Thursday, March 4, 2010

Still Whirling

It sure makes the week go faster to blast a hole the size of two days in the middle of it. My travel is almost always scheduled for the end of the week, since for years my teaching has been clumped on Mondays and Tuesdays. As a result, returning from this unusual mid-week trip leaves it now feeling like the weekend, except for the tiny little pesky technical point that there are still two more days to go.

As is so often the case, when the time came for this trip, I wished I hadn’t agreed to it and fantasized about a weather cancellation, or even just not going. Once underway, though, the trip was a reminder of the benefits of stretching beyond the familiar. For whatever reason, it most reminds me of the times that Michael and I stop someplace we see from the road that wasn’t scheduled, and find something great that wasn’t predictable. Of course, sometimes, there’s nothing that interesting to see and it’s a waste of time, but more often than not, serendipity presents something quirky, fun, different and memorable. We have great memories and, often, souvenirs, from those diversions. This week's trip contained its own serendipitous pleasures.

The talk was at NIH and the people were smart, interesting, and, it turns out, focus their research on neuroplasticity and brain issues. Until I looked them up on Sunday, that part hadn’t penetrated my consciousness. We had a whole set of great conversations: among other things, they were taken aback that no one had suggested a neuropsych workup following my craniotomy nor continuing work afterwards. That wasn’t the main topic and while it would have been interesting to pursue it more in depth, that wasn’t why I was there; I’ll do some research on my own to develop a better baseline understanding and then can go back and ask more questions of those with whom I especially connected, once I’m a little better educated.

Beyond the personally-relevant information (including a little more explanation on the 18-24 month window after brain surgery and what it means in physiological terms), the conversations were great and the combination of preparing for and then giving the talk have left me with a great idea to pursue, if only I can wrangle the time and energy in the midst of an already-full plate. The thing that was nice about that was actually HAVING a new idea. That’s two in recent days, which is an encouraging development in and of itself. Now I’m back grappling with that time-management dilemma where there’s something engaging catching my attention and if I work on it, I’d make real progress; it’s enticing, it’s fresh, and the connections seem obvious at the moment. However, other items are demanding attention that are pressing, due and also important, though less immediately engaging. Doing those sometimes boring things can push back the interesting projects enough that the ideas fade and the progress never happens. And sometimes, the boring stuff doesn’t actually get done either. I haven’t stated this very well, but I find myself on the horns of this dilemma regularly. My new approach is to permit a time-limited amount of work on the fresh project, which is good for productivity anyway, I’m finding, and then, having rewarded myself, and having created a running start, turning to the boring obligatory stuff. At least that’s my story right now, and I’m sticking to it.

I finished a terrific book on the way home: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. Bob Sutton recommended it on his blog some time back and it’s well worth the time. It is still reverberating in my head and I want to go read some of the work it references. Fun!

So, one talk down this week and one to go still tonight. Aside from trying to catch up on all that got pushed aside by travel, tonight’s talk still needs to be crafted. Back to work. Happy Thursday.

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