A little while ago I read about how our brain loves novelty. It explained why I (somewhat guiltily) love it when a message/tweet/email/fb notice/reminder calls my attention.
I’m not sure why that novelty theory only seems to apply to minor or superficial types of interruptions. Because on the other hand, when I need to switch tasks for work/research, I am generally overcome with a sense of inertia to keep doing whatever it is that I’m already doing.
Like this week, when it was time to switch to transcribing, which I haven’t done for probably a month. There it was, the task nicely colour coded in my Outlook calendar, so I couldn’t ignore it. I reminded myself that I enjoy transcribing. My interviews are with Bardi Jawi and Nyul Nyul people (traditional lands on the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome). The characters are wonderful and their stories are interesting.
But still – do I have to?! I’d had my coffee for the day already (restricting myself to one a day lest I get the caffeine shakes), so made a cup of tea as a mini pre-task reward. I turned off my mobile data, turned my tablet volume down (which gives me my internet) and quit Outlook. No novelty excuses now!
After nearly 3 hours (with lunch in the middle) I’d completely transcribed one 32 minute interview. And it made me laugh, learn something and love my PhD.
The good thing about the inertia is that it can build to a sense of urgency. The one time I’ve contributed to a journal article during my PhD so far, this inertia was essential and quite fun. I was completely engaged in the writing, attempting to weave a story with some sense of written sophistication, and spent all day writing, lasting late into the night. Thankfully my Mother-in-law-to-be was cooking dinner for the first week. The second week, back at home, I negotiated with my fiancé to cook. Not needing to break my creative train of thought (I consider cooking dinner quite a creative act), really helped me to hold onto my drive. This lasted about three weeks in total and by then I had reached my capacity.
At this point, however, I haven’t reached that stage. I probably need to be between one-third to half way through my remaining interviews before I start to race for the end!
In the meantime, I’ll have to keep fending off all the shiny, oh-so-interesting things around me…