18 January 2008

Thirdly review 2008, Part 1

I feel like I'm ready to do my first quarterly review. Actually, it's not really quarterly but thirdly. It seems more convenient to break the year into fall, spring, and summer since I'm on an academic schedule. Fall semester ended and spring semester started this week, so it's time.

Since this is my first quarterly review, it will be exploratory. First, I will review my progress from last fall (September - December). This was the first semester in a long time where I was serious about my work. I wanted to be challenged, so I took two classes (atomic physics and mesoscopic physics) while doing research. Unfortunately, I wasn't mentally prepared for such a huge workload. Atomic physics took up a lot of time, I ended up dropping mesoscopic physics, and hardly doing any research. I should have realized that two classes would be too much. I've hardly done any research in the past two years, so continuing the trend was very bad. By the end of the semester, I was frustrated and somedays, even on the verge of tears (I guess I don't take failure very well). On the positive side, going to class helped me develop some discipline and there were times that I actually felt excited about science again. I also tried making time cards and it was pretty effective at keeping me from procrastinating. I'll have to start doing them again. Another idea that worked well for me was blocking administrative tasks. If I know that there is a day where I can do non-academic work, I'm less likely to procrastinate.

Now I'll talk about my non-work life. Just like in the previous year, I didn't have much social contact except for a few work-related parties. I was really interested in hockey and did a lot of research about hockey equipment. I'm pretty happy now that I found a stick and gloves that I like. I'm still working on skates, though. Unfortunately, changing equipment has thrown off my game a bit (particularly the skates), but I can live with that. I've been eating better and getting more fruit in my diet. I noticed that I gained some weight at the end of the semester due to lack of exercise (besides hockey) and eating too much at the dining hall. I still read blogs and news feeds, but I think I did a good job of cutting it down. Most days I only need an hour to cover the feeds which I think is about right. At the end of the semester, I discovered Sondheim (a life-changing cultural event for me) and it made me realize how much I miss art (broadly defined as literature, music, fine art, etc). In the last few years, I've focused a lot on very practical things like lifehacking.

Some changes that I propose:
  • Spending less time reading about hockey. It's a great diversion, but I just don't have time to read the hockey forums and follow all the details of the San Jose Sharks. I don't think I get much out of it either.
  • Going to the gym at 6 am. Last fall, I wanted to go in the afternoon so that I could start work earlier. In reality, I would feel tired and talk myself out of going to the gym or have to attend some talk/meeting. So I just ended up never going.
  • Eating smaller portions at the dining hall. This one shouldn't be too hard; I just have to pay attention. Also, if I lift weights, I'll put on more muscle and burn more calories. So the combination of eating right and going to the gym should keep my weight stable.
  • I'd like to experience more of the New York theater scene. I might never live close enough to Manhattan to see live shows, so I should make good use of the opportunity. However, I have to be careful and not let my interests run out of control. I propose planning one trip to New York a month (I could go a little more often, but then I'd be bankrupt).
  • I need to come up with an academic gameplan. I should be attending more seminars, but which ones? Should I take the advanced mesoscopic physics class?
  • I need to get more people invested in my academic progress besides my advisor. How do I do that?

The last two items were questions, so I need to work on them. Stay tuned for a later post.

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