One of the great and horrifying things about graduate studies is that you focus… a lot. Gone are “core” requirements for areas largely (or completely) unrelated to your major. You begin to deal with only the most in-depth study of things specifically segmented in your area of study. This focus is a good thing but it also can lead to stagnation. One could be so focused as to get bored. I have a short amount of time before taking my qualifying exams. These exams (at least the first part) are over two distinct (yet focused) areas of study. One has a lot of reading and the other a lot less. I’ve been reading over one subject (the one with lots of reading) since the beginning of summer. Today I stopped reading that exclusively and spent one glorious day reading the subject. It has been a pleasure for my brain. A breath of fresh air. Like preparing a cup of tea.
Just like we need varoius types of cereals, flavors of preserves, colors of crayons and operating systems (and wallpapers) we need to have some variety in our studies. I’m not saying that a PhD (and the subsequent focus) is a bad thing but I am saying that we do need change sometimes. So the advice goes like this: if you’re sick of working on that English paper… go do your math homework. No, you shouldn’t switch every single minute (or after every math problem — unless they’re especially long). You know when your brain is feeling tired. Take a break. If you’re too busy to outright break then switch subjects. (I often have to do this when I get to the bottom of a page I’ve read and realize that I have no idea what I just read on that very page). So go ahead: change subject every once in a while. I feel quite refreshed. Ah!