Two weeks have gone by since my last post.
This is partly because I am worn out from all the professional activities that I’ve pursued since my new grant adventures began in May. After attending the NORDP Annual Conference sessions with titles like “Maximizing Efficiency: A Case Study in How to Avoid Saying ‘No’ in a Resource-Limited Office,” and having 3½ months to reflect on my “off” time, I’ve decided that I don’t advocate this crash-and-burn philosophy. Rather than burn out, it’s better to share my reality. Right here.
While hard, saying ‘no,’ is probably inevitable. Well, eventually. Not ‘no’ to a person or activity, in this case.
Some who learn of my new “self-employed” status have various thoughts on how I might (or should) be spending my time, i.e.:
- “It would be nice to sleep in.” (I haven’t been sleeping in.)
- “You must love having time off.” (I haven’t taken an actual vacation yet.)
- “You should think about what you like to do.” (I already know what I like – and don’t.)
In addition to being an artist, a memoir writer, and a swim-bike-runner, I’m an information and a deadline addict. So I’ve been working even harder than when I had a (more than) full-time job position. Without the comfort of a steady paycheck, “standard” hours, or interaction with familiar staff, now the stakes are even higher.
I love learning new things; but I don’t approach this process in a simple or random fashion. Fragmented material gets tied to goals. Lacking a job description to strive towards, I have envisioned a series of new bins with subtopics to tackle. Meanwhile, keeping some habits alive.
Checking the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. Reading “Rock Talk.” Tues New York Times Science Times.
In essence, I’ve applied my personal trainer’s FITNESS CALENDAR approach to my labor flow. Daily, weekly, and monthly goals drive my time. And they are set at the beginning of each month. Freed from the imposed structure of the “typical” work day – commuting, in person meetings, and so on – early on I decided to create an alternative structure.
The key to this transition was what so many grant professionals love: THE LIST.
“Lists of what?” you might ask?
A truism in grant and in scientific work: You’ll never keep up with the pace of information. But you can set parameters for growth. And a feasible list to match. Within each subt opic, I’ve got a series of narrowly focused interests; and on my calendar, the steps to pursue them. Always going back to the spirit of the ultimate objective.
Some of my activities are, most definitely, income generating. Others, no less crucial, are credential building. Participating on the executive boards of grant professional organizations (like NORDP and GPA), for example. Each of these boards and the composite members are quite distinct in composition, constituency and operation style. From these colleagues, I continue to learn valuable lessons – outside of the content I am so accustomed to mastering in science – in how to command meetings, organize material, and tackle grant challenges.
Right now, I plan to say “yes” to all the opportunities that arise. Information goals, however, need to be partitioned and attached to a deadline. I’ll be practicing how to demark this virtual “no” line as I follow the explorations that my home office has triggered.