I have written much about intellectual productivity on this blog. If we were machines running mechanical tasks, our productivity would be high. Alas, we are human beings who get depressed or anxious. Even being excited about a new result can deprive you from productivity momentarily.
I am bad about my emotions. I have a bad temper. I can literally scare people during meetings—or so I have been told.
However, I have learned a few things:
- Your own work will rarely generate lasting disturbing emotions. As a researcher, I sometimes waste time on dead-ends and get depressed. More rarely, I get overexcited over a world-changing result—which never ends up changing the world, after all. However, these emotions are relatively easy to deal with. Even having your work being rejected—which happens to all of us—is something you can recover from quickly, given some experience. Science is not an emotional roller-coaster. At least, not for me. Mostly, I just grind through, patiently.
- Most disturbing emotions come from my personal life or the rest of my professional life. Chairing committees, or participating in school politics is particularly difficult.
I have some coping strategies:
- I read good novels.
- I cook.
- I drink red wine.
- I garden, even during the winter.
- I take my week-ends and evenings with my family.
- I focus on research and teaching. They are both more rewarding and emotionally more stable than service or management work.
- It is easier to organize a large conference than it is to chair even a small department. Simply because you are more independent from the results, emotionally. Service work is usually more rewarding and less difficult the further away it is. So, if you must get involved, avoid local committees.
If you like my advice…