I believe in taking my time to do things. In the last city where I lived, I purposefully avoided the freeways and took sidestreets across town because I loved the journey. Sure, it took longer, but I enjoyed the scenery so much along the way, I didn’t mind setting off extra-early. Similarly, I think getting a PhD is not just about arriving at the dissertation destination. It’s not the end product that matters so much as the intellectual journey along the way.
However, I recently had an experience that caused me to re-think some of my “joy in the journey” approach to my graduate work. I participated in an intense one-week long exercise, “One Week | One Tool,” to build a tool with a team of eleven other Humanities scholars. We accomplished our goal by giving ourselves concrete deadlines all along the way. I was on the “Outreach” subgroup of the team which meant that my daily goals included having to choose our project by Tuesday, have a name by Wednesday, having a logo by Thursday, taglines & schwag by Friday, etc (my daily summaries can be found here if you are interested). The “Dev” part of the team had similar benchmarks in their process that involved various aspects of the coding process, as did the “User Experience” subgroup.
So now that I’ve settled into my post-“One Week” life, I’m thinking about how I can apply what I’ve learned to make my work more efficient. I’m thinking of those days from early grad school when I would often sit down to a blank Word.doc knowing that it needed to be 15 pages by noon the next day. And somehow I just cranked stuff out and got it done. But now that I’m in classes with such hard deadlines, I think my writing muscles have become a bit flabby. While I’m not going to go with the “One Week | One Dissertation” model (although I’d love to see someone try that), I think it is time to get more aggressive with my work and stop meandering down so many side-paths.
What about you, do you have any thoughts on the value of working fast and hard to deadlines versus moving more slowly towards the end-goal? Have you experimented with each of these modes of work? If so, which worked better for you?