Reading and writing habits

I think it was about time to start writing again. For my website that is. I’ve been keeping myself busy with writing postdoc applications and preparing my teaching schedule for the coming semester which includes one half of a single course. This means my teaching workload will be a mere quarter of last semester‘s. (Yay!). More time for science!

But I have been reading and writing a bunch (in regards to the aforementioned postdoc applications) which I consider to be a good and healthy practice since I am trying to secure my future in the academic research sector. Not the easiest of career choices.

At the moment I have plenty of stuff to write about as The Cosmic Chemist; everything from lasers to cosmic acids.

What I really wanted to do for now, though, is share with you my reading schedule. Yes, reading schedule. Let me explain.

A few years ago I realized I was piling up books I was dying to read but my reading habits were, well, non-existent and rather unbalanced or patchy. I would read diligently for a period and then completely lose focus and not read at all for a while. I wanted to get back on track but realized that I needed to do so in a more efficient manner. Thus, I reshaped my reading schedule, so that every day, I would start my day by reading for half an hour. That’s it. Just make time in the morning for myself to read for a little while. That way, I’d read every day to nurture that unquenched thirst for the books I’d been piling up. (I am a frequent Amazon customer with a penchant for hoarding books.)

At this time (around 2012-2013) I was starting my PhD so most of the reading material was in some way scientific; both papers and large lexicons on spectroscopy. This was also the time when I was really getting into popular science books, e.g. Carl Sagan, Michio Kaku, bibliographies of famous scientists, etc. I realized that half an hour was not enough for me in the morning so I upgraded my reading schedule to two times thirty minutes. That way I could ready popular science for half an hour and then thick heavy set school books for a half an hour.

On a tangent, I actually set my timer to 31 minutes for each session as I allot an extra minute for glossaries. English isn’t my first language (though it’s still quite proficient, I assure you) and I continually want to extend my vocabulary, so I keep with me a small notebook for words I’m unfamiliar with and I want to add to my regular diction. After an hour of reading in the morning I look through the words I’ve glossed and add them to a magisterial Excel spread sheet I’ve organized over all the glossed words amassed over the past three years.

Anyway, once I finished my PhD I had made myself the promise I would get back to reading fiction again and there have been some big ones I still haven’t read. The first works of fiction I would read would be the Harry Potter books. Then The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Then Game of Thrones. Then the complete works by Douglas Adams and… something. I haven’t decided what should follow Adams.

My morning reading schedule thus consists of 30 minutes of fiction and 30 minutes of popular science. (Don’t get me wrong, I still read scientific papers, but I do so at work, as it still constitutes as work.)

I finished the Harry Potter books last November. The Hobbit followed in December and now I’m halfway through The Fellowship of the Ring.

What writing is concerned, I have copious amount of material to cover. I have three book reviews pending (The Quantum Enigma, Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World, and Mathematical Curiosities: A Treasure Trove of Unexpected Entertainments). I have planned sci-fi blogs on the aliens from the Alien franchise, the “science” of Flash. And as an added bonus, I plan on writing about lasers and high-tech spectroscopic methods I worked on during my PhD as well as some astrochemistry related material. But more on that later.

I usually write my science blogs on Sundays though I do tend to research the blogs on and off during the week or during evenings, depending on my schedule. I like to assign a particular day to writing because… I pretty much have to. I’m a creature of habit, and I enjoy habit. It keeps me productive which releases dopamine molecules in my brain. Or in other words, it makes me happy.

The inspiration for my writing schedule actually came from reading some of Ryan Holiday’s work. He’s one of the most interesting people to follow on Facebook because he is just brimming with useful advice on reading, writing, life stratagems, and… stoicism. I may end up writing about stoicism in the future once my ideas for everything else science related dries up.

Even though my reading schedule is pretty solid at the moment, I’m still looking for ways to enhancing and upgrading my reading habits. I’ve tried to squeeze in 20-25 minutes of reading during my lunch break and I do confess that many of my evenings are spent aimlessly on social media. My aim for next week is to read for something like 20 minutes every lunchbreak and then 15-20 minutes before I go to bed.

Ready, set, go!

P.s. I’ve made a few adjustments to this page, most notably I’ve added all my scientific publications under ‘Research’. Feel free to browse if you’re interested.

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