regression toward the mean – 89

PhD Life

I have come to the end of my surge in productivity and motivation. I find that I have cycles of motivation, where I am incredibly productive for around two months, and slowly this degrades into my least productive – which is where I am now.

This is the concept of ‘regression toward the mean’. For those that have never come across this principle before, the basic idea is that overall your performance is average. In my case, I have been performing above average for the last few months with respect to productivity, it is no surprise that now I am performing below average – overall, I am performing averagely. Here is a nice example if you want to read more. If you’re a sports fan, it is similar to how one week your team performs brilliantly and the next poorly. Or you can write thousands of words one day and a couple hundred the next. 

If you don’t recognise that this can happen, then I expect that you will be extremely disappointed in yourself when it does happen. I was.

This type of work that I have been doing this week is part of the reason as to why I feel my productivity has dropped. I have been a logistics manager; it would seem. I have been sending emails and having phone calls with many different people having very similar conversations.

The situation is this. I am partly funded by a premium retailer here in the UK, so I get all my samples via them. At the start of my studentship, the employees at the retailer were organising the delivery of samples for me. However, life happened. On the first day, I went to collect the samples, the person who was organising them was off sick, so they asked one of their interns to help me.

The original person then went on maternity leave, and the intern became my permanent contact.

The process is now this. I ring the people who produce the products – the farmers. I get them to send my samples to the retailer, where I then go and collect them. Why don’t I get them delivered from the farmer? Well, they say it is too expensive. Fair enough.

Up until this week, this system has been working relatively ok, considering how convoluted it is. But this week, my samples went missing. Admittedly, there was always the potential for this to happen. When you’re dealing with millions of products each day, you don’t tend to care about a few that are destined for a third party (me).

So, I have been calling and emailing anyone and everyone to try and find these samples. I failed. What has happened is that my address book has doubled in size. For networking, this has been great! However, for furthering research, it has been a stall.

This is by far the most hated part of what I do, although I am sure most people would probably feel the same way. Does anyone like organising the thing more than the thing?

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

6 thoughts on “regression toward the mean – 89”

  1. RTM is easily overlooked; you are smart to catch it. Other explanations exist, also. Many people miss that biological cycles exist, ranging from the 90 minute BRAC (basic rest activity cycle) to much larger ones. And, a variety of studies indicate “fractal” patterns in our lives.

    In James Gleick’s classic “Chaos: Making of a New Science” he mentioned old studies by AT&T of “line noise.” Line noise cannot be eliminated, but, curiously, has a fractal pattern. Maybe the “noise” in your productivity does, also.

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  2. I am so grateful to have a “name” for this same cycle I experience! Some days I can be busy and active and accomplish so many things, and other days just the thought of doing them tires me out. As for being organized, I’ve given myself permission to be okay with being well-organized and have given up the grind for being ultimately organized.

    Meanwhile, I hope the situationswith the missing samples gets resolved!

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  3. I call this cycle the up and downs of life. I’m pretty sure it is biological. No one can be up all the time. I most recently hit the wall in regards to achieving a level of exercise, 5000 paces a day walking. I notice too that though I’m out of my lethargy now it is useless thinking I can right away jump back onto the 5k level. It has to be worked up to. I guess its that wave

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