I block out time every week that is dedicated to research. During that time, I do not answer the phone, I do not answer my door, I do not respond to emails. I work on whatever research project needs my attention. This is my survival strategy which insures that I actually have something to show my tenure committee every year when I am evaluated (especially important since my university refuses to allow postdocs to be included in start-up packages and all my students are still too new to have projects rolling out).
For the past few months, these precious research moments - islands of time when I pretend I'm still a postdoc - have been dedicated to desperately trying to write, edit, and revise a vast array of projects that all seemed to reach fruition at exactly the same moment of time...and that moment in time was this summer. Part of that timing was self-imposed because I wanted to have a lot of projects out the door to make my CV look good in case I saw some jobs I wanted to apply for this fall. But part of it was externally imposed by collaborators who, I think, also wanted to have papers out the door and possibly accepted in case they too saw jobs they wanted to apply for. I have been a single-minded writing machine.
Yesterday, I pushed the last of these puppies off my desk (including submitting one to a journal higher than I would normally try for). And last night, it suddenly hit me - there was nothing on my docket that had to be done during my research time the next day. No papers that needed to be revised, no grants that needed to be written. No analyses that needed to be done to support some last minute statement inserted into a discussion. My mad paper writing dash had come to a pause.....and it was like the angels sang. I went to sleep with a deep sense of contentment.
Why? Because today, my friends, I get to sit in front of a fresh white board and design my next research projects. There's something really liberating about the moment of realization that I direct my own research (or perhaps it's just the realization that it's harder for people to find me when I'm not in my office). That moment when I pick up that dry erase marker and start writing out the questions I want to address and what I will need to do that will be the moment that makes up for the politics of science - all the academic bullies, the high service load, the irritating student who still hasn't set a date for his comprehensive exam. Today, my friends, is going to be pure fun. The fun of letting my curiosity run rampant and the intellectual challenge of figuring out a way to test my ideas - that is why I got into this biz. So, my friends, off I go to visit my whiteboard. If you don't hear from me for a few days, it probably means I ended up barricading myself in and refused to come out.