Fall 2018: The Semester of Learning to Multitask

Hey guys,

You ever have a time in your life when you realize that you’ve bitten off more than you might be able to chew? Or that you’re jugglig too many balls? Or that you have too many irons in the fire? This fall semester is turning out to be one of those times in my life.

Just to give you a rundown of the things I’m trying to do right now:

  • TFing for OEB 58 (How to Build an Animal)

This class is half functional morphology/half developmental biology, and I have close to zero training in dev bio. I’m putting a lot of prep time into this course, more than I would like to or can really afford to, in order to be knowledgable enough to answer students’ questions and clear up confusions and what not. I definitely think it’s paying off, but I realize that amount of prep is coming at a cost to the other things I’m trying to work on.

But this is a fun class and I’m digging it.

  • Function as editor-in-chief for SITN’s shortform blog division

2-3 hours worth of work each week, going through editing rounds and the admin work behind the blog. Not too bad. I just doubled the number of writers on my team, and it’s quite rewarding to see the new correspondents get going and writing good stuff. I can definitely see myself pursuing a career in science communication after grad school, but we’ll see how I feel in a few months.

  • Write up a project paper

I’m trying to write up the duo-pneufish project, but the data analysis is just turning into a chaotic mess only solvable by mathematica, which is one of the most obfuscating and unintuitive software languages I’ve ever worked with. I’m finding myself willing to do nearly anything else to avoid working on it. I know the sooner I solve it, the sooner I finish it, but whoever said I was a rational human being?

  • Finish up the quad-pneufish project

Self-explanatory. It’s just on the back-burner until I can force myself to get past the Mathematica Mountain of Misery in my life right now. But I definitely have to do it this semester, because this is what I’ll present at SICB.

  • Work as a climbing instructor

This is a relatively new development in my life. I love teaching, I love climbing, and when I was asked to apply for one of the new climbing instructor positions at Brooklyn Boulders, I definitely said yes. It’s a part-time job, working anywhere between 15-30 hours a month, and I’m loving it. It is turning into such a positive and productive way to spend my little free-time, get some exercise, and expand my social group.

And I’m also trying to write blogs. I have a schedule I’m trying (failing) to stick to. Please don’t hate me for not updating often enough.

So, looking at all of this, I feel it’s not an “outrageous” workload. I do feel like I should be able to make progress on everything, and I’m not. I’m dropping balls and I really don’t want to be. I need to get better at multi-tasking. I know I’m the type of personality that works best in long bursts, focusing intently on one thing at a time. But that “burst” can be anything from a day to a week. For example, last week, I spent nearly all of my time learning developmental biology stuff for OEB 58. I crammed a boat-load of relevant information into my brain, and I felt like I was able to teach it relatively well – so I accomplished my goal. But I also got close to nothing else done. And that’s a problem.

Anyways, this is just another snapshot of my journey through grad school. Again, part of my reason for running this blog is to write about things I find fascinating, but to also give others an idea of some of the trials, tribulations, and, occassionally, successes of grad school.

Do you have any tips for learning to multi-task? What works for you?

To end on a positive note, though, I received a teaching award/certificate for OEB 130: Biology of Fishes! It’s based on the number of reviews and average rating of reviews (>4.5 out of 5, at least 4 review), and so I met the qualifications for this teaching certificate!


getting this feedback for my first time teaching literally made me glow for a week. I really didn’t feel like I did that good of a job, but these kids are the best. 

And if you’re an undergraduate student reading this: please fill out course reviews!! Often, it’s the really bad and really good professors/TAs/TFs who get a lot of reviews (for obvious reasons), but a significant amoung of growing and learning as teachers happens in that middle realm, where we’re just…”so-so”. However, students don’t often feel motivated to review the so-so professors, which is understandable. But the lack of feedback makes it take longer for professors/TAs to progress. So always fill out course reviews, and give feedback to all, but especially your so-so, teachers! It’s one of the most useful things you can do to help teachers improve themselves.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s