I found the secret to productivity… and lost it

As you may be able to tell, I did not keep up with the #5Papers challenge. It’s been a month since I promised to and I can honestly say I haven’t read a single paper for the express purpose of the challenge since then.

So what happened?

If you’re close to me, you know that I’m having a strange off-year. I’m in a PhD program but don’t have an advisor any more. I’m waiting to see if my application to another program is accepted. If not, then I’ll likely have to look for a job, getting off the linear education track I’ve been on since pre-K. This is all very stressful. I’ve had to reassess  my priorities and challenge a few key assumptions I’ve made about what defines a ‘successful’ career.

This all makes it a tad difficult to focus on coursework, let alone an academic challenge or catching up on all the writing projects I’ve started.

For a time, I had my solution: I made myself incredibly busy by joining a fighting gym. Classes would begin at 5:30 or 6:30 every weekday, which meant I had to have my work done by 5pm if I hoped to get a warm-up stretch in! It was a beautiful system because it gave me a real deadline to finish whatever homework or writing project I was working on (I’ve long since given up trying to work from home. Home is where I keep food and a bed, which are terribly tempting distractions!)

Perhaps it was the excitement of finally finding a physical activity I genuinely love. It wasn’t racking up minutes on a treadmill or counting reps. I was learning a brand new skill in a way that let me be a beginner again (a phenomenon I’d love to write about in the future). I was able to completely take my mind off work while at the gym, I slept like a baby, and when I showed up for work the next day I was fine with sitting at a computer for hours since it meant resting my sore muscles!


What a happy schedule! 

Then, in February, that all went away.

I twisted my ankle rather badly during practice, and I’ve had to stay off it since. Suddenly all that time spent at the gym was spent on the couch, playing video games. My cycle of motivation was broken. I wasn’t really sleeping, I had no concept of when I needed to get things done at the office, and I’m still struggling with what day of the week it is. In short: I’m not busy enough!

When you’re not busy, it’s easy for anxiety to creep back in. The frequent – and I mean daily – nightmares about not getting into grad school are particularly annoying.


And so, my half-dozen blog-readers, I’ve let updating my blog slip through the cracks. I don’t think the paper-reading challenge is going to happen. But I will do my best to keep publishing, and thank you for patiently waiting for the conclusion of my first little mini-series of posts!


So, what’s your secret to productivity? Do you have a hobby that keeps you sane? Or do you rely on sheer willpower? Love to hear from you!

Til next time!



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