Saturday Soil Science Story - Sept. 29, 2018

I had big hopes to get to the lab and look like I was doing some interesting soil science work on Saturday, but unfortunately, I had to spend the day doing some work that looked far less exciting. Nonetheless, computer work is an incredibly important part of my life as a soil scientist right now. If you were following along on Saturday, I discussed creating priorities, finding balance between writing manuscripts and applying for jobs, and ended the day with a state soil quiz. Here’s a quick recap!

Lists, lists, and more lists

After posting a picture of my current to do list, someone informed me that I need to get more hobbies outside of work. Trust me, I’m aware. This fall has been incredibly busy and I’ve been working to make sure that I am prioritizing tasks that are important, rather than simply being busy to be busy. Each day, I look at my to do list and try to pick the most important tasks for the day. Most days, the highest priority is to work on my dissertation manuscripts. But what happens when other tasks have imminent deadlines? For instance, as I’m working on applying for jobs, I have to decide how much time to spend editing manuscripts and how much effort I should put into writing good cover letters. Typically, I have to make sacrifices on my work deadlines, or I have to sacrifice sleep. At the same time, I coach the soil judging team and work with a science policy fellowship program in Missouri. These activities don’t necessarily take high priority professionally, but they are personally very important to me. I realize that my method of prioritizing and getting work done, won’t work for everyone, but here are some general guidelines that I use when deciding how to spend my time.

  1. From my large to do list, I identify 1 high-priority task that needs to be done each day, and any other tasks that have upcoming deadlines.

  2. For tasks that have upcoming deadlines, but are not of high professional priority (press releases, fundraising letters, emails, etc.), I set a specific time frame to work on those tasks. Typically, this will be 1 hour following my planning period in the mornings or 2 hours before bed.

  3. For long-term, high-priority tasks, such as working on a manuscript, I try to break down large goals into several smaller goals. I’m a person who is driven by completing tasks, thus, “Finish Germination Study Results” may be on my large to-do list, but my daily list may say “Reformat Figure 1” or “Outline Discussion”, which are tasks I can usually cross off with a couple hours of work.

  4. Finally, meetings are probably the biggest distraction I have throughout my week. This semester, I am attempting to set agendas and make meetings as quick and efficient as possible. I try to schedule meetings for 30 minutes, rather than 60 minutes. I have been attempting to schedule lunch or breakfast meetings so that I can meet while I would typically not be working in the first place.

My schedule and prioritization still needs some improvements, but I try to be intentional with my time so that I can work on tasks that are both professionally and personally important to me. And getting to spend time on the weekends with friends and family is pretty great too! In the past couple years, I’ve learned to appreciate days off and spending time relaxing with loved ones. I always used to feel like I needed to rush through school to get on with my life, but now I try to enjoy the time I have right now and not place so much importance on working non-stop.

State Soil Series

Because job applications and working on research posters aren’t too visually thrilling, I decided to post some nice pictures of soil at the end of the day Saturday. Specifically, I posted five photos of the State Soil of five states where I have applied to positions or will be applying this fall. If you’d like to learn more about State Soils check out the Dig it! Exhibit! I offered to send “I Heart Soil” stickers to anyone who could guess the states correctly, but unfortunately everyone was a bit off. Here are the photos and the states to which they belong. Thanks for playing along!

State Soils.png