Being responsible is exhausting

I’ve been absurdly productive for the entire month of April. I have:

  • Revised and resubmitted.
  • Submitted this stupid manuscript to its fourth journal (yep, it got rejected from that submission back in October)
  • Gotten juuuuuuust about ready to submit my research week paper, pending final approval from co-authors.
  • Given a presentation on a fourth project that is finally moving along well.
  • Reviewed three papers.
  • Gotten a blog for the research center up and running – and it’s lovely!
  • Read and taken notes on one published paper a day, every workday
  • Written up my goals and very detailed plans for summer fieldwork

Aaaaand…. I have now hit a wall. For the last two or three days, I have been pretty much braindead and exhausted. My grand accomplishments lately have been the following:

  • ordered a wedding present for a friend
  • printed out directions to a nearby state park, and the trail map, to go hiking this weekend (hooray spring)
  • reserved a hotel for when my husband visits me in the field this summer
  • considered which cocktails I want to serve at an upcoming party
  • made plans for karaoke tonight
  • looked up who did the voices on Daria
  • spent way too much time figuring out which Zazzle products emblazoned with a cartoon version of my study species I should buy
  • went out to lunch (and had a beer! sshhhhh)

(Needless to say, my administrative responsibilities have been rather light lately.)

I don’t think May is going to be nearly as productive as April – I don’t think I can take it…

Productivity peaks

The reviewers wanted to see a new analysis, so I ran it yesterday. To my surprise and glee, the results were significant and they strengthened my conclusion. Hooray! I plan to go ahead and resubmit tomorrow, once my co-authors look it over today. They’ve been surprisingly speedy lately, so I’m not worried. I also got comments back from co-authors on my newest manuscript, and I plan to submit that by the end of the month. Finally, I plan to revise the manuscript that won’t die and submit it to its fourth journal in May. This means that, for the first time in my life, I will have THREE manuscripts in review at once. [Possibly FOUR, if Ambitious Grad Student actually submits the ‘omics paper, on which I’m second author, next month!]

What the hell is up with all this productivity? Why on earth couldn’t I do this while I was a postdoc? I’ve been giving this question some thought lately. One answer is that I was busy collecting all this data while I was a postdoc… but that doesn’t quite explain it. Data collection for the revise-and-resubmit was completed last August. The paper that won’t die has been going round and round for years.

It’s certainly not that I have more time to spend on research now. My job description includes 25% independent research, but that time is not evenly distributed across the week, month, or year. Right now things have been a little slow on the administrative side and I’ve probably spent closer to 50% of my time on research. Other times of the year it’s closer to 0-10%. Although my postdoc wasn’t 100% research – I was also lab manager – I had a much larger proportion of my time to spend on research, maybe 75%. Am I just working harder now?

I think this change has more to do with my perspective on things. I spent lots of time on these projects as a postdoc. I spent a lot of time running statistics and despairing when the results seemed uninterpretable. I spent even more time despairing about the job market and my good-but-not-stellar publication record. It all seemed so hopeless.

Now, I already have a job… so research and publication seems so much more fun and so much less like a duty. Having the security of a job I like removes some of the despair from the process. When I was analyzing data most recently for the newest paper, the results didn’t make any sense at first – but I didn’t freak out and give up like I used to. I didn’t know what it meant, but each day I went ahead and analyzed the data I had planned to work on that day, and I moved on. By the end, the data presented an intriguing picture, and I was led to a conclusion that was pretty unexpected. The same thing happened for the revise-and-resubmit. In both papers, my hypotheses were not supported – but the results were so much more interesting that I expected.

I really think that since I’m more relaxed about it, I’m able to carry out my research much more effectively. I wonder if others have this experience too? Some people say that they work better under pressure – and the stereotype is that assistant professors work their asses off to get tenure and then don’t work nearly as hard after achieving it. I know that’s not true, and I wonder if some post-tenure people are actually more productive because the pressure’s off.