Finding time to think

As always, life happens. Plus some things pop up that are actually important and need to be dealt with. Other things pop up that are maybe not important but urgent, and somebody needs to get them done. And more specifically, as an experimentalist, there is always something to do – something that requires the use of one’s hands and takes place in the lab. While I enjoy this immensely and value the breadth of tasks that a scientist works on, I sometimes feel that the hands-on tasks (as well as all the other stuff that keep popping up, asking for attention) take priority too easily, and I have trouble finding time to think. Thinking about my experiment, about why they will be useful, how I can improve them, how I can increase my success rate. But also taking a step back to think about why my experiments are interesting and useful in the first place. Then taking another step back and thinking about how potential/preliminary results fit in with the literature. And finally thinking about science as a whole, musing about meta-science so to speak.

The #shutupandwrite hashtag shows that needing time and quiet to write is necessary, and appreciated. Similarly, #shutupandread or the one paper a day plan show that reading needs time. To me, both writing and reading form part of a continous thinking process. But I am wondering how I can foster the thinking itself – it does not always come easily on demand when I decide to sit down and think. I have realised that I get many useful ideas when I let my thoughts be idle. In my case, this happens twice a day for half an hour when I cycle to university and back – do you have tipps for how to get the thinking going?


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