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ThePaladin
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17 Jul 2013, 8:42 am

I'm going to fire this completely off the cuff before I go for a walk to calm myself a bit.

Doing my PhD at the moment in laser plasma physics. Completely overwhelmed in information. Got a project to do, 6 weeks to do it. That's fine. IF I could sit down.

I sit down to do work, then I come across something that I haven't done in a while, don't recall. Then I am suddenly hit by an overwhelming compulsion to go look it up. This happens again and again and again and again, over and over. I sit down to do this thing and then ANOTHER thing that distracts me comes up.

So I try and ignore it. I sit down and the moment something I haven't studied for a while comes up, my brain switches off. Completely. Stops reading or working entirely. I have spent hours reading stuff I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER because of one equation which involved an assumption that's buried in M. Boas Third Edition somewhere. I can't stop it. It just turns off.

Now I'm working on something else and I come across a problem that I want to creatively solve. I solve it, easily. It's not hard, I know exactly what I have to do.

OH WAIT, says my brain. You haven't learnt C++ yet. Time to go do that.

So let me get this straight, brain. You want me to, in six weeks:

- learn laser plasma physics from the ground up
- learn C++ to a degree level
- revise a 1000 page maths book
- do a project

I have to do this while fighting off my intense desire to do other things that are equally creative, while in a foreign country AND spending ten times as much energy trying to be social as I normally have to.

If I complain to my folks, they start panicing that I'm going to fail (I'm not failing at anything!) WHICH ADDS TO THE STRESS. HOW?! WHY DOES MY HEAD WORK LIKE THIS?!?



neilson_wheels
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17 Jul 2013, 9:44 am

Let that pressure out and then start again.

My advice, if you are interested, give your project structure and rank jobs by importance.
Start with lists for next day and less important tasks,
add new jobs to the list through the day but continue with the work in progress,
revise list at end of each day for the next work period so you know what to start with.

Good luck.



whirlingmind
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17 Jul 2013, 10:43 am

Do you seriously only have 6 weeks for it all? No wonder your head is exploding. Just stick to the stuff that is within that deadline, anything that can have deadlines extended, do so. Either do the most important first and forget the others for a while so that you can focus, or if they have to all be done get the quickest jobs out of the way so that you can focus and know how much time you have left for the bigger. It's knowing that there are lots of bits and pieces that is doing your head in, you can't focus on any one of them.


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grahamguitarman
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17 Jul 2013, 11:18 am

I know that feeling, I often overload myself with things that I want to do (or emotionally need to do). Not because its expected of me, but because I just can't help myself.

Best advice I can give is ask yourself what needs to be done in six weeks, then promise yourselt that you will do the rest later!


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krampus
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17 Jul 2013, 11:39 pm

Create an outline of what needs to be done for the project to be finished on time. Identify tools or knowledge items or tools to create knowledge items that are needed. Set goals for every day and hour to cut out tangents and distractions.

Or if you're bipolar like me, maybe you'll have a manic episode and do a week's worth of work in an afternoon. I keep things structured to avoid swings like this.



Adamantium
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18 Jul 2013, 10:12 am

grahamguitarman wrote:
I know that feeling, I often overload myself with things that I want to do (or emotionally need to do). Not because its expected of me, but because I just can't help myself.

Best advice I can give is ask yourself what needs to be done in six weeks, then promise yourselt that you will do the rest later!


Sadly, my mind often follows similar tracks to the OP--and this ^ is the only thing that gets me through.

The thing that helps is to divide goals into two categories: A) project derived and B) self derived.
Then break the project goals into:
A.1) Minimum requirements for success (aka critical requirements)
A.2) Easy to achieve improvements that will marginally exceed expectations and result in a better project
A.3) Nice-to-have extras that will significantly exceed expectations for the project.

Then make sure I have a realistic timeline for achieving everything in A.1 with time for feedback from key stakeholders and iterative improvements and a realistic shot at A.2 and A.3 elements.

Then I reward myself for each achievement on the timeline with something from the B list. (e.g., If i have the infographics for the microsite complete on schedule this afternoon, I can then spend 20 minutes coding in Python, a cat B goal)

The other thing I have found very useful is mind mapping software (I use Freemind on laptops and desktops and the Simplemind+ app on iOS devices) --the flexible structure of mind maps helps me dump lots of ideas from my mind into an external file and then organize them later and this helps in easing the brain lock described in the OP.

Once I have the ideas and goals externalized and sorted, I use checklists--iOS apps called "Task" and another called "List" --list features checklists that can be duplicated, allowing me to set up standard project checklist templates and then make new instances for each project.

While the mind maps are good for getting ideas out and then structuring them, the lists are needed to actually achieve the goals and reduce the chance of overlooking uncompleted key requirements because I am hyperfocussing on some other project element.



Tori0326
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18 Jul 2013, 10:54 pm

Sounds like me. And the tighter the deadline the worse I get. All the sudden I remember half a dozen other things I need to look up online or do around the house. I do have to sit down, often with a calendar, and prioritize according to due dates.

I like the mind mapping software Adamantium suggested. I'm a little old school and stick post-its all over my desk and wall. That way I can write down those other thoughts when the pop into my mind and not forget them later.



vanhalenkurtz
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19 Jul 2013, 4:33 am

Been there. Bright side, that obscure factoid saves the day 25 years later.


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ibookfan92
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20 Jul 2013, 12:57 am

I know exactly what you're talking about, because I do the exact same thing. Seriously. The best way I eventually found was to go into a quiet, totally dark room if possible. From here, I basically just let everything flow out, and it basically has "re-calibrated" or reset me when I need to work on something. It may or may not be useful to you... but I thought I'd mention this just in case it would. Oh, and, I don't know C++. :-) But it must be a really cool language, because it's pretty popular. :-)