On getting more efficient - part 1

I thought a lot lately about how to get more efficient at what I do (I hate wasting time and getting side-tracked), and I am going to write a series of posts presenting my workflow, find tons of holes in it as well as finding/testing way to get more efficient.

One of most compelling reasons to go to meetings and workshop is to take some time off from your routine, listening to some folks and get encouraged or discouraged or neutral, try to convince people that your way is the way, and think about what you can do to improve (in a broad sense) your research program, which ends up most of the times to find better and easiest way to publish in top journals and getting cited a lot. No solving world problems or getting a profit here.

I am right now working on 3 model systems (if I remember well, hint: problem), many different topics within the same model systems (including theory), and I expect things to get messier quite soon when I will get the genetic data from marble trout (a month or two, the sequencer just arrived at the lab). I am not teaching and I am quite limited administrative work. Two group meetings a week lasting 1 to 2.5 hrs each. (At least) Part of the weekend (almost always) on.

I am satisfied by my production of ideas and code on a daily basis, including writing a blog post around 5am in a Lisbon hotel because I am jet lagged. I typically work on a one or two model systems a day with a switch that gets quite "formal" most of the time (e.g. I open another workspace in R), and within the same system I typically in a single day on one or two problems. For example, I may work in the same day on kittiwakes (1st model system) and on marble trout (2nd model system). For kittiwakes, I might work on testing measures of growth variability and their effects on survival and reproduction, and for marble trout I might work on estimating the repeatability of body size and on estimating the standard error of parameters on the random effect effect model of growth I am currently working on (2 problems). Plus, for each model system/problem, I typically produce an amazing number of plots, since I am very keen on visual communication to myself and other people. Should I focus on one single problem a day/a week, the same problem for the model system each day/week until solved and ready to get shipped? Or more interesting/fun to work on many problems/model systems at the same time trusting your supernatural abilities of concentration while worrying about the fact that things very clear right now are clear a mud next week (advice to myself: comment code a lot more)?

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