#acwrimo final accounting

AcWriMo 2013 is over and done and in the books, and so it’s time for the final reckoning…er, accounting. So, how did I do in meeting my goals?

Goal: Spend at least 30 minutes a day (6 days a week) on research or research writing. To meet this goal, I needed to spend 25 days on research for a total of 750 minutes this month. In reality, I spent 15 days on research for a total of 620 minutes. Thankfully, on over half of the research days I worked for more than 30 minutes, which bumped my minute total up. If we go just by minutes spent on research, I’m only about 4 days short of my goal.

My big enemy here was not procrastination, but time. I had some days which can only be described as bat-shit crazy, plus I had a few work travel days interspersed in there as well which messed with my productivity. I could have easily let this demoralize me, but instead I just treated every day as a separate and independent day. Didn’t have time to do research the previous 4 days? So what—today is a new day and I can squeeze my 30 minutes in today, which means I’m 30 minutes closer to reaching my goal of finishing my grant application.

Goal: Finish all of the major experiments that I need for my grant resubmission. This was the most nebulous and thus hardest goal to meet. As I mentioned in my previous post, “all of the major experiments” is a moving target, since it seems like every experiment I run leads to more questions than answers. Luckily, towards the end of the month I switched tactics and started writing some simulation programs to get at some of the same questions from a different angle. This was much more successful: I got unstuck and now have a clear(er) path forward.

Actually, it was all that spinning of wheels in the first part of the month, where I felt like I was hitting dead end after dead end, that led to the insights that led to the simulation code. So once again, failure saves the day!

Goal: Draft an outline/plan for the rest of the grant narrative revisions. I didn’t even begin to address this one. However, in reviewing some old notes when analyzing some data, I did find a partial outline from several months ago, so at least I have a starting point.

So I didn’t fully meet my stated goals, but I still accomplished a lot this month. AcWriMo refocused me on my research, which in turn reenergized me. I’m not where I want to be with my grant resubmission, but I’m definitely further along in the process than I was at the start of the month, and I gained some much-needed focus and perspective. I’m disappointed that I wasn’t more disciplined and didn’t work more days out of the month, sure, but on balance I think it went well enough.

One thing I do enjoy about AcWriMo is the community that forms on Twitter—I enjoyed reading everyone’s tweets about progress made or not made, milestones met and goals accomplished (or not). Towards the end of the month, there was some grumbling on Twitter about how November is the wrong time for AcWriMo—it’s a busy time! Too busy! It should be at a less busy time! I understand the sentiment behind that. But I think that largely misses the point about AcWriMo. It’s easy (or easier) to commit to writing/research when you have fewer things on your plate. The real test is how well you can commit to writing/research when life is at its craziest. And I think that’s part of the point of AcWriMo: it helps you form that crucial habit of writing/research every day, even when (especially when) you’re too tired or have eleventy-million things going on. Because if you can find time for your research when you don’t have time for research—well then, finding time for research the rest of the year is easy-peasy by comparison. If you can form a habit under the worst of circumstances, you should be able to maintain it under better circumstances. So I hope that AcWriMo continues just where it is, just for that reason.

I’ll probably sign up to do AcWriMo again next year, but honestly, I aim to continue on with AcWriMo every month of the year—continuing on with the habit I re-established during the month of November. And that, I think, means that AcWriMo on balance was ultimately a success for me.


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