Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Bad Brain Days

I confessed to my wise PhD friend once that I was a bit fed up with myself for having a 'bad brain day' (where it took me AGES to settle down to any work. have you ever seen an agitated cat, searching in vain for a warm, sunny bit of floor to settle down on? that was like me. could NOT settle down, kept getting up and roaming around in a foul mood. tail high in the air, spiky hair on the back, claws all out. will bite your hand off if you try and touch me.)

I was, of course, secretly hoping he might offer some clever advice. And he did. I think maybe he will forgive me for repeating his advice on here, verbatim. For the benefit of all of us struggling PhD students.

What I've learned about bad days is that they can often be rescued: I tell myself I'll give up until the tension lessens, then pop in an hour or two later in the day and it always goes much better. The reason, I think, is the lessening of tension combined with what I think Jerome K. Jerome called roving (this is a very distant memory): the sub-conscious brain works on problems far more efficiently than the punishing superego and it keeps going (roves) even when one has officially clocked off. Thus, when one returns to the problem, it gets resolved much more speedily. Rather than clock off completely, one can also turn to mechanical tasks: footnotes, formatting, bibliography, etc. and the roving still takes place, I find.

(And then later he said:)

Try and enjoy yourself also: you've achieved an awful lot already and should celebrate that as you go!

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