Coffee Cart Chat with 5 Brainy Birds: What makes you feel productive?

– things the Birds talk about (**VERY informally**) during their morning walks together for coffee/tea-


After gathering at a central lab location, all the 5 Brainy Birds grab their mugs and head off for coffee/tea. During their walk to and from the cart, the conversation goes something like this:

Dendrite: “Did you guys see that email from Prof. X about P values?”

Nucleus: “Yes! What utter bullshit.”

Golgi: “I didn’t see it – what did it say?”

Nucleus: “Basically, that some big result from some big impact journal was crap because they claim significance of a P value of 0.06. You know, because P< 0.05 is a magical place where only discoveries can be made. I mean, hello, that graph was worth a thousand statistics.”

Axon: “Wait – this is what we should talk about today for our first officially documented 5 Brainy Birds Chat! P values!”

Everyone else: “Naaaahhhh..”

Dendrite: “That’s not very women-in-sciencey. Well, I guess it is women talking about science..”

Everyone else: “True”

ensue long pause in conversation, as all the Birds feel they must now censor themselves and talk about something very clever and important…

..after more silence and awkward banter, it was decided that the Birds would just be themselves and talk about whatever pops into their heads..

Synapse: “Really, what is it about these little 10 minute jaunts together to get caffeinated that make us feel so good?  I mean, besides the caffeine..”

Nucleus: “It gives us a chance to VENT! You would not BELIEVE this stupid house inspection fiasco we’re dealing with right now – we just got this huge fine even though THEY missed their appointment to meet with us (…venting continues, while the other 4 Brainy Birds nod with disgust and agree. Nucleus takes a deep breath and feels a bit better with the solidarity of the Birds…)

Golgi: “Venting is certainly important. Especially here at work, where we have so much to get done and so many issues to deal with along the way.”

Synapse: “Oh and how about just a stretch and walk away from your desk break,” she says as she puts her hands on her back and does a little standing back bend, followed by a rubbing of a very pregnant belly.  “Or a badly needed pee break. Or snack break. I need these, people, to work! More than ever now! It makes me more productive in the long run.”

Nucleus: “Speaking of feeling productive, I was talking with Prof. Y the other day, and she was telling me this strategy she uses to increase productivity. Considering she’s one of the most productive people on the planet AND a great mom and person in general, I’m taking her advice and trying it out.”

Dendrite: “Is this the rocks thing you told me about?”

Nucleus: “Yes! Boulders, Rocks, and Sand. Ok, in your head, think of the three biggest Boulders you wish to accomplish this semester. For example, you want to make headway on Project 1, wrap up Project 2, and write a pre-proposal to submit to X granting agency. Now make yourself a handful of rocks. For example, you need to 1. Finish this paper, 2. Start this paper, 3. Submit a symposium proposal, 4. Work on your website, 5. Give a talk, 6. Prepare your class lecture…etc. Then there’s the sand: all the little stuff you do day to day that’s not super important. Like answering email, checking facebook, etc.  Of course, priorities are subject to change depending on the person..

“Ok, now imagine a glass you have to fill. This represents your productivity. To optimize productivity, you would put in the boulders first (tend to the big stuff before everything), then the rocks, then the sand, because it will fill in all those crevices. Wah-la! Productivity!”

Axon: “So this is her thing? And how she advises her lab? And it works?”

Nucleus: “Seems too! Yesterday I focused only on my Boulders and felt so damn productive. What makes you all feel productive?”

Dendrite: “Lists. Checking things off lists. Sometimes I write down things I’ve already done just so I can check them off and feel that high.”

Axon: “I make lists now and post them on all of my project binders. That way I or Golgi or anyone else working on the project can check off things when they do them.”

Golgi: “I love that you do that, Axon. It’s like crack – the checking off of things.”

Synapse: (the Birds have just arrived back in the lab, and she runs to her desk. She produces writing pads with multiple lists) “This is my monthly list, and these are my weekly lists!”

Nucleus: “So in essence, all these lists are like Boulders, Rocks, and Sand, except with this rock concept, you can prioritize maybe a bit better? For me, I like the visualization aspect of big things versus little things.”

Axon: “Yeah it’s interesting to see what everyone has to make them feel productive, because that’s so important to well-being at work. At least for all of us, I know it is.”

5BB Coffee Cart Chat question to ponder: What makes you feel productive?

This entry was posted in Biology, Coffee Cart Chat, Graduate School, Post-doc, Women in Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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