We're a little crazy, about science!

The thing about deadlines

It’s no secret I’m running around trying to finish everything I need to do lately. Deadlines for just about everything all fall within a few days of each other. I literally have a about a dozen things all due next week plus or minus two days. I’ve been trying to remain calm and remind myself that I’ve been in this situation before and it always works out in the end. That doesn’t stop me from stressing out and yesterday I got an email that could derail a lot of the planning I’ve been doing to make certain that all the work gets taken care of. Yep, I got another job to do.

Grad school, you think I would be used to it by now. I believe the phrase goes something like it’s not the destination, it’s the journey that matters. I’m pretty sure they were talking about getting your PhD because it’s been one hell of a journey and I don’t even want to think about the destination at the moment. It’s a lot of running around and not getting anywhere then suddenly your done. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself. The PhD journey is a long one, five years feels like 50 and I’m only at about the half way mark. That said I’ve gotten fairly good at maintaining my work flow. I can get the stuff I need to get done and I have gotten really good at managing my time. Then my main-PI throws a whole ass wrench into the mix and now I’m questioning if I’ll have everything done that needs to happen.

The story goes like this, yesterday after I finished discussing my breakthrough I found an email from my main-PI. No problem I assumed he wanted to go over the work I presented in the lab meeting he had to miss, but no. It was a job, namely there is a grant proposal due Monday that I need to submit. This was not a request.

Yeah, short story. The good news is the proposal is in R21 format and I just happen to have experience writing an R21 proposal earlier this year (more here). I spent months writing that proposal and going back and forth with my Co-PI to make sure it was polished. I will get one chance to edit this proposal, if I’m lucky. So now I have yet another task to do in my list of tasks that need to happen. Let’s run through the list since of things I need to have done in the next seven days since things are getting complicated now:

  1. The third part to the project for my stats class
  2. Homework for my stats class
  3. The talk from the I’m giving a talk post
  4. The poster and slides for the I’m giving a talk post
  5. My Co-PI’s project I’m excited about and took on because why not have one more thing here to do?
  6. New results from the experiment I’ve been working on (see yesterdays post for headaches there)
  7. Presentation for stats class, seriously, the workload for that class is outrageous
  8. This new proposal
  9. Figures for this new proposal
  10. Conference paper an undergrad I’m mentoring is writing (she’s doing all the hard work, I’m just editing)

I’m certain I’m forgetting things. Any one of these could (and will) take several days worth of work to get done and there just isn’t that much time between now and when it’s all due. Stats homework, due Monday. Proposal (with figures) due Monday. The updated results for my experiment, due Wednesday. The third part of my project and the presentation for the entire project, also due Wednesday. Results for my Co-PI sometime between now and Monday. All the things for the talk I’m giving, due Thursday. The conference paper, due Monday.

The good news? After this next week I’ll have a whole lot of things off my plate like it or not. The problem is I could spend a month writing the proposal alone. I typically spend two weeks working on projects for my stats class…. minimum. The talk I’m giving should be quick to record, but I need the new results from the experiment I’ve been working on before I can do that. So basically I’m not certain how I’m going to get all this done or even if I can actually get it all done. Some of it will require more attention than others, but since it’s all due pretty much at once, there’s no way I can see to divide my time.

Will all the work get done? Will I learn to say no even though I really want to take on a new and cool project? Will I magically have an entire proposal written well before Monday? Will I stop positing questions like this? Find out the answers to all this and more… next week.

In the meantime, I think I have a little bit of work to do. That’s the thing about deadlines, they always seem to clump together. Welcome to the life of a PhD candidate, it’s a little busy.


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