PhD Problems: You Have a Compulsion About Getting Things Perfect

Business doesn’t have time for you to repeat the project until you’re satisfied.

John Skylar, PhD

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Academia is far from perfect, but it is a place that attracts, and enables, a large number of perfectionists. In the academic world, real deadlines are rare and often come with a long lead time or significant flexibility. This makes sense; research is unpredictable, and the culture has had to adapt around unexpected delays and perturbations.

There’s a side effect, however: there’s often an attitude in academia that research results or other work can always be made more perfect with just a little more time investment. While this is true in some cases, it also leads to students and postdocs spending years on outputs that reached “good enough” status long before.

Academia is far too permissive to this attitude — so much so that it is easy to forget that most professions do not allow employees to languish for months on projects that seem to be going nowhere, let alone for years. Yet, that’s the reality of academic life. Given that most businesses survive on productivity instead of…

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John Skylar, PhD

Virologist, author, damn fool. Also found at www.johnskylar.com and www.betterworlds.org. Opinions my own, impressions yours.