handy way to organize both random and structured textual data, and it supports the kind of serendipitous discovery of linked research interests that I've started to rely on in my scientific work. I highly recommend it for people who are drowning in information.


Legacy Comments

Posted by Jesse Noller on 2007-09-23 at 20:02.

Congratulations on the baby - and welcome, wait until you see them
laugh and smile. Trust me though - plan on re-examining things after
the baby-factor sinks in about 2 months after he/she is born.     You
find a lot less time is free to do much of anything than you'd like. I
love my daughter to death, and each day watching her grow is wonderful
(she'll be 3 months in october). But one thing she's taught me stands
out: appreciate the time you do get.

Posted by Mike Pirnat on 2007-09-23 at 23:14.

Congrats on the baby -- we just had our first on the 10th, and my two
weeks off wrap up tonight.  It'll be a tough adjustment going back to
the office, but it'll mean I can grab my copy of "Learning Python" to
read to the kid at bedtime.  (It can't hurt to start early, right?)
Best of luck! :-)

Posted by Noah Gift on 2007-09-23 at 23:34.

My kid is nearing 11 months.  While it would be nice to think you are
going to get back to a normal schedule in the next couple months, it
would be A COMPLETE DELUSION.    Just accept the fact that the next
six months will completely change your life, and you won't get as much
done ever again :)    It is worth it though.  Congrats to you and

Posted by Jonathan Ellis on 2007-09-24 at 13:17.

Congratulations, and good luck! :)

Posted by Titus Brown on 2007-09-24 at 14:18.

I'm under no delusion that I'll ever be able to get back to a "normal
schedule" (whatever that is) -- but I'm not expecting to get
**anything** done for the next month or two...    --titus

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