When your main goal as an academic is to learn about and solve the most important problems, publications and other activities are byproducts

Date created: 2022-06-23

The approach described below captures both The Hamming question and Richard Feynman’s strategy to Keep a list of important problems and test new ideas against them. I think it also directs your focus towards what is meaningful rather than the bean counting of h-index and citation counts that we sometimes fall into as academics.

This is also helpful when reading new articles because you are always in the mode of “solving” problems, A sustainable way to keep up with the research literature is to read with a goal in mind.

The key wasn’t really using Obsidian, it was in changing my mindset from ‘publish or perish’ to a sense of just wanting to learn and grapple with the ideas in my field that I find most interesting/pressing. I had to be able to trust that focusing almost exclusively on thinking and learning (as serviced by reading and writing), all the publications, grant applications, and other academic activities would be addressed as byproducts. In my mind, my identity as an academic is now to be a prolific reader, writer, thinker, and learner, and all the other stuff is just the fruit of these core practices.