Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Weather: Windy

I like days like today: just above freezing, windy, and touches of sunlight (I would call it a "dappling", but that might be going too far). Brisk wind; makes me feel like I should be energetic.

Yesterday, I went to a talk by the creator of Piled Higher and Deeper, the online webcomic all about graduate life. It was a great talk where the (now FORMER grad student) told us all that procrastination is GOOD. However, procrastination is often mistaken for laziness (which is BA~~D). The difference is that if you procrastinate, you put off something until a later time (usually unnecessarily). If you are lazy, you just put stuff off.

There are two implications here: the first one being that if you procrastinate, you will do it when it needs be done (although "when it needs to be done" and "deadline" apparently don't always mean the same thing), and the second one being that procrastination requires finding something pleasurable to do (although not always pleasurable in all circumstances; such as cleaning all the dishes, vacuuming the house, cleaning the oven, etc) that suddenly makes postponing the first thing necessary.

The problem comes from GUILT. Guilt comes from (other than being a Catholic) the belief that you SHOULD be doing what you are distracting yourself from actually accomplishing. However, guilt tends to make a person enjoy their distractions less and less, causing them to pursue them more and more, causing a person to hurtle along a downward-spiraling trend toward depression. The key is to enjoy your distraction fully, and then go back to what you were working on before being distracted. (And learn to become less distracted with extraneous things in general - like life...)

Finally, I liked his explanation of Newton's (modified) second law of graduate student life:

F=m a

therefore: a =F/m


Age (grad student) = flexibility (of choices)/motivation (to finish)

As one progresses through graduate student life, one's motivation to finish tends to wax and wane (apparently at electrical engineering at Stanford, motivation wanes more than waxes). As dm/dt decreases, da/dt is expected to increase, as per the formula. The key to finishing a PhD is (apparently) not increasing motivation per se, but seriously decreasing a grad student's flexibility! (So long as the flexibility is lower than the term for motivation, the degree will be finished!) What an insight!

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