Invoices, badgers and elephants – I am back in the office

This was how I felt this morning. Photo from Flickr user generalising under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

This was how I felt this morning. Photo from Flickr user generalising under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.

By Jonas Waldenström

Vacations are lovely, but the return to the office not quite so. It is nice to see all colleagues again and to chat about ideas and research. Have a coffee. Even fiddle with some manuscripts. But, academic life has not been put on hold in your absence, email by email your inbox has been filled with stuff that now craves for your attention.

During my holiday – a long Swedish 5 week summer holiday – I have got emails a plenty. Many of them, of course, the usual academic spam with ‘honorable speaker invitations’ and ‘esteemed professor, please publish with us’. This rubbish seems to escalate, as I get at least two such invitations per day – often from the so called predatory journals that just want a piece of my grant pie. (I have saved them for the last year, and will write a post about at some time)

There is also a certain category of emails, the invoices. Flash, flash, flash they come, first in yellow (meaning ‘not so urgent’) and then more intensely colored in red (meaning ‘deal with them now, or else…’). Oh joy!

Rembrandt's version of an elephant, from 1637 or so.

Rembrandt’s version of an elephant, from 1637 or so.

So what to do? Most of us just dig through the pile until it is gone. As the proverb goes: How to eat an elephant? Take one bite at the time.

But there are other ways.

A former professor at our department had his own administration technique. He simply put all stuff in a pile (this was when most things were still on paper, and not in digital format), pulled out his special ruler from the drawer and measured the height. If it were below 19.2 cm he let it rest, if it was above he would deal with it all. Quite genius and old school. I like it!

Another professor often marks all unread emails and simply press the ‘delete’-button. Done. A sort of momentary catharsis moment – from too much to do, to nothing. A clean sheet. Admittedly, this strategy has the occasional downside when an important email vanishes, but for the most part the really important stuff seems to be sent again.

But overall, it is good to be back. Tomorrow I will be full of energy, I promise. An alive and kicking badger. Time to submit those manuscripts. And write more frequently on this blog.

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