Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This is My Brain on Vacation

When I am on a family trip, roaming around with my daughter ± spouse on a vacation-type experience, I still spend a fair amount of time thinking about work. This is not a problem -- I enjoy thinking about my research while I'm off doing something else. And I can't imagine turning off that part of my brain just because I'm on vacation.

While on vacation last week, I
  • thought about existing and proposed research
  • did some writing/editing of my own manuscripts and proposals
  • did some editing/reviewing of other people's manuscripts
  • did some professional service obligations that had to be done by a certain date
  • stayed in contact with students/postdocs when they wrote to me with questions or requests
  • visited with a former PhD student and discussed future research we might do together
These work-related activities did not dominate my vacation, but they occurred, woven into the vacation time. I also spent long days having family adventures exploring, chatting, laughing, reading, writing, photographing, eating. My daughter asked me to teach her Latin, so I got an introductory book and we started working through it together a little bit each day.

Perhaps this will help her in her future career: she has decided to be a psychologist when she grows up, and she says that she will specialize either in horses or graduate students.

In any case, a comment on yesterday's work/vacation-related post made me wonder:

If I were to get bad news about a proposal or manuscript, would I prefer to get this news while on vacation or while at work?

The most accurate answer is of course 'neither', but if I had to choose, I might choose vacation. I don't think bad news (a.k.a. rejection) would destroy my vacation and it might actually be good to have some distance from work and an opportunity for pleasant distraction when dealing with severe disappointment about a work-related issue.

An ideal vacation for me is one that involves roaming around an interesting place, seeing and learning new things and having fun and, from time to time, thinking about my research and my students and other professional activities and getting a bit of work done here and there as time and mood allow.


Janka said...

Personally (based on limited experience, though) I would rather get bad news as soon as they are available *and* I think about the possibility of bad news the first time. In the unlikely case that I forget that I have submitted something for the duration of the vacation, then yea, keep the news - but otherwise, just give me the bad stuff. Bad news I can live with, but fretting about the possiblity of bad news is terrible.

Motivated Postdoc said...

I would hate to hear bad news during vacation, since rejects are de-motivating and depressing to me. I am assuming that it takes experience to deal with rejections. I wonder how people get motivated after rejects and get back to the same high level of productivity ?

Yoli said...

I am loving you blog girl!

Anonymous said...


Also, the Word Verification for me was "defund" this time around. I'm hoping that's not a bad sign for our recently funded NSF proposal.

amy said...

Motivated: I'm in the same boat. Rejections take the wind right out of my sails. I haven't found a good way to deal with it, but over time the length of my depressed period has shortened. It used to be that a rejection would make me feel lousy for a couple of weeks, but now they only affect me for a couple of days. I'd be curious to hear what other people do to lessen the pain.

Anonymous said...

I would also be interested to hear about how (after people have gotten out of the post-rejection funk) people deal with reviews - do you write them off as uninformed, use them to re-evaluate your whole research plan, or somewhere in the middle? Or is this so variable that no general conclusions can be drawn?

Anonymous said...

I guess it depends on how hard of an impact on your life the bad news represents. If you are already pretty well funded, then one proposal rejection doesn't spell disaster for your career so the news wouldn't destroy your vacation. On other hand if you are in a precarious funding situation and on the verge of having to shut down your lab and you get news of yet another proposal that went down the toilet, I think that might have a bigger impact on your vacation...maybe this is the difference between how badly different people get affected by new of rejection, is how much they had riding on it

Foreign and Female in Science said...

I would like to know the results as soon as possible. Though chances are that after a rejection I will go in the office and sulk for a bit, then go back and forth between the proposal and comments, writing a response even if I don't always send it.

Of course I am not in a secure funding or even tenure track position yet. The proposal experience I had so far was the one for funding my Ph.D. research. Each one felt like life or death sentence.

Wanna Be Mother said...

The PhD comic today reminded me of this post of yours. Apparently, you are using the same dictionary as Prof Smith.