Today has been a day of great and fast progress. At 2pm I had a meeting with my supervisor to discuss a proposal that I had written for a design code which is in progress. We discussed it, and he asked me to add more to the background document I wrote for it. When I asked him how much time I had for it, he informed me that the meeting is this weekend, so that he would need it before Friday.
I calculated in my head that it would probably take me 2 or 3 days, so I should be able to do it. The timing was a bit unfortunate, as I was just informed about another deadline a few days ago.
At 3pm I was back in my office, with a nice warm cup of tea and a clear desk to start on this project. At 5:55pm it landed into my supervisor's mailbox.
So what gave me my productivity wings today?
1. Time pressure
I had a clear deadline, given by the person who has the highest authority over me (although I'm not treated as if there is some hierarchy in our university), and I knew he is taking this material to a very important meeting. I felt very motivated to simply pull out my sword and slay this calculation dragon right away.
2. A clear and defined task
I knew exactly what I was expected to do, and so I could start right away doing it. Most of the time, my tasks are not very defined. I'm asked to do something rather vague (write an analysis report and pay extra attention to the dutch design practice), so I need to spend quite some time thinking how I will approach the task, set out what I precisely need to do and only after defining these steps I am able to actually get started.
Since this piece of my work is taken to an important meeting, I felt that this is an opportunity for me to show some experts what I am doing (although it's taken to the meeting as a formula and its background document). Other than that, I was simply curious to go and carry out my supervisor's suggestions. The largest tasks he suggest were related to checking the validity of my formula against some test results from the literature. I was quite curious (and a bit anxious) to see if my little mix-and-match formula would be standing strong when comparing it to other experimental work.
4. Having material ready
I could provide such a quick response since I had all the main ingredients for the calculations ready. I already had a little summary of those test results from the literature in the literature review on which I am still working. Besides that, I also had a spreadsheet ready which I used to compare my test data to my newly developed formula. All I needed to do was to alter my spreadsheet so that I could use it for the experiments from the literature, and then plug in the properties and take the answer out of it.
5. An after-lunch walk outside
I was very sharp today, and I think one of the reasons is that I finally went to have a walk outside after lunchtime. I didn't feel my afternoon dip at all today, even though I'm emotionally tired and distracted as a result of all the trouble with my roommate. Before I started tackling the task at hand, I also opened my window for a few minutes to let in some fresh air. I think my office really needed some air traveling through it, since I've been keeping my door closed for most of the time and the windows haven't been open since September.