Deadlines, Fake Deadlines, and Lack Thereof
Patrick Lam mentioned in a comment on my last post that things in computer science just have to get done before the deadline.
Perhaps one of the weirdest things about research that most people don't realize is that there aren't really deadlines per se.
The fact that no one can accurately predict when anything will be finished- or if it will work at all- means that many people just give up trying.
We all have our formulas for deliberately overestimating how long we think things will take. We do this so we don't run out of money, patience, and motivation to eventually finish.
Mine is usually that everything will take at least 3 times longer than you think on the small scale, and 10 times longer on the large scale. Let me explain.
If you think you'll be done for the day in 10 minutes, it will actually be 30.
If you think your paper will be written in 1 month, it will actually come out in print in about 10 months.
You get the idea.
I am not a deadline person. By that I mean that having deadlines does not make me work faster (or make my experiments work better).
Mr.PhD is a deadline person, and lately he has been suffering from a lack of deadlines, so we've been talking about how using fake deadlines can sometimes help, but only if you use them wisely and not as a form of pointless self-flagellation.
I love fake deadlines. I like to have little outside events to use as rewards. I can often make myself do something unpleasant if I know I'm going to do something fun afterwards (which will be more fun if I am guilt-free).
Right now I have just enough fake deadlines that I think I will be okay until summer. I have enough things to look forward to, and a long list of things to do, most of which are not too terribly unpleasant.
Of course I say this but I missed the semi-fake deadlines, or lack thereof, to apply for jobs this year, and right now it looks like my last hope of just barely squeaking under the limbo pole will be too late.
Like I said, I am not a deadline person. If I can't finish things way ahead of time, I am usually screwed.
The only real deadlines are for grant submissions, large meetings where you have to submit an abstract or show up with a poster/talk prepared, and that wonderful 2-day sprint when you get the proofs of your papers and have to send them back if you want to make any corrections.
Other than that, I can't think of any times when anybody really cares whether I get anything done, and even those are irrelevant for me lately.
Yes, research is a weird career. Somebody I hadn't seen in a year asked me today if my research is going well. I said, "It's going." Which is about as good as it gets.