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  • Julie T. Kinn 9:05 am on July 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: automatic thoughts, , , , Star Wars, unicorns   

    Dealing with the Project You Hate Part I: Understanding Avoidance 

    When I was suffering through my dissertation, I went through a series of delusions about other potential careers. These included high school teacher, personal chef, rapper, and stand-up comic. In retrospect, practicing my rhymes was just a glorified way to annoy loved ones and to avoid the project I had come to hate.

    Many of us have one – a project that starts near the top of the priority list each Monday and magically slithers to the bottom by the end of the week. It gets derailed by hot tasks, urgent errands, favors for friends, and cleaning the bathroom. This is the project that seems to physically propel you out of your seat each time you sit down to work on it (e.g., “Shoot – I just remembered I need to clip my toenails. I’ll just do that real quick, Google myself, make a snack, and then get down to business.”).

    Sure, sure, some of you are delightfully motivated go-getters with no proclivity toward procrastination. How lovely to be you. For the rest of us, here are a few tips I have learned to help understand and address avoidance:

    1. Acknowledge the Problem and its Source. Develop a bit of insight into why the project is taking so long to address. What is the real issue? Perhaps it’s boring, or maybe it’s something more – feeling out of depth? Worried that you don’t know how to proceed? Afraid of letting someone down? A good way to figure out your emotional roadblocks is to write down the automatic thoughts associated with the project. What are the first thoughts that pop into your mind when you think of this project? Now consider what these thoughts tell you about your motivation.
    2. Visualize the Finish Line. Let’s travel to fantasy land for a moment… The trees are made of candy, unicorns are pooping rainbows, and your project is done. Ahhhhh. Isn’t that nice? This is how you could feel all the time if you just got this paper out the door. The key here is finding internal motivation instead of just external (more on this later this month).
    3. Find your Inner Sith Lord. So you hate the project. That’s okay. We’re grown-ups; we don’t always get to work on just the fun stuff. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, imagine Emperor Palpatine standing over your shoulder saying, “The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it. Give in to your anger.”

    Now tear that dissertation/manuscript/grant proposal a new one!

    Tune in next week for Dealing with the Project you Hate Part II: Tools to Achieve Mediocrity

    • Kindra 9:42 am on July 31, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      This is me to a T. Thanks for the hard look at reality. I can’t wait for Part II.

  • Julie T. Kinn 4:44 pm on July 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , doo doo, time management, writing   

    Sharing the Love: When to Hand Off a Manuscript to Another Researcher 

    I had a bittersweet experience: after finishing up a study, I handed off the writing to another psychologist. This was a cute little survey study with a convenience sample – nothing fancy, just good ‘ole fashioned social science. I still remember the day my study was conceived. My supervisor said something like, “Hey Julie. You’re not doing anything important, right?”

    Well, my little sweetie grew up as they tend to do. Went off to IRB. Came back several times for revisions. I even collected and coded most of the data myself for old times sake (and because I was understaffed). I finished up most of the analyses and was pleased with the results. Then I had to face a sad truth: I just don’t have the time to write the manuscript right now.Figure 1: Level of Doo Doo

    There are a few papers I have dreaded writing. This was not one of them. The study was clean and simple, with clear results that don’t require much squinting. Just a chart with standard error bars. It’s not that I needed to be first author… it’s more that I was excited to see it to conclusion. And, yeah, I wanted to be first author. A few key points helped ease the transition of my study to a new researcher:

    1. My colleagues have the time and ability to do an excellent job with this.
    2. Waiting to write the paper delays the dissemination of the knowledge to the larger scientific community.
    3. If I sat on this study any longer, I would be in deep doo doo (See Figure 1).

    Now my challenge will be supporting the effort without micromanaging and nagging. “You’re going with *that* measure of effect size?!”

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