I was working with my colleagues on a NRSA application earlier this month when I realized I was suffering from a severe case of it. Research Administration Whiplash. I was on the phone with our pre-doctoral candidate, who was asking a question about his application. He was simply a model investigator to work with; organized to a fault, when I told him we had all of his documents,including his vertebrate animals section. He reminded me with a quizzical tone that his stroke research involved human subjects!
What is whiplash? It’s when the work moves in three dimensions at the same time and your brain can’t quite keep up:
1. Deadlines are tight and you need to work quickly to meet them.
2. The work is complex and you are evaluating a lot of information with a great deal of care, generating proposals, reports, budgets, or key recommendations.
3. Your work switches between unrelated content areas (bench and clinical sciences).
I was lucky that my investigator knew I was on top of his application, but what do you do when you realize you’re in a whirlwind?
1. Slow down to speed up. This is a zen or Buddhist saying, and it is absolutely true. The faster you work to accomplish something the worse you will be at it, you need to stop and think things through.
2. Take little breaks and do things like clean up your desk to give your mind a rest.
This Fall has been an incredibly jam-packed time with a lot of high-stress activity. Without strategies to get through these times, it’s easy to get burned out. It’s important to remember that our jobs are a marathon – not a sprint!