• Who am I?

    I am Qrystal; or at least, that's my dot-name! Har har. (My name is really Crystal, but that's not as internet-searchable; hence, switching the C for the little-used letter Q.)

    I am here because I enjoy writing. I do this mostly for myself, but I also have a passion for helping others learn things from the things I write. Now that I am done my Ph.D. in Physics, I am stepping away from academic research so that I can indulge in some creative ways to share my knowledge and inspire the appreciation of scientific thinking in others. I am also working as a tutor, which is one of the jobs I've most enjoyed doing in my life so far.

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  • “I Don’t Have Time”

    Posted by Qrystal on August 1, 2011 at 12:52.
    Category: Life. Tags: myself, procrastination, thesis, time.

    Recently, I’ve been noticing myself thinking that “I don’t have time” for this, that, or the other thing that I want to do. And this is despite knowing that it’s usually unhelpful to think such a thing, because “you’ve gotta make time“, blah blah blah.

    At the same time, I know there is also some truth to thinking I really don’t have time for certain things, because I haven’t always made the best use of time in the past and there is always a threat of returning to that horrible state of existence. I really, really, really can’t afford to do that—“I don’t have time” to waste in that way!—because there are some things I’ve gotta do (hello, thesis!) that are becoming incredibly urgent to complete.


    I’m not enjoying this blog post at all, so far.

    It’s all about suffering and bad feelings!  This doesn’t seem helpful!

    Didn’t I have some great idea of why I wanted to write about this? Oh yeah, I remember now: I wanted to mention how “I don’t have time” to blog. I mean, I “shouldn’t be making time” to blog, because there are other things (hello, thesis!) that are more urgent.

    But at the same time, I’d like to keep active on my blog, even if only every few months or so. And it’s been quite awhile since my last real post (aside from updating an old post and reposting it anew); it’s been more than a few months, let’s say. This “wanting to post” won’t ever become urgent on its own, so I need to make the time, but I really shouldn’t, because there are other things (hello, thesis!) that are more urgent. <Insert deep sigh here.>

    So what can I do about it?

    I suppose the answer must be to work on whatever is extremely urgent (hello, thesis!), but take occasional breaks to do things that are enjoyable, like this writing and other writing, and photography and artwork (for which I haven’t posted much online anywhere in the past few years because “I don’t have time” to muck around with photos), and communicating with friends and family who are important to me but they might not know this because I rarely ever say it because “I don’t have time” to have meaningful friendships– ouch! Did I just say that?!

    This has gotta stop. I mean, it will stop, and I’m so close to the end (goodbye, thesis?!), I’m taking this moment to really appreciate how much I dislike this feeling of “not having time” for what I want to do.

    And I really, really, really don’t want to be in the habit of pushing aside things I think I don’t have time to do, just to endure whatever it is that is most pressing.  Because hell, I should be able to enjoy everything that harnesses my skills and creativity and deep thought processes.

    Hello, thesis, you can come out of the parentheses now.

    And I do enjoy working on my thesis, when things are going well.  When it’s going really well, and I’m on a good roll in which everything is awesome and interesting and exciting, I even take to calling my work ”thesis madness” when I mention it on twitter.

    However, here’s the kicker:  I really don’t have time to do everything that I want to pursue in my research. I’m going to have to hand in just a small part of what I wanted to do and know is possible, because I’m being told (or rather, I’ve been told a few times now) that I have exceeded the time limit. This kind of sucks, because I had such grand hopes for what I would be able to do for my thesis, and I was even hoping that there was a chance it would be so awesome, someone would convince me (and give me permission to extend my studies longer) to call it a dissertation instead. But now I don’t see this as being very possible at all.

    Part of the reason this is taking so long is that I keep feeling like I can’t proceed unless I derive absolutely everything that I’m using as stepping stones through my thought processes. Another part of the problem is that I keep finding new stepping stones between the ones I saw initially, and I keep feeling like I need to completely understand each one, deriving their link to the ones that I’d already noticed. And every time I find myself going around in circles like this, I get that feeling that I “don’t have time” to be adding more to the things I’ve already considered “done”, but I know of no other way to get through what I’m trying to say without doing it how I do it.

    Oh and then there was the slightly older problem that I’ve never quite felt like I knew what to do at all, until I eventually realized that there was only one way that would work for me: my way.

    Oh good, my way!

    “Oh good! My way! Thank you, Vizzini.

    Which way’s my way?” – Fezzik (from The Princess Bride)

    Yeah, so, not only did I have to figure out what “my way” entails, but I had to overcome the delusion that my way couldn’t possibly be the right way, because everyone else is successful when they do things in other ways… so shouldn’t I learn about how they do things?

    It’s obvious now that I really shouldn’t care about how other people do things—I “don’t have time” for that! But try to tell that to a person who is just starting to realize that she might be already doing things differently from others, while she is facing the fear that ‘differently’ might also mean ‘incorrectly’—not to mention, worrying that she doesn’t have time” to figure out her own way. After all, throughout her life of schooling, there was always a correct way, a best way, a way that is going to get better marks than if the thing is done another way.

    So is it any wonder I spent so much time researching how to write a thesis (I’d link to the resources I found, but I didn’t feel satisfied by what I read and so I just kept on feeling clueless… though I did just do a search of what was out there, in case something caught my eye and reminded me of something useful I’d found, and I found an awesome article about how not to write a PhD thesis that I wish I’d read earlier)? Not to mention all the time I spent researching things like time management and self-improvement and procrastination, and making all those efforts to analyze my struggles and fight them off by harnessing brilliant epiphanies about how to be better at life.  (Heck, even through all that, I’m sure I was thinking I “don’t have time” for the depths I’m exploring but then found myself unable to pull myself out of the train of thought because it was too interesting to simply abandon!)

    Noticing some things

    I am coming to terms with my own ways, though. And this means a lot of interesting things, I’m noticing.

    For one thing, sometimes it is best to just seize the inspiration and go ahead and do something that isn’t what I planned to do originally, because I would be upset if I missed the opportunity. Some examples:

    Alas, sometimes my creativity and curiosity ends up pulling me all over the place, and I get so wrapped up in it that I forget to watch the time. Eventually, I notice that too many hours have passed, and I’ve screwed up what I’d expected of myself, and then dismay leads to distraction, and it all snowballs from there. At least, that’s what I think happens, and I’m still not very good at stopping it—though turning to journalling or haiku tends to help, because those things bring my attention to the struggles in a positive way.

    Harnessing time, bit by bit

    Another way I help myself is by simply setting a timer and actively keeping myself focused for however much time I set. I originally found this idea through FlyLady, who suggests it as a way to keep housework from becoming an insanely aggravating task.  I find totally does help me feel like I am capable of keeping up with most of the housework, most of the time, which is way better than I used to be (back when I was sure I didn’t have time to do the housework well enough to even bother doing much of it at all).

    Then again, there were a few realizations that apply to housework that helped me get over this “I don’t have time for housework” feeling:

    I was looking forward to applying these ideas to thesis work too, but somehow, it feels different when it is a huge task that is supposed to get smaller but never seems to do so, even when more attention is given to it. The realizations about thesis work had some similarities, but in some cases were totally different:

    Fortunately, the idea of using a timer still helps—and lately, I’ve been having some great success with the Pomodoro Technique, especially when I am not alone in the work sessions (thanks, L!). This is because every little bit of time spent is somehow useful, even if it involves working on an idea for hours only to realize that it can’t be a part of the final product.

    What I mean is, I’ve gotta stop thinking that I don’t have time to make mistakes, because screwing up is all part of the process. Even more importantly, I’ve gotta realize that all the time I spend on my thesis is pretty much inevitable: whether it is the mistakes I make or the successes I have, it is all part of what it takes to get the ideas out of my head and onto the page.

    And I’ve gotta remember that starting to work also means that there will be breaks, which are much more fulfilling than what happens when I’m resisting beginning and end up distractedly looking at whatever shiny things grab my attention. I need to remember that I DO have time for breaks, as long as they are between work sessions and they don’t get out of control.

    Staying in control?!

    This blog post definitely got out of control, even though I worked on it on several separate occasions. In each case, it was not a break; it was a sustained mental outburst happening in only a semi-controlled manner.

    (Yes, I realize that “semi-controlled” is just another way of saying “semi-out-of-control”. And if I don’t exactly know where the line is between being in control and out of it… I’m probably not having much luck staying in control. Just sayin’.)

    But it’s so hard to resist staying here and finishing it, because this line of thinking is golden, and I need to record it for posterity! NEEEEEEED TO! So what if I don’t have time to blog right now! I HAVE THINGS THAT MUST BE SAID!

    Ugh, aha, there’s the guilt that accompanies that line of thinking. Conflict of priorities! Or, more precisely, it’s the fact that my true priority (hello, thesis!) is in conflict with joyous creativity and useful self-analysis… ugh.

    And yet despite that reality check, here I am, writing about my thesis instead of writing my thesis. All because I was having a dilemma about the phrase “I don’t have time” that kept drifting through my way of seeing things…

    Well, I also knew that this writing would help me out, because I knew I’d feel encouraged by accomplishing “at least something” that has been bothering me for long enough.  And now it’s time to step back into thesis mode, because it too has been bothering me for long enough. (By which I mean, way too long, really, but that’s not a useful way to think about it.)

    Alright then! So am I ready now? IT DOESN’T MATTER! It’s GO time! Because I don’t have time for it to be any other time.

    1 Comment »

    • Josee Hartrick

      Hello Crystal,
      As I was looking through artist’s blogs randomly, I remembered your blog, and how much I enjoy reading it. You are always so very genuine with your feelings, and I find often that you are thinking similar to how I am thinking, even if I don’t write it all down. Like you, I am feeling the burden of not having enough time, although in my case, other than housework, relationships, going out and enjoying life, hehe, it is mainly about art. How am I to improve my portfolio when I don’t even have time to make dinner? Will it always be like this? What direction do I want to go in my art? I need a “niche” market if I want to be successful, and I am feeling pressure from watching everyone else becoming successful in their practice, and I am panicking. Hence the reading other people’s art blogs, when really I should just be working, or painting, or both. Although I wouldn’t consider painting to be work. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one feeling completely swamped. Don’t feel guilty for writing in your journal, or writing haikus, or taking photographs….we all need our vices in life to make things enjoyable. Otherwise what is the point? Write some more when you can.