Things take incredibly long

and things go incredibly fast

When I don’t have a schedule, things tend to take incredibly long. It is amazing how much of a lecture fits into two hours, and even more amazing how little I can manage on my own, at home, within these two hours. To write an application for some journalism job of 800 words, for example, took me the whole day yesterday and this morning, only interrupted by heavy work and lovely fika at the community garden. Getting all the texts for my final thesis analysed took an entire week and I had to go downstairs to the library, actually book a room for myself there, to force myself to be productive and get me out of the dangerous zones of distraction. I spent approximately five or six hours there, lunch break not counting, and did not get done with all I thought I could. The short morning run takes ages, and the novel I am reading seems not even finishable. Days can be so long and tiresome in a quiet apartment when you are alone and in front of a computer, with a very long to-do list next to you and some deadlines and your thesis at your neck.

On the other hand, a jar of candy doesn’t last very long, especially when you have fasted sugar for the last forty or so days and decided to break the fast earlier. (It took too long! – see above) Bread is baked too quickly. I couldn’t even read all the blogs I wanted and there it was, already done in the oven. Finished too fast. The crust has become very crunchy, but lucky enough, proper German Swedish sourdough bread won’t burn that easily. A certain Skype date went very quickly, too. There are things I still wanted to talk about, I should have, but we ran out of time and concentration and courage to address certain issues. The spring onions in their glass of water on my window board grow faster than I could trace the growth. It’s as if the water creates high pressure and just pushes the delicate, dark green shoots up the almost white stubs.

I am off for a short trip to Italy, and the week has gone slow, I had so much time and now this day cannot be long enough because I have so much to do before I leave. Coming back next week sounds like a very long trip but I am sure in the end I won’t even have realized where the time has gone. There was this guy who said something intelligent about time being relative… I guess he was right. I usually say that time is the only thing we have. I came to realize that even that statement is somewhat hard to capture, just like time itself.

How is your time passing? And at which pace? Drop a comment below!

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Master Log 09: Chapter One – The Purpose of the Study

and the Significance of my Life

In June I will have to hand in my Master thesis and final project. Here I keep a diary on my progress and show how certain techniques are applicable in non-academic life.

In my final thesis, chapter 1 is supposed to express the significance of the study that I am about to conduct. I had to contextualize my work within the broad body of research and offer a bit of an overview over the whole paper.

Sub headlines are Purpose and Significance of the Study. Simply speaking, that is asking why I do it and why it matters. That means I have to present the problem, the research questions guiding my work and how the whole thing adds to a broader discussion and benefits potential future readers and science altogether.

Formulate a question and establish your purpose

I already struggled with the question. You need to know what you are looking for to start searching. It’s the same in everyday life: If I don’t know my problem, my question, my quest, I will end up floating purposeless through the day, just as I will end up rambling throughout my study without really saying anything. You don’t necessarily have your life purpose up and ready to be productive, but your work and struggle will have more meaning if you know what you are doing it for.

The purpose of the study is to pose that question. It is not compulsory to answer it! Therefore, the life purpose translates to pursuing the question, staying curious and keeping the quest in mind.

Your context

Just as my tiny little study doesn’t spring out of the blue, our lives are influenced by other lives and circumstances. In my paper, I need to rely on earlier studies. They help me and pave the way to my own work. The important thing is to mention that, to not claim the fame for myself but to cite other peoples’ works and reference them, honour them in the end.

Likewise in my daily life, I try to keep in mind that there are others who have influenced me and still do. It’s tempting to think my life and work are original but it’s healthier to acknowledge the fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today without, say, my mum, Astrid Lindgren, my school teacher and Karl Marx, to mention just a few.

Make your life significant

My study doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t need to answer all humankind’s questions and finally present a solution to an unhackable daily life problem. It’s not a must to win the Nobel Prize with it. It doesn’t even have to be interesting, it may easily vanish unread in historical dust. The crucial thing is: It must be significant. Not to world history and humankind, but to myself. I should create something that is important to myself. That is easier said than done. But now that I have to write it to finish the Master course, I can as well make it my own and make it important.

It’s the same with life itself: Now that I happen to be here on this planet – why not make the most of it by living a significant life? That doesn’t mean winning an award or becoming the next best superheroine. I find significance in people’s comments to my writings, for example, or when they ask me for help or my humble opinion, when somebody says I am inspiring, and when I have created something I am proud of.

And that doesn’t exclude days that I simply spend in bed reading and eating chocolate. Even those are significant to me, because I deliberately decide to be a little bit insignificant for a while.

What’s your pupose? And what’s your context? Share them in the comments!

Master Log 08: Reading books on the day you borrowed them

and why immediate action is important

In June I will have to hand in my Master thesis and final project. Here I keep a diary on my progress and show how certain techniques are applicable in non-academic life.

Once I have started diving into a topic, it is hard for me to come back to the surface. Provided I am interested in the topic, I can go on forever with collecting material. Everything seems interesting and relevant. When the search has begun, books and journal articles just keep piling on my desk, and one article leads to twenty others.

The library is eight kilometers from my flat. Therefore I have to plan carefully what to borrow when, because in case I forget something, it takes me more than half an hour by bike to go there and get it. On the other hand, I don’t fancy carrying those huge and heavy books all the way home and at a certain point back to the library again.

So recently I decided to work in the library. That had several advantages:

  • It was quiet and the few people around me were working on their own stuff, which encouraged me to be productive myself. Changing places can be a motivation boost and eliminate many distractions.
  • I was sitting at the source. When I found a hint in one book to another one, I could just go look for it and continue reading. I was surrounded by inspiring material that could enrich my thesis.
  • But most importantly: I could pick the book, sit down and read the relevant chapters right away. Instead of going through the whole research process, walking along the shelves, collecting several books, packing them in my backpack, going home and then doing something else, I immediately acted on the newly found material.

The last point not only applies to literature for a thesis. It generally helps with everything. Do not postpone things. React immediately. I do that with my EMAILS. I used to keep emails that I had read in my inbox but I would wait for a good moment to answer them. The thing is: That good moment never comes. The unanswered mails piled in the inbox. Instead, now I react immediately. What I have read, I either answer right away or put in the archive. I don’t allow myself to postpone anything.

When I get an ASSIGNMENT, I am trying to do it immediately, even if it is due not before three weeks. In those three weeks other assignments will pop up and then I will get stressed.

After cooking and eating, I do the DISHES right away. Everything that can go to the dishwasher, goes there and the rest I wash right after eating. In that way, the work load is smaller and faster to do, and nothing gets the chance to accumulate to a nasty pile.

When I was through with all the books, I put the relevant quotes in my referencing software, put the books back on the shelves and went home, a good step closer to finishing the literature review.

What can you do NOW? Do it! React!