Saturday, January 29, 2011

World University Rankings

I was looking at the world university rankings released by Times Higher Education and was surprised to find or rather not find even a single University from India in it!

The irony is most of these top 200 Universities have a significant number of students from India or of Indian origin! In other words, they or rather India is indirectly contributing to these rankings. Well, the immediate reaction would be to either cry foul or blame it, yet again, on "brain drain"! Whatever the reason, it is indeed alarming and also a matter of shame when a neighboring country (China) with almost equal population has six Universities listed in the top 200 and much smaller countries like South Korea and Belgium have three and two Universities respectively among this list! What's even more shameful is that we do not make even to the "top universities in Asia" list while Turkey has two!!!

The million dollar or rather one crore rupee question is: Is our education system and Universities so bad? When do we realize the importance of education and improving the infrastructure over hosting games, world cups, IPL, trying to compete with Hollywood, etc. Ah well.....

BTW, University of York (from where I graduated), makes to the list (81 Rank)! Some comfort there, albeit personal!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Forgot your wallet? What would you do?

This happened to me yesterday August 29, 2009... the very first time in my entire life... so far. There was new Indian restaurant (Bali - for folks from Cincinnati, there used to be "The Village" restaurant here earlier) that opened recently which I thought will check out. So, there I was with my wife. We went for buffet which was pretty decent. While having the dessert (gulab jamun which wasn't that great!), I realized that I was feeling more than comfortable while sitting. To my utter shock, I realized that I wasn't carrying my wallet - the reason I wasn't unevenly sitting (if you know what I mean)! I just went plain blank and mentioned the same to my wife who did not believe it at all (as by now she knows very well how ultra-cautious I am in these matters). So, I had to spend some more time to convince her and was thinking fast in my mind as to what i should be doing. I usually don't carry cash separately and as with any guy, even if I do, that also will be in my wallet. At that same time, what I was unable to digest was the fact that I just drove all the way to the restaurant without carrying a driving license. OK, the problem now is to pay for the food we gorged on. I was embarrassed to the bone and was thinking as to how to handle the situation. Well, my wife saved me saying that she is carrying some 20 bucks. Good heavens, I was so relieved. We paid for the food and then left.

We were planning to go to the library but being a die-hard stickler of rules, I first wanted to get back to home as soon as possible and get hold of my license. So, I started driving back leaving the parking lot and the very first thing I realize is that I am in the wrong lane and the guy behind me is honking! I then took a detour and wandered into a busy neighborhood. And there were kids bicycling all over the place. I drove extra cautiously as I really didn't want to be stopped by a cop without my license. I finally reached home, took my license and went back to the library.

While returning, I was remembering all the movies I have seen where the hero or the comedian has to grind the dal or wash the dishes or worst gets kicked or thrown out. I was wondering what would happen here in the USA, especially where they really don't grind dal in a conventional way or where the dish washers do all the job, or how would someone react in such situations? I am sure it might have happened to many of you. So, have you ever forgotten your wallet?... what did you do?

BTW, this is my first post after almost full 2 years. What can be a better incident than this to re-start blogging.

Somehow, I am still thinking HOW could I have forgotten? hmm..... need to analyze this!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Microsoft crazy facts

Fact 1:
Nobody can create a FOLDER anywhere on the computer which can be named as "CON". This is something pretty cool...and unbelievable. ..At Microsoft the whole Team, couldn't answer why this happened! TRY IT NOW, IT WILL NOT CREATE "CON" FOLDER
Explanation: In windows the folder name and the special system variables share the same interface, so when you create a folder with a system variable name it will consider that folder already exist!!these special system variables are available irrespective of pathYou cannot create a folder with these names also:CON, NUL, COM1, COM2, COM3, LPT1, LPT2, LPT3,COM1 to COM9 and LPT1 to LPT9....CON means console, COM1 means serial port 1, LPT1 means parallel port 1

Fact 2:
This is something pretty cool and neat...and unbelievable. Apparently, at Microsoft the whole Team, including Bill Gates, couldn't answer why this happened! Try it out yourself...Open Microsoft Word and type=rand (200, 99)and then press ENTER

Fact 3:
For those of you using Windows, do the following:
  1. Open an empty notepad file
  2. Type "Bush hid the facts" (without the quotes)
  3. Save it as whatever you want.
  4. Close it, and re-open it just a really weird bug?

You can try the same thing above with another sentence "this app can break"

Source: WWW

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Go Coconuts!

This morning, when I called home, my mom was telling about a new superstition going around in the town! Whoever has son(s), should break a coconut at the main entrance of their homes! The number of coconuts to be broken is proportional to the number of sons one has. My mom was reluctant to do it (my years of brain washing has good effect on her; she is more rational now than she was 20 years ago). However, my peddamma (my mom's elder sister) called her and literally forced her to break the coconuts. My mom finally relented. What can she do? The rumor is, if you don't follow this ritual something bad will come upon the sons. And you know the mothers, they cannot allow or even listen about anything bad happening to their dear sons! But anyway, my mom didn't break 3 coconuts (we are three brothers, so "technically" she has to break 3 coconuts) but broke only one! That way she balanced between her rationalism and my peddamma's sentiments (I don't want to call her superstitious)!

I then watched the news, and thanks to this superstition the coconut price went up to Rs 100. Normally they are about Rs 10 per piece! And most of the streets are full of these broken coconuts broken by the dear mommas for the good of their dear sons! You are not supposed to eat them either after breaking! So, you can't even make a burfi or a chutney! What a waste that too in a land where 50% population don't get a square meal. I don't know how these things get started and everyone so faithfully obliges them.

Not long ago, in Bombay we had people drinking water from a near by Dargah (burial place of a Muslim saint at the seaside of Arabian Sea), . This water (Mahim Creek) is one of the most filthiest and most contaminated waters in India. About 1000 million liters of sewage flows into it every day! But the hysteric people not only gulped it but fed it even to little babies! Then the next day, all the deities in the Hindu temples in northern part of India started drinking milk! The price for a liter of milk went up to Rs 500! This is the second time this is happening. In 1995 it was Lord Ganesh drinking milk! Well, the Christians can't be left behind! Virgin Mary started shedding tears in a church in Cochin, Kerala. Then a image of the Hindu saint Shirdi Sai Baba appeared in the seepage spots of a multi-storied building wall in Gujarat. And so it goes.......

Then we have those strange rituals - all in the name of religion. Forget about walking on smoldering ambers or whipping yourselves till you bleed! A temple (Sri Mahalakshmi temple) at Mettumahadanapuram (hope I got the name right; I think it's in Tamil Nadu) has a head-breaking ritual, literally! The chief priest of this temple breaks coconuts on heads of devotees as part of their fulfilment of vow. The devotees sustain bleeding injuries but they just rub in turmeric (of course, it's antiseptic) and vibhuti! Luckily this ritual is part of the two-day annual festival (occurs in August) and doesn't happen throughout the year!

Watching, reading, listening to all these, I was thinking why not exploit these superstitions for a good or noble cause. So, I compiled a list of "to-dos". For everything put a clause - "if you don't fulfill these something very bad will happen in your family within 8 nights"! We should be careful to make them sound as religious as possible (that's why use numbers like 8, 3; days like Friday, etc.) else there won't be any followers! So here is a list:

  1. All able-bodied persons should sweep at least half a kilometer road otherwise within 8 nights the eldest person in the house will fall sick! Lord Vishnu is upset because of all the filth and dosen't want to stay in the temples on earth anymore.
  2. Everyone should feed at least 5 beggars for 5 weeks every Friday or else the little babies in the family will fall sick!
  3. The Vana Devi (Goddess of Forests) is very angry. To please her, everyone over 21 years should plant at least 3 trees and look after them for 1 year!
  4. This is the year of Goddess Saraswati, every household should either donate money or books to the libraries. Otherwise, your sons/daughters will not get an Engineering/Medicine seat or they will get low GRE/TOEFL score!
  5. Goddess Mahakali is very angry because people are killing all the goats and chicken and Her lion has no food! So everyone should stop slaughtering goats or chicken. May be this is a bit far-fetched and sounds made up. But no harm in giving it a try. Viva vegetarianism!
  6. Whoever reads this must tell the above 5 to at least 5 people otherwise within 5 days something evil will happen to their dear ones!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why Are You Wasting Your Time at Work?

According to a Web survey by America Online and, the average American worker admits to wasting 2.09 hours per day at work, not counting lunch. While most managers/supervisors expect the average employee to waste about an hour a day, the results of this survey were startling. These 2.09 hours per person per day add up to a whopping $759 billion in salaries! Of the 10,044 people who responded, 44.7% cited personal Internet use, such as email, IM-ing or games, as the No. 1 time-waster at work.

If you find yourself wasting a lot of time at work, ask yourself these simple questions:

Do you need more job responsibilities? In all, 33.2% of people surveyed cited "not having enough work to do" as the No. 1 excuse for wasting time. But these time-wasters never inform their supervisors/managers that he or she has available time and needs more work to do. If you're sitting at your desk planning your next vacation or chatting or trying to buy/sell on eBay (looking at the "deals"), then you're not really doing your job as an employee because you're looking or pretending like you're working, but you're not." Most of the times the problem with these people is they intentionally prolong the tasks assigned to them. In other words, they deliberately do the job at a snail's pace lest the boss will give additional work! And surprise of the surprise, these are the people who always complain that they have lot to work and they don't have enough time!

What annoys me most are those who just waste time by talking - a LOT! They go on and on about how their little one gets excited watching a particular cartoon show! How he/she doesn't like vegetables! How he fell of the bike (sorry to hear that but for God's sake just don't reproduce the whole scene including mimicking the little devil's cries!). Yes, these are cute little things. May be for the parents! Not for everyone! These loose talkers or chronic sufferers of verbal diarrhea not only waste their time but disturb others too. The most annoying/mysterious thing is they don't even care whether you are listening or not, they just go on and on and on and on.....

The question then is are you being watched? It's entirely possible that your wasting time has been noticed by the higher-ups. Unless your boss himself/herself is a time-waster, employers definitely watch productivity and know who is doing the job and who isn't. So, don't be under any mis-apprehensions. If you value your job or want that much needed raise, get back in the game and make amends. It's never late. Admit to your supervisor/boss that you have been under performing, and ask what you can do to be given more challenges.

Or may be you just have to move on. May be you should start looking for a new job? Just don't do that in the office! Nothing can be more blasphemous! Actually, wasting time at work could be a signal of your unhappiness at your job. If you notice yourself increasingly wasting time, ask yourself how valuable that time is to you; perhaps it's time to start putting your time and energy towards work you'll enjoy, rather than suffering through work you do not.

Presentation or Meeting Monsters

In the normal day to day meetings we meet, interact, exchange pleasantries, etc. with fellow colleagues. However, when it comes to meetings we will be left with no clue as to what exactly these characters are ( at least initially). These people are like Jekyll and Hyde - amicable in privacy but hungry wolves in public. So, how well we should be armed to handle these meeting monsters? How should we handle their bothersome behavior. These types are categorized into 6 types:

The Monopolizer

To sum up in one word, this person perpetually suffers from an illusion that he is a know-all genius! This person thinks he or she is the only one with wisdom on subjects - not one, but ALL. The monopolizer believes everyone else is there to hear him or her speak, and so they do, non-stop. They don't appreciate that meetings or presentations offer an opportunity to hear from many. They prattle on and on, arrogantly acting as though their ideas or beliefs are inherently more important than others. Sadly other people shy away from contributing, intimidated by the monopolizer's stranglehold on the meeting. There is really no easy way to tackle this sort. The best is if there is a facilitator, he or she should, strongly discourage such behavior. The facilitator or even other meeting participants should indicate an interest in hearing from the speaker or others (if it is a group meeting), and to remind the monopolizer that others can speak as well as listen.

The Tangent Talker

These also suffer from delusions but are usually not as obnoxious as former. However, they are biggest time-wasters. It is because of these that meetings that need to be over in 30 minutes go on for 3 hrs. Yes, you guessed it right, this person hijacks the topic of the group by taking discussions off on tangents - topics unrelated to the issue at hand. One minute you're on topic and the next minute you're in "left field" as your agenda topic has been taken to a tangent. Your meeting chair's ability to recognize and refocus is essential to a productive meeting. "Let's remember to confine ourselves to the topic at hand" is a good way to get back on track. Alternately saying, "Let's try to avoid tangents" also labels such behavior as contrary to the group's aims. As well, you can "park" extraneous items in a "parking lot" list where they're noted, if only to be addressed later.

The Devil's Advocate

These are the ugly cousins of monopolizer. They are somewhat like the opposition parties in politics. Whatever the ruling part says we just have to oppose it - That's their primary motto. OK, let's face it, there's one such character in every presentation or meeting. This person seems to relish taking the opposite route. Whatever the argument being put forth, this person delights in taking an opposing view. It's sport for them, an exercise in opposition. The more unpopular the stance the more exciting their challenge. Watch out for them, they usually go around in group which eggs the culprit. If they are alone they are usually "well-behaved". The coterie gives strength to them and they basically play to the gallery. For e.g., if you are giving a presentation, they begin from slide one itself by saying "just for the sake of argument...I believe the opposite is true...." While there's value in looking at issues from multiple points of view and avoiding group think, the Devil's Advocate applies their technique to every issue, every argument and every conversation. Best way to handle them is to keep your cool, hold onto your thoughts. Sometimes offense is the best defense against them.

Thy Cynic

The ultimate naysayer, this person has a PhD degree in negativity. Their favorite phrase "I don't think it will work". If it's a group meeting, these characters are immensely skilled at deflating and defeating whatever motion is in motion. "Can't be done." "They'll never buy it." "We tried it once and it was a failure." Their motto: just say no. Challenge these people to think like The Devil's Advocate and suppose for that things could work. Use the common conflict resolution tool of asking them to embrace the other side's view as if it were their own, and argue that side's position. Since the cynic will never stop asking questions and goes on and on, the rest of the audience may begin to get antsy. At this point, just say to the cynic something like "Why don't you and I talk about that after the workshop?"

The Fence Sitter
These usually attend meetings or presentations either to sleep, or to eat the free breakfast/lunch, or they don't have a choice and are just forced to attend. These characters are unable to make decisions. Despite being in a deliberative body, they are conflicted by multiple arguments, and can't "pull the trigger" when it's time to make a decision in a meeting. They provide fodder for the Devil's Advocate, the Cynic and other characters with their ambivalence. Whether they are afraid of being wrong, or of disagreeing with someone else, or just going on record, they are a meeting monster for their inability to move the action forward. Try to cajole them to action. Remind them they have a vote and were invited to use it. Ask them their opinions on matters to draw them out and get them on record.

The Brown Noser
These are the boot-lickers or a**-lickers! And yes, there will be always one in every meeting. The person who is so obsequious, bending over backwards to ingratiate himself or herself to the boss, the meeting leader or other power broker. They're so busy currying favor with others they subvert whatever true feelings they have about issues to "kiss butt." They are seen to be in the pocket of the person they're cow-towing to. Ultimately they are seen for who they are and become predictable. Try to elicit their ideas and preferences before asking others as a way of drawing them out.

The Joker
These are nothing but court jesters or jugglers. Don't let their good nature fool you! These are like giggling teenagers watching an amorous picture. Their constant joking has the effect of diminishing others' serious ideas or suggestions. It makes the whole presentation look frivolous. The seriousness is lost. Their infusion of humor can belittle others' motions and makes it difficult for some to be taken seriously. There is a time and place for joking. While we all like a good laugh, constant joking disrupts a presentation and distracts attention from where it should be. Best way to handle them is to stop presenting and look at him/her for about 15 seconds! Most of the time that will leash these idiots.

Adapted in part from

How Low U Can Go

Last night I was watching the American Idol. Don't know why I was watching it. May be we all have some morbid desire to watch someone humiliated. It's just like watching Nascar races. A majority watch them expecting there will be some crashes and then all the news channels play them again and again. Anyway, coming back to the American Idol show, it seemed all stage-managed. And boy, they were really mean. They are usually mean but this time they were picking upon the physical appearances. Simon was calling a guy that he resembles some animal in Africa just because he had big eyes. There was another contestant who was overweight and Simon asked him whether he was wearing Randy's pants! And Paula was giggling like a stupid hyena! Well, if it comes to physical appearances, Simon's face resembles a stunted hippopotamus, Paula looks like an old iguana, Randy looks like an aborted fetus of king kong! I would equally blame the contestants too. They are plain idiots. Why should anyone allow or encourage others to pass personal remarks! Most of these idiots know that they cannot sing. And singing is not the only thing in the world! May be this was all added just to play to the gallery. After all nothing sells like controversy. But again the American Idol already has enough guaranteed viewer ship. It doesn't have to stoop this low to gain the ratings! In any case, one idiot makes it and 100 idiots watch it. So, am I going to watch it next week? May be or may be not!

The other, somewhat related, incident is Shilpa Shetty's Big Brother show or fiasco! Why on earth does Shilpa Shetty has to participate in this show?! I can understand the desperation of American Idol's contestants for that 2 minutes of glory to be on national television! But why Shilpa? why? And why complain about racism? What the other contestants did is unpardonable but why does Shilpa Shetty has to take it. She can walk out of the show. No, that doesn't amount to relenting or yielding ground. That would have been a graceful exit. These two incidents brings one thing to the fore. Whatever position you are in, basically everyone of us are animalistic - some little and some more! And yes, everyone of us is a racist. It just comes out some day or some time!

For instance take the north south divide in India. Since, we are talking about media, I'll limit to the film fraternity. Indian cinema doesn’t mean the Bombay industry alone! Recently at an IFFI there was a serious gaffe involving a Kannada film-maker Girish Kasarvalli and Kannada actor late Dr. Raj Kumar. The organizers had no clue how Rajkumar looks, they simply used the photo of a living Girish Kasarvalli that went with the obituary of the thespian Dr. Raj Kumar in their souvenir. When the Kannada industry protested, there was some apology and the souvenir was withdrawn and re-released without a mention of the regional film industry. This sort of things happened earlier too and nobody is immune. At yet another IFFI, Telugu actor Chiranjeevi came in for some discourtesy himself. At least, he voiced his displeasure openly. But then why did Chiranjeevi act in a Hindi film? Similarly, why did Rajnikant, who always used to maintain that he’d rather be a king down south than a guard in Bollywood went on to play insignificant roles in multi-starrers? Similarly Kamal Hasan, Nagarjuna (remember his roles in Khuda Gawah, Mr Bechara!!!). They all cite one reason - went in search of wider applause.

For the "elite" from north of Vindhyas, whether you belong to AP, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka or Kerala, you’re a Madrasi, your English is accented and your staple diet is idli/dosa sambar, and you eat very hot/spicy food! A TV newsreader will take great pains to pronounce a Polish or Russian name right but give them something like Balasubramanyam and he/she is sure to be tongue twisted. A recent incident - one of my friend's wife (of course, she is from the north of Vindhyas) was asking me, pointing to Balaji's (Venteshwara Swamy) calendar, who is he? The next question was, do you people (people in AP) worship Lord Ayyappa? She also asked whether Tirupathi is in AP or Tamil Nadu. And she is a medical doctor, and I always thought that people who hold professional degrees are usually well "educated" and quite "aware" of general knowledge! Wrong I was! But again, I didn't know whether she was trying to be "American" or she was just plain ignorant and those were just innocuous questions! So, is ignorance really a bliss?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Office Etiquette

Behavior of one of the colleagues today prompted me to write this. This guy was using an internet phone and talking so loud that I could hear him even when I closed my room door. And this guy was sitting in a bull-pen sharing the office space with at least 4 other persons. Imagine their fate! So, this guy goes on and on for about 25 to 30 minutes and when his vocal chords start wearing down, he stops and doesn't even have the basic courtesy of saying sorry to his colleagues! I was wondering, with so many nerve endings in the body and a 100000 million brain cells how can someone be so insensitive???

Office Etiquette Dos and Don'ts (source: somewhere from internet)
  1. Say good morning
  2. Say thank you
  3. Say please
  4. Be helpful
  5. Be friendly
  6. Be polite
  7. Seek help for anger problems
  8. Dress professionally
  9. Ask permission to enter a co-workers' space or cubicle
  10. Show appreciation
  11. Control your emotions
  12. Have a sense of humor
  13. Be courteous and show respect toward others
  14. Take responsibility for your mistakes
  15. Be helpful; ask if help is needed


  1. Talk harshly
  2. Condescend
  3. Backstab
  4. Gossip
  5. Be rude to customers
  6. Bad mouth the company
  7. Bring your personal life to work
  8. Take long breaks or lunches
  9. Say it's not your job
  10. Interrupt others
  11. Have an office romance
  12. Use drugs or alcohol at work
  13. Wear provocative clothing
  14. Be a chronic complainer

Using Mobile Phones

  1. Use your vibrating alarm feature.
  2. Taking a call in a restaurant is okay, but not if it is going to become involved.
  3. Excuse yourself and go where you won't disturb others.
  4. Watch your speaking volume.
  5. Folks tend to speak louder than is necessary on wireless phones.
  6. When in a meeting or even in a public place, it is best to have your voice mail set to receive your calls -- unless you are looking for an important call (Then you'd use your vibrating alarm).
  7. Never take a call at a public gathering such as a theater or a church.
  8. Get a "hands-free" kit for making and taking calls while driving.
  9. Stop the car to make calls if possible

Conference Calls? Such a Waste of Time!

The Conference Call is Nothing But a Waste of Time! I feel so happy typing that.....

Sometimes I wish I could go back to my old surgery days and all I have to face is the glare of the operation room lights and a silent buzz of the ECG machine or the cylinder of gaseous anaesthetic or the occasional tinkering of the surgical instruments. I love being a research faculty but what really wears me down is a conference call.

It's not that I am unaware of the benefits of well organized conference calls. But then there are those calls where everyone seems to think that what they have to say is more important than the next guy and as a consequence, these calls often end up sounding like a game of oneupmanship. I actually thank God that He (or She) gave us one mouth and two ears! Imagine if we had two mouths! I usually use my ears more than my mouth.

I pity the secretary or the poor postdoc or grad student who has to note down all this harangue! And then there are those who come with their own agenda and keep going on and on - completely oblivious of others sufferings.

In my honest and humble opinion, I think conference calls are a colossal waste of time and money (imagine how much money goes down the drain during those hours of international calls). A one on one meeting I can understand, and even a small satellite group of 3 or 4 people would probably work, but when there’s 8 or 12 individuals spread around the country or even across the world, as is the case with us, it’s nothing less than utter chaos. In fact, we probably waste more time than we save. Usually, after these meetings, most of us return to our desks and spend the rest of the day sending emails back and forth as we try to make sense of the dialogue we’ve just had. Sometimes the two main guys talk further (after everyone gets off) to figure out what was the gist of the meeting! Oh, the wonders/perils of technology!

And the part which I dread most is towards the end when they are looking for an appropriate date/time to schedule the next conference call... Oh God! Not again! And there they go, spend another 15 minutes to figure out what's the best time... Conclusion: Nothing.. "we will let you know by email as to what time works best for us!!!"

Some interesting anecdotes later.....

Time Management

"Tomorrow is Friday! I hardly got anything done this whole week" one of my postdoc friends was complaining today. I listen or overhear a lot of these! How the day went by and nothing got done. There was no time to grade the exam papers, revise your hot manuscripts, meet with advisory committee members, help with re-designing course curriculum, design the new Web site for your department, take the kid to the dentist, no time to sleep or have lunch! In fact, not sleeping or waking up till odd hours is considered as something positive and I have heard several of them singing accolades of these midnight oil burners! But why????? Well, if I look around, most of them have to do all of these chores. They seem to be leading a perfectly normal life and they are equally if not more productive like any "never sleeping" faculty! Now, why is it that some are so unruffled while others are all hyper, always jumping and running as though some mad dogs are after their throats! The question is how did some of them got everything under control while others fail and try to bask pathetically in that glory! The mantra I think is ORGANIZATION and EFFICIENT TIME MANAGEMENT.

Let's see how we waste time:
As everyone you too started your day earlier. The first thing you wanted to do was to read all those pending mails and reply to them. Well, you switched the PC and then are onto the BBC homepage and spent the next 30 minutes reading some news. Finally opened the inbox and came across an inflammatory mail from a fellow faculty as to how your student is hogging up all the computational resources. You are all agitated and spend almost an hour writing and rewriting an equally inflammatory e-mail back. Then you need some more time to get back to your normal self.

As you were going through the papers, you come across your Division Director's mail asking for an updated CV for your promotion file. And the deadline was yesterday. You start searching for your CV and there are just too many and you can't figure out which one is the most current. So, you spend another hour and update your CV and mail it. Ten minutes later you realise that you haven't updated your publications. You reopen the file and while updating you realize that your research support is not current. OK, some more updates. Knock... Knock... your appointment is at the door. You finally mail your CV and drag your appointment to lunch along with you. What would have been normally taken 20-30 minutes goes on for more than hour and you still haven't helped her. You will reschedule the appointment for next week.

You open your inbox and there is another inflammatory reply from that CPU-paranoid faculty. This time it has a CC to the Director. You are even more agitated and you rush out to confront him. Fortunately or unfortunately he is not in his seat. You slowly start realizing that may be you are overreacting. So, you decide to drop the matter there and head back to your office. It's 4.00 PM and you remember that you have conference call with your collaborator and spend next 1 hour trying to convince them to change the legend for a figure in the Supplementary material! It's 5.00 clock and your PhD student shows up. Time to vent out some frustration. You start with why there has been no progress on the manuscript. Where are the results? The hypothesis doesn't make sense, etc. etc. The phone rings and your wife reminds that you have to pick the kid from the school because she has late evening meeting. You have to rush now!

I think the secret lies in effective time management and setting up short and long term goals. For instance, my long term goal is to be a successful scientist or researcher. I'm a start-up faculty, so my other goals are to get promoted with tenure. Hence, to accomplish the first part of this goal, I will need to design, plan, and execute some very decisive studies. But this requires money and to get that I need to prove to I am better or best among the peer group and I can use the money effectively. Thus, one of the most important tasks of my career is to write and publish manuscripts. After all manuscripts provide the proof that I can do my job and achieve the goals that I have set for in my field. With more publications, I will be able to pursue additional research grants to support my scientific ambition. It takes money to do science, and it takes good (published) science to get money.

The criteria required to keep my job, get promoted, and receive tenure will always be on my agenda. Although this is pretty obvious, it is easy to get caught up in all the academic service work, supporting others' research, guiding students, and lose site of this goal and what it takes to achieve it.
It all comes down to 2 important things: (1) importance of the task and (2) time-sensitivity. I strongly believe that the key to time management is to prioritize.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize! Do all the important stuff first, right? No this is not my new year resolution! Strangely, this sounds easy enough. But what about all those deadlines for unimportant stuff? So, I start breaking down these tasks:
Is It Urgent? Is It Vital? The answers can be
  1. Yes and Yes
  2. Not that much and Yes
  3. Yes and Not that much
  4. No and No

Tasks with an "urgent" designation are those that have deadlines. The "vital" designation is for items that are important to my career or personal life or long term goals. Some of the items I think fall into this category are meeting grant proposal deadlines, preparing my promotion or tenure review dossier, and so on. The second category are something which do not have immediate deadlines. For example, writing manuscripts. Sometimes they do have deadlines. So, Category 2 items enter category 1 as the due date approaches. Other examples are preparing slides for upcoming lectures or presentation or journal club. All these move from a category 2 to a category 1 task as the due date approaches. The third category items are those "voluntary" activities or attending those meetings (from which nothing comes out). Accomplishing these are no way related to my success. However, it is important that there are some "duties" expected of me and although not right sometimes I am assessed (evaluated) based on whether I attended these soporific meetings are not. The last category represent everything that are not even remotely related to my success. For e.g. organizing some non-academic/scholastic departmental event like a organizing a lunch or a visitors itinerary or a colleagues baby shower! The bottom line is I should be spending as much of my time as possible on vital tasks and should not let all other matters eat up my day.

That reminds me, may be I shouldn't spend this much time blogging :) So, that's it for today. More later....