Range of busy

Oct 29 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

DrDrA had a post the other day about journal club and in it, voiced something that has been going through my head as of late. In it, she states:

Now don’t even tell me you were too busy to read the paper- you won’t find any sympathy from me on this one. I’ll bet you a million bucks that you and I don’t even measure busy on the same scale...

More than making me laugh, that particular point drove home something that I've been feeling for some time. That is, even when you think you're maxed out, someone will come along and drop another straw on the pile. I think over time we adjust to this (for better or worse) leading to her sentiment above. The longer you're in this gig, the more deadlines and workload you have to handle, so being "busy" becomes a sliding scale. For those of you who prefer figures, I submit this:


Figure 1. A fair warning to students who want to keep at this.

I remember when I used to complain about how busy I was to my PhD supervisor and he would just laugh and say "You don't know busy". At the time, I thought "If he only knew what I'm dealing with!" but of course, he did. And of course, I now chuckle at the complaints of being busy that I hear from trainees. It's like the circle of life... but different. And with fewer baboons.

18 responses so far

  • Odyssey says:

    Actually I would have said more baboons speaking gibberish. And more hyenas... A lot more hyenas.

  • Mami Wata says:

    I like the figure and the "drop another straw on the pile" part. It is the kind of busy wherein you look forward to holidays, so you can get things done. This is an unfortunate type of busy. And crossing things off the list rarely seems satisfying because the back end is growing faster than the front end is shrinking. And on top of all of this, you are putting self-imposed to-do's on the list. Still, if we have time to write, read, or comment on blogs, I guess it could be worse. Maybe if the graph were extended, the next category would be "Department Head"?

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    I didn't want to have to make the scale logarithmic.

  • Arlenna says:

    Lol, I love it. I especially like the "still have time to make figures about how busy you are."

  • Professor in Training says:

    Nice figure. Glad you could take time out of your busy schedule to put it together.There's also a huge difference in the type of busy between PI and everything else, the amount of responsiblity that comes with getting shit done and the numbers of people that are affected by your ability to do it. As a student and postdoc you need to crank shit out and to demonstrate progress but as a PI you need to crank shit out otherwise your students will sit in a lecture hall reading out of their textbooks and your grad students and postdocs won't have salaries/stipends or the resources they need in the lab.

  • Alyssa says:

    It also bugs me when people of the same "status" tell me how busy they are (and therefore can't do something) - um, I know, I'm busy too, but somehow I manage to fit it in, so suck it up, princess!!Phew - I needed that, apparently.

  • Ambivalent Academic says:

    You should get some more baboons. Most of what keeps trainees "busy" could actually be completed by a trained simian. Trouble is, they cost more than grad students. When I get my own lab I'm going to invest in one good monkey, teach it to do all the endless pipetting, then buy a bunch of know-nothing monkeys and get it to teach them.Oh wait, this *is* what you do with trainees isn't it.

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Grad students are cleaner because they throw less poop.And PiT, I clearly indicated my current level of business on the diagram.

  • Ink says:

    And making those stick figures counts *as* work, so that rocks.

  • Ambivalent Academic says:

    "Grad students are cleaner because they throw less poop."Really?? Huh. Our bay of benches suggests otherwise. No wonder I feel like a zookeeper most days. I have seen "my labmate" engage in some poo-flinging over territorial disputes (Who the FUCK gummed up my P1000!?!?).

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    I only said "less".

  • Dr. No says:

    That made me laugh (but I'm no position to talk about business right now...more of napping position).

  • Dr. No says:

    Sorry, now I'm confused, how do you spell that? It looks so wrong...busyness? That looks wrong too. Sorry, I'll stop gunking up your comments now.

  • Anonymous says:

    There's no way grads and postdocs do the same amount of work. Having said that I'd put my boss (i.e. the PI) about a foot above what I do (on your scale).antipodean

  • drdrA says:

    Lovely graph. Needs a log scale. Seriously. 🙂

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Dr. No - If you're here for spelling help, you in the wrong line. Try the line for Inktopia just around the corner. I know, this line was way shorter, but you're going to have to wait in that one of you want an answer you can trust.Anon - Grads and postdocs don't do the same work. Postdocs do more work, but grads have more deadlines and external BS that they have to deal with, especially if they are TAs. Hence, the scale is similar even if the issues are different.DrDrA - You may be right, but I'm trying not to depress myself.

  • Genomic Repairman says:

    You can't compare a postdoc to myself (grad student). I have 8 hours of class per week, plus exam, journal club presentations, seminars, and the red tape placed in front of my the graduate school, not to mention trying to learn about our discipline. I'm not saying that postdocs don't work harder than we do, because they do. We just are not the same beast.

  • PUI prof says:

    Great graph. I posted it in the faculty lounge.

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