Putting the Plan in Action

by Sarah Luna

I’m the type of person who automatically feels better with a plan. I woke up to the 6am sunshine streaming through my second-story window and thought to myself: Hey, I can make it to the library by 8!

By 8:10 (ok, it took me a few minutes to actually get out of bed), I had happily situated myself at my favorite dual monitor desk in Mann Library. I dedicated the first 50 minutes of my day to the “other” category: email, Google Reader, and Facebook.  Mostly I spent the time responding to an email from my friend Amanda in Tanzania.

At 9 o’clock precisely, my lab mate Julie arrived, and we began our session. Today was a SAS day. Computer programming, in other words. Yes, that’s right! Nutrition grad students work with statistical programs! Learn how to learn how to code. It will make your life so much easier. I had a deliciously productive 91 minutes of dissertation-related work.

As soon as I left Mann, my personal productivity ceased. I’m “in charge” of three undergraduates this summer, and I met with one of them today to discuss how to clean data. We have ~200 files with ~60000 lines each; it’s a long and tedious process. Half way through explaining, I realized that I could probably write a program to deal with all of this if I were willing to put in the time to learn how.

I had to weigh my options. Do I spend 20 hours of my time learning how to write this program (and then teach it) or do I spend 150 hours of my undergraduates’ time (and sanity) by having them do the entire process by hand? I decided to go with the first option 1) because that’s what I would have appreciated as an undergrad and 2) I like situations that force me to learn new skills.

Well, that took up the rest of my day. I’d probably still be working on it except that Mann closes at 6 during the summer. I was home by 6:15, ate a leisurely dinner outside, called my family, did some non-school reading, and still have time to practice my Spanish before bed.

What did the timer say? For my ten hours on campus, I spent 15% of my time on dissertation work, 68% of my time on non dissertation work, and 17% on other. Hmm.

Clearly, some adjustment is necessary. 🙂