When the going gets tough…

The past months have been hectic. Since the start of 2009 I have initiated, developed and run the brand new TU Delft Medical Visualisation M.Sc. course (cutting-edge learning methods with integrated lectures and hands-on exercises, more on this in a future post), released DeVIDE 9.1, worked on bunches of research proposals, co-authored articles and setup new research projects. This happened in parallel with my normal work duties.   The lecture/workshop part of the course is now done, proposals and articles were all submitted last week and newly setup projects are coming along nicely.  It’s a strange feeling sitting here on a Saturday morning not having to work towards some deadline:  I’d sort of gotten used to working 7-day weeks.

In the darkest periods of the past months, when that help-the-world-is-crashing-in-on-me feeling tends to rear its ugly head, I realised how much I enjoy what I’m doing.  It’s tough at times chasing a deadline when you’d prefer relaxing for a bit, but the work is fantastically stimulating.  It’s brilliant when you manage to formulate that one paragraph in the proposal just so that your research idea gives you goose bumps.  It’s tremendously gratifying when a bright student goes completely over the top solving an almost impossibly hard problem.  It’s beautiful when the value of your (that’s plural!) work gets confirmed by an independent source.  It’s truly addictive working with like-minded and creative colleagues.  It’s mildly entertaining thinking up new superlatives and qualifying adverbs when describing your work!

In about a week I’ll leave for a month-long micro-sabbatical at the research group of Prof. Bernhard Preim at the University of Magdeburg.  Purpose: Do something new and interesting.

I know, it’s a tough life.

P.S. Just so you won’t think that I have the perfect job, I do have one serious complaint:  They don’t buy me new laptops even nearly often enough.

P.P.S. On that rather negative note, I’d like to conclude (If your pedantic sensibilities are urging you to comment on me concluding in a post-postscriptum, don’t.) with a list of odds and ends:

  • GTD was a life-saver especially during these past few months.  I did let tasks slip every so often, but it was all in a controlled fashion.  Remember kids: Searching for the perfect GTD implementation can also ruin your life, so just choose a system and work with it.
  • Another lesson that was confirmed: Expectation management is important.  If you won’t be able to get around to a  mail or project within a reasonable time, mail and say so!  This is much better than keeping quiet and letting the other party come to all the wrong conclusions.  I’m not 100%  on this yet, but definitely getting there.
  • Google Docs is brilliant for collaborative proposal writing.  You have to put some effort in initially to make it look like a real proposal, but the rewards in terms of saved time (your most valuable asset) are great.  Sending around Word (blech!  urgh!  hate hate hate!) documents with track changes gets really old really fast.  Google Docs does everything you need for real-time collaborative proposal writing and does it really well.
  • I’m on Twitter now, in spite of often having said that it’s stupid and I’d never do it.  I am sort of enjoying it, although it does seem to have an effect on my blogging as it offers an alternative outlet for small gripes and rants.  Follow me on http://twitter.com/cpbotha

P.P.P.S. I would have liked to end with some profound quote, but I’m fresh out.  I humbly suggest spending the one minute you’ve just saved thinking really deep thoughts.