Sunday, May 23, 2010

Reviewing resolutions: time and technology

Earlier I wrote about my New Year's resolutions regarding time and technology. Since we're halfway through the year, it's time to evaluate how we're* doing.

While I have improved at spending time the way I want to, I need to be more honest about how much time actually exists. Being more honest with myself about how much I slack off/am capable of working has helped me to do more things I enjoy. This past spring I have taken up acrobatics, gotten involved with Graduate Women at MIT, been meeting new people, going to shows, etc. without taking a terrible productivity hit. A problem is that I often do too many things I enjoy, making it difficult to appreciate each thing (and to get enough sleep). My friend Geneva linked me to a Zen Habits blog post about slowing down and enjoying life more: I plan to take its advice about doing things more slowly and mindfully. I would like to arrive at an equilibrium where I am doing what I want and I am not rushing through life.

As the increase in my non-work activity has increased my volume of e-mail and phone communication, improving my relationship with technology requires more drastic measures. My goal is to limit my electronic communication and internet use to activities that enhance my experience of the physical world. Compartmentalization will be important in reaching this goal: separating productive use of technology (writing e-mails to friends, reading informative media pieces, etc.) from unproductive use (browsing online sales instead of going to bed) and separating time for engaging with technology from time for engaging strictly with the physical world. To get into the habit of interacting with the physical world I plan to have explicit, contiguous "off-grid" blocks of time when I don't use my phone or the internet: I am going to start with one hour each weeknight and five hours (at once, but either day) each weekend. I would like to reach a point where I can leave my phone and computer for extended periods of time without causing anyone (including myself) anxiety and where checking e-mail/Facebook is not the first thing I do every morning.

Here's to slowing down and enjoying life in the rest of 2010. :)

* Yes, editorial "we" again. ;)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

CRA-W Grad Cohort 2010

April 22-24 I was in Seattle for the Computing Research Association's Grad Cohort for Women. For the last ten years, the CRA has annually been sponsoring graduate women in computer science in their first through third years from across US and Canadian institutions to convene.

Initially skeptical of women-only conferences ("I don't need a special conference to network and discuss research"), I signed up for this upon my friend Oshani's recommendation. CRA-W Grad Cohort turned out to be a highly positive experience. One of the senior women sums it up well in an explanation to a male colleague: "Imagine if you went to work every day and there were only women. Imagine if you went to a conference, excited to discuss your research ideas, and there were only women around. Wouldn't you be excited to encounter another man?"

The program was informative and thought-provoking: there were helpful sessions and panels on topics such as presentation skills and interdisciplinary research. There was also a session on touchier subjects such as how to deal with small-scale harassment and how to identify and handle bias. Additionally, there was a poster session where the second-years presented their research. The program also made good use of the meal times to allow graduate women to network with other women (graduate students and professors) in the same area and at the same point of the academic progression.

It was incredible to be surrounded by and discuss research with so many women in computer science. (It was also somewhat overwhelming because I had never imagined there to be so many women in CS!) The dance party that took place the evening of the first day was also one of my most fun activities in recent times. I highly recommend attending this meeting*!

* There is also the Grace Hopper Celebration for women in CS in the fall.