In recent years, I observe a very dangerous development in research and university communities. Researchers are expected to be constantly doing something – writing proposals, answering emails, teaching, supervising, writing papers, making experiments, and so on, and so forth. But when should we actually think thoroughly about what we do? When should we think about problems encountered? When and from where should we get inspiration?
As researchers, we regularly need “ideal times” – time to simply think about everything, read a good book, talk to friends and colleagues with an agenda. When I do not have time for this for, let’s say, a week, I not only get nervous, but also start making more mistakes, forgetting important things, and losing connections. It is not really tiredness, my brain simply needs some time to order stuff, to think alternatives through, plan and observe.
I always urge my PhD students to identify time for this, but also to think about where and how. For me, the best way of getting my brain into this valuable “order and plan” mode is to hike or at least to go for an extended walk, alone. The worst I can do is to stay home, close to the computer 🙂
What is it for you?