Finally some progress
As I said in the previous post - one of my greatest work related fears at the moment is my lack of research productivity. I do put in the hours available but the lack of measurable progress makes me afraid that this is not enough (which it probably isn't). Inspired by many wise people out there in the blogosphere and the general online world I am constantly trying out new every-step-counts approaches of xx words a day, half an hour a day, having a list ready of easy things to do when tired, parking on the downhill slope etc in order to squeeze research time into the small holes in my schedule. Most of the time it feels like these approaches are getting me nowhere, or at least that I am moving ahead at a pace so slow that it doesn't count. But two nice surprises today made me realize that maybe it really does work - even for me. (apparently I consider myself so special that methods that have proven useful to dozens of other people are totally useless for me).
After months and months of little tiny steps I finally finished typing up my field notes from last summer today. It might not sound like a big deal, but for me it's actual measurable progress and in a natural science field without lab work much of the thinking is actually done during the process of getting reacquainted with ones field notes. I still need to scan the illustrations made in the field and fill in some logistic details, but I am actually very close to having a finished product and a pretty good overview of my data from last year. With some still-to-be-done mapping work and the remaining planning and logistics for the upcoming field season I suddenly see the potential for a reasonable outcome for Year One of this project.
The second "success" is related to the much dreaded manuscripts I have hanging over my head. Actually it has more to do with me misjudging how far I had come than the actual small-steps-each-day approach, but anyway, it made me feel that I am suddenly moving forward despite limited time. I am doing one paper with my former advisor as a coauthor and she has been sitting on it for a year without any comments at all. During all that time I guess I had just told myself that she would hate it, which would not be unlike her, and that it would take ages to get in shape for submission. But when I finally worked up the courage to read her comments today they were not bad at all. Mainly linguistic comments and some suggestions for changes to illustrations - in other words something, which can be done in a few days. This is such a relief. Not only because it now seems realistic to finish keep my plan of finishing both this paper and the field report as well as making some progress on another manuscript before I leave for a three weeks trip in ten days, but more because I have some sort of complex on the whole publishing issue and this was kind of a breakthrough. I guess, I am scared that no one will want my papers (and it may very well be the case), and this only gets worse because I am in an interdisciplinary field trying to publish in my main area of the field A, while everyone I work with and most of my professional network is publishing in their main area of the field B. I am in a place now where this jump to independence is essential to finding my own place within the scientific community (and frankly, a permanent job) but where sending off manuscripts without approval from a senior colleague is still new and unknown territory. I know I need to get it out there and try, but time is limited as it is and it sometimes feels like submission day is just not coming any closer. This push from former advisor to go ahead and send this baby in soon might be just what I needed to convince myself that it can and will be done.