If you look, you’ll see the Pareto Principle everywhere. Last week, I saw it in grad school. I was having my 20% – and it was awesome! But it does make me sad about the 80% of my time – this is the time that I spend marking, doing assignments that seem pointless and reading papers that I need to know the contents of, or might be useful, but turn out not to give me that zing of inspiration.
In the 20%, I’ll work 12 hours a day and enjoy it. I’ll wake up every morning fired up and excited for the day ahead of me. In the 20%, things take less time than expected. They sometimes turn out better than expected, too.
I think this is why I don’t want to convert to a PhD – the Comprehensive Exam, a thesis proposal, the TA-ing… I can see this will be the 80%. I think there are other ways I can get much of the value from the 20% of the PhD I want, basically by writing a large masters thesis. Perhaps I can summarize some choices, by saying, is this in my 20%, or will it contribute to it? Make it bigger?
I want to live in the 20%. But I recognize there’s a lot of stuff that I do in the 80% that enables the 20% to happen.
- I have to mark because I TA, but there’s a 20% when I really manage to communicate understanding to a student, and they go away excited about what we’re talking about.
- This semester, I spent a lot of time on assignments I thought were pointless, but they did improve my understanding so in my 20% I implemented something that I wouldn’t have known how to do in September.
- Yes, a lot of the papers I read are a little dull, but I hoard the knowledge and later when it’s time to connect the dots or something clicks… some of them turn out to be useful.
So I think the question is, how do I maximize the 20%? I plan to explore this over the winter break, as after this week my TA-ing and course will be done with. I’d love your thoughts as to what your 20% is, and how you maximize it, if you do.