Monday, August 21, 2006

How did this happen?

When I first started in this lab, I was on my way into a serious depression. There were days when, if I managed to be in lab for four hours a day, that was a success. For awhile there were too many days when I didn't make it in at all. There were a couple of weeks I spent almost entirely in bed.

For the last couple of years, I've been (mostly) sane, and therefore have been in lab on a more regular basis. And, I've been able to put in 35-40 hours a week. But there has always been a certain limit to how much time I can spend in lab on any one day. It didn't matter if staying one extra hour could save me an entire day*, I just couldn't do it.

But, lately, I've been working like a complete maniac (for me, that is, there are still people in the lab who work many more hours than me). I've been in lab for 14 or more hours some days. I've spent the better parts of the last two Saturdays in lab. I've had days (like today) where I get to a certain point, an acceptable stopping point, and I'm dead tired, and I've stayed the extra couple of hours in order to save me a day. Some days, I've stayed a whole extra 4-6 hours so that I could have the data by the next day.

I used to do this a lot when I was a research tech, but I haven't had it in me for a long time. In fact, I thought I would never be able to do this kind of thing again. I had accepted the fact that I just get tired more easily than I used to and wasn't going to berate myself for not going that extra mile.

So, I'm not sure where all of this stamina is coming from. I didn't expect it. I didn't try to muster it up. I didn't sit down and have a real heart-to-heart with myself to say, "Self, you have just got to work harder." I just....started working harder. I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but this is one of those rare moments when I am actually amazing myself.** I'm sitting here thinking, "Damn, you're starting to kick some ass with these experiments!"

Perhaps it's because the end is in sight. Perhaps it's because I know I get to go to California as soon as all of this is done. Perhaps it's my biological clock egging me on so that I can go make babies soon. I don't know. I'm completely bewildered. The cynic in me says it will only be so long before I collapse from exhaustion, but even if I do, I'll still have gotten an amazing amount of things done in a short amount of time.

*An example of this is the following: a certain procedure takes 1-2 hours, then has to sit at least 16 hours before the experiment can continue. If I stay the 1-2 hours to do it, I can pick it up again sometime the next day and continue on. If I don't, then it will take me an entire day longer to do the experiment because no matter what, I have to wait those 16 hours.

**Generally speaking, I am my own worst critic (as many people are). Accomplishments that would have me saying congratulations and patting people on the back are nothing special if I am the one who did them. This is One of Those Things I Need to Work On.


  1. Well, good job, you! Don't you just love those surprising periods of extra productiveness and efficiency? You should send some my way; I'm desperately trying to finish these papers by Thursday afternoon, and I could use the extra oomph :)

  2. soon as you figure out how to bottle that work-harder-elixir, send me some, would you? I'm feeling better, but I still seem to be going in slow motion most days. :)

  3. Run with it while it is with you, just don't forget to breathe along the way! I'm all too familiar with asterisk point #2...

  4. Don't forget to take a break. I've crashed and burned most awfully after such stunts.