[M.M.X.I.V. 173] The distractions of summer

Summer is a wonderful season.  It is when the weather is ripe for swimming, bike-riding, going to street festivals, taking pleasure walks along the lake, eating outside, going to Ravinia or other outdoor concert venues, and much else.

Of course, this means that my productivity will take a big hit during the summer at times.  Although I can be focused on my work, there are “those days” that I will just have little or no will to work, and they often happen on Fridays.  Interestingly, a few salient ones have been on Fridays in June.

For example, on June 25, 2010, I tried doing some work from home, in terms of studying the material that I had been reading for my research preliminaries over the past two weeks.  I went to the office, but found (a) my advisor’s room’s lights off (which means that he was not in), and (b) the door to my secondary office locked with no secretary in sight.  The material that I needed for the research was in said office, so therefore I decided to just take the day off.

And two days ago, although I had no lockout problem, and my advisor was available, stimuli such as the World Cup and the Senior Send-off at Hillel, plus the fact that it was Friday, were all significant distractions.  I did manage to get some work done, but it was definitely somewhat of a half-baked day.  I’ll really have to re-focus for next week, particularly because I need to finish preparing for the teaching that starts in nine (!!) days.

This post was inspired by today’s Pajama Diaries comic, which has become one of my favorite comics, maybe because of its story of the “Jewish mother” and my empathy for my Mom’s experiences.  However, it does not fully relate, as my Mom has never done “telework” outside.  The idea is still quite salient, however.

So, in today’s comic, Jill (the mom) tries to bring her laptop onto the porch in order to get some work done.  She gets distracted by various activities of her kids, like Jess’s sidewalk chalk drawing, sunscreening her kids, or making Amy go outside rather than sending e-mails inside.  In the penultimate panel, Jill says, “Girls!  I’ve been out here for 40 minutes and only managed to work for 5!”  The stinger in the last panel: Jess’s comment “I don’t know why you bother.  You get so distracted.”

If I would attempt to do work outside, I clearly don’t have the distractions of children.  However, I have a laundry list of reasons that I cannot work on math outside:

  • If it is too warm, the sweating will prevent me from thinking about my work.
  • The bright sunlight makes it difficult to see my computer screen if I am trying to type in LaTeX.
  • Corollary to the computer comment: My four-point-five-year-old computer has had its battery life significantly diminish recently.
  • Academic reading is difficult anyway inside, but outside, any natural sounds or people passing by would cause me to avert my gaze from the book, article, etc.
  • In some sense, I see going outside as more of a reward for having a good day of work done.

It becomes an interesting anomaly.  I want to enjoy the summer, but have to get research and other work done.  For example, if I go to a daytime bridge game (like I plan to do on Thursday or Friday), or take a bike ride with the Evanston Bicycle Club, I must find another way to get the work done, often by making it up in the evening.  Yet THAT isn’t always very efficient, as I tend to lose the will to do research in the evenings and certainly the weekends.  It is a difficult complex to get over.

Maybe it’s something about a heavily oscillating activation energy barrier.


Today is the one-hundred and seventy-third day of M.M.X.I.V.  That makes twenty-four weeks and five days.


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