Library endurance
November 18, 2014 6:33 AM   Subscribe

What are the best ways to keep working for more time?

I've accepted as a research assistant for this competitve project which will require me to sit at a desk all day and read and digest big volumes of readings. I'm excited to start the project but not at all confident about my abilities. Do you guys have any practical tips or ideas e.g. a particular attitude you take which helps you to consistently do a lot of reading for long hours?
posted by dinosaurprincess to Work & Money (7 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Frequent water and pee breaks. Make the walk longer than it needs to be. Even better if you use the toilets on a different floor, taking the stairs.

Keep notes.

Ask other people questions/have conversations about your readings.

Learn how to skim large readings, choosing which parts to really focus on and which parts to just gloss over.
posted by bilabial at 6:47 AM on November 18, 2014

Take a 5min break every half hour.
posted by Flood at 6:58 AM on November 18, 2014

Put on some electronic music with a steady beat--preferably long tracks, 8+ minutes.
posted by magdalemon at 7:29 AM on November 18, 2014

Keep a pad of paper on your desk. When a distracting/nagging thought comes into your head, jot it down so it doesn't keep looping in your brain.
posted by pintapicasso at 7:54 AM on November 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is there a small space where you could get up and walk back and forth as you read? Wouldn't work with archival materials, of course, but I find that pacing helps me enormously with focus.
posted by Bardolph at 8:05 AM on November 18, 2014

I'm very data-motivated so I find that tracking my work time either manually or using a program like RescueTime really helps me stay productive for long stretches. But it's important to get up every hour and walk a bit, for five to seven minutes. I work in 52 minute chunks and have some good instrumental playlists that are 52 minutes long. I spend the other 8 minutes of the hour getting up and getting coffee or water or taking a short walk outside. I also always take a lunch break where I completely turn off my working brain for an hour.

Good luck! Sounds like an interesting gig.
posted by sockermom at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I second the recommendation for long, mostly vocal-less electronic music. Sometimes I will alternate music with silence depending on the level of focus required at the moment; I find putting on or removing headphones creates a tangible mental break that helps me launch myself into a new section or direction of reading.

If you have a taste for good coffee or tea, I find preparing a stimulating beverage that I find particularly delicious to be the ideal treat and that the act of taking repeated small sips to be a good way of maintaining momentum and breaking up time.

Finally, and this may be something you know well already, but I find it very important to keep short lists of keywords or key questions to frequently remind myself what exactly I am looking for in all of these heaps of text. When parsing large documents I find it can be easy to become, not exactly distracted or sidetracked, but to forget to distinguish between what is truly vital and what is chaff. It can be easy to be bogged down in unnecessary detail when one is really interested in the subject, and to become absorbed in levels of detail that are interesting and relevant but just aren't altogether necessary for the purpose of the research question. Best of luck!
posted by kaspen at 11:11 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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