Hanging out with your data
In my never-ending quest to be more productive in my research I notice things about the way I work. I don’t know about others, but I have a difficult time diving back into a project that I haven’t worked on for a few weeks or longer. At least, picking up where I left off with the same momentum. Whether it’s sifting through data, drafting figures, or the actual writing it takes me some time to ‘get into it’. How much time? Depends. In some cases, I can jump back into the very same task and state of mind within ~10-15 minutes. In other cases, I’ll spend an hour (sometimes much longer) flailing about and making little tangible progress.
In the cases where it takes longer to find that groove, I find myself hanging out, for lack of a better phrase, with my data. Not necessarily analyzing it or doing anything useful with it. Just hanging out and being near it. For example, I’ll print out some key outcrop photos, a map, or a plot I made weeks prior and have it near me while I work on unrelated tasks. The questions, ideas, and speculations related to that problem then begin to re-occupy my thoughts. Sooner or later, I’m in the state where I can devote mental effort and make real progress.
Does anyone else work like this?