Work on what you love

January 15, 2013

[Neuroscientist and open-science advocate Erin C. McKiernan invited readers of her blog to vote on which of four candidate projects she should work on next. Today she posted the results, and I couldn’t help but comment. This is what I said, lightly edited.]

You should work on what you want to.

Time spent on any project other than the one that’s burning in your hindbrain will feel painful, awkward and boring, and probably be unproductive. That’s true even if the project you’re working on is the one that your colleagues, or Internet voters, think sounds most interesting, or the one that would be most advantageous to your career.

Whereas when you work on what you love at that moment, you’ll enjoy it more, you’ll work harder, you’ll concentrate better, you’ll be more productive. And if you’re anything like me, by the time you’re done (or probably before) your passion will have have involuntarily switched back to one of the other projects, or a completely new one. So switch to that when it happens, and you can always be working on what you love.

(Exception: when a project is close to finished, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, put up with a few boring days or week, and shove it over the finishing line.)

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