The vacation boundaries and the “Workshop Blindness”

As the holidays get closer the chance to go back home (or just stay) and escape for a few weeks from the laboratory becomes a relief for the mind. In my case returning home for Christmas means hot chocolate, delicious tamales and other gastronomic wonders from my country. It doesn´t matter if you are staying in Montreal or going to the other side of the world, the important thing is to define clear boundaries in your mind about what it means going on vacation. For some of us it is quite normal to be dining with your aunts and at the same time be thinking about those x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy results or your microscope images. It is ok to let your mind go back to the laboratory once in a while, but as long as you do not close that door your research could be severely affected. Why am I saying this? Well, because it´s not only a matter of returning well-rested to the University but also about changing your focus. Sometimes we spend so much time with our results and hypothesis that our vision starts to narrow and we are prone to omit new details. This is something called “workshop blindness” and it is often related to the lack of attention to negative aspects in an industrial process. However, talking about the work of a graduate student, this can be affecting not only ourselves but also our supervisors. Due to the level of specialization of each one of our areas, it would be difficult to find someone to tell us which kind of details we are missing, as this would be the solution in a factory (external consultants). Then, in my humble opinion, the best solution could be to disconnect ourselves completely from our research during vacation time. But not only skip the work, I mean to fill our minds with different information, like reading a new novel, travel to new places or even play video games. After that maybe it would be difficult to reconnect everything, but eventually, the rewiring will let us find new pieces of that puzzle we call thesis.

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