Working Methods for 2017

Confession: I am a work method junkie. If there is a book on strategies or experiences to make life more efficient or productive, I tend to like reading it. Even if the content reveals that many tricks are already familiar or a part of my own routine, I find it inspirational to learn how others have mastered their time or goals and achieved something. At the end of the Gregorian Calendar, I like to put aside my academic reading and writing routine aside for a couple of days to re-evaluate how I work. Over the last couple of days, I have read Cal Newport's Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (2016). Many of his strategies, including deep thinking during walks to work or scheduling uninterrupted times for concentrated work, are methods that I have also come to find useful in my life. Although there was little new that I picked up from this book, as a strong believer in the power of deep, concentrated, and undistracted work, I found this book interesting enough to finish. 

My own use of concentrated and devoted work time stems from my experiences of growing up in Japan. In this structured and disciplined country, it is common for the general public to have respect to those who devote their entire life to one specialty. This level of devotion is really difficult to find in the United States. Here, it seems that popularity of ideas and topics change by the minute. There is an unsettling amount of rapid change that takes place. If you can't keep up, you are definitely going to fall behind, at least in certain circles of society. 

However, from the number of books and movements of focused and purposeful living strategies that can be found on the internet and littered in the bookstores, perhaps this is changing here. I have noticed some seeking to find calm in their lives through meditation. Others have finally understood that fast and constant change is not always a sign of productivity. There are, it seems, small but significant changes that might be taking place in the mentality of work ethics here in the US.

In many ways I feel that in the last year I was able to find a new level of working strategies that work for me, especially as I meticulously documented my work methodology throughout the summer of 2016. By keeping record of how many words I write during a 365 day period, I now have a good idea for how much writing that I am capable of accomplishing within this time. I know, for example, that I could write more if necessary. At this experimental level, I have come to understand that my 30,000 words a year word count is more of a minimum requirement than a maximum outcome. In my current work situation, writing more than this would require more isolation from friends and family -- something that I am not willing to give up at this moment. But at a later date, when I need to be producing more writing, I am confident that I can find methods of doing so.

I have not read the book by Maggie Berg and Barbara Seeber, The Slow Professor: Challenging the Culture of Speed in the Academy (2016), but would guess that I would resonate with its contents as well. Slowing down and paying attention to the details of my work will be a goal that I will aim to achieve in 2017. During my undisturbed Fridays, I will continue to strive and find at least four solid hours of undistracted time for writing and thinking through problems that I cannot handle during my otherwise busy work week. During the week, it is only possible for me to find around two hours a day -- enough to get some concentrated work done but not enough to make the type of progress I want at the moment. 

Two years from the completion of my doctorate, I feel that I have found a new way of working as I begin my career. I still have places of refinement that need to take place and 2017 will be a year of discovering small habits that I will add to the over-all methods that I have established so far.