Past Emmeline’s Epic Mental Manipulation

Today I finished the first stage of collating my research, which involved finding all the notes and transcripts and putting them in a folder together, and then saving that folder in three different places [1].

When I was conducting the research, I was hopelessly disorganised, saving files to two different computers and my external hard-drive, no spreadsheet of interviews or anything like that. Every time I think back to this iteration of Past Emmeline, I just see her sweltering, swatting mozzies and fighting cockroaches. “I’ve got a lot on my plate,” she says, “Future Emmeline will deal with it.” Well, Future Emmeline is here, and she’s pissed.

Why did I do that? I successfully convinced myself that it would be easier to just get it all together when I was home. I don’t know how I managed that, since I had no evidence in favour of the argument. It was high-order mental manipulation with the ultimate goal of procrastinating something difficult.

I honestly thought it would be fine. I certainly didn’t predict that I would lose two important files, but this is exactly what happened.

For some interviews, I recorded and transcribed them, but as my time went on I worked out that participants were much more comfortable if I just took notes rather than recording. So I would take notes by hand and then type them up straight away.

When I finally started collecting everything together and spread-sheeting it [2], I found two consent forms, but no interviews to go with them. I desperately searched for the files but nothing. Next step: unearthing the notebooks in which I originally wrote the notes. One of them I thought was still at my parents’ house. Cue a frustrating phone conversation with my endlessly obliging and patient father. He searched my bookshelves, going above and beyond the call of duty, up to and including taking photos of said bookshelf and texting them to me. All this to find a notebook that was in my bedroom in Canberra the whole time.

So this morning, after two hours of procrastination, I typed up the notes from the two interviews. I think the reason I procrastinated so much on this task – I’m not normally THAT bad [3] – is because it seemed like such a futile activity, that could have been so easily avoided had I only been more organised. Really though, I was lucky to find the original notebooks. Those interviews could have been lost forever.

I spent the whole search being pretty angry with myself. “I should have known better,” I kept telling myself. It wasn’t until after I typed up the notes that I started to forgive myself. I still worry that there is a lack of authenticity in typing them up so long after the interviews. But it’s better to have something than nothing. And I can’t stay mad at myself, it’s too damaging to my sense of self.

My Asperger’s is at the heart of this shemozzle. I lack executive function. A lot of people think I am organised, and usually I am. But I am not an organised person – it doesn’t come naturally to me. I have systems in place and I stick to them because they work. But most of the time I wasn’t the designer of the system. Mum is the usual suspect for setting them up for me.

No-one set up a system for me to organise my research at the time, so I didn’t really have one, and data fell through the gaps. Maybe I should have known better, but at the same time, it’s understandable. Next time I will spot the insidious long-term procrastination technique. I’ll ask for help setting up a system.

But next time is now. Even before the Lost Files Drama, I have been haunted by the phrase “Data Management.” I have two computers currently in use, and two computers that I don’t use anymore, but from which I still access files. I want to know how I can use my files without transferring all the time. I want a system for backing up my work. I don’t know how to get there.

I recently watched an episode of Sex and the City where Carrie’s computer crashes and she loses everything. It was terrifying. She complains to Miranda, who says, “Well, did you back up?” and Carrie replies, “What is this ‘backing-up’? No-one has ever used those words to me until now!”

I guess people’s data management/backing-up systems are not scintillating dinner-party conversation. Maybe in more computer-nerdy circles people talk about it more? I don’t know. But I feel like for the average computer-user, discussing data management is about as interesting as swapping notes on morning routines. You just do it. You don’t talk about it.

Well, I’m talking about it. This blog post has been a mini therapy session for me, so thanks for listening. I think I’ve forgiven myself now. Maybe the Asperger’s is to blame, but this kind of thing happens to everyone. No-one would suspect Carrie Bradshaw of having Asperger’s, and it happened to her.

Anyone know a good data management consultant?

 

 

1. To clarify, by this I mean three different computer places, all of which occupy the same square metre of physical space.

2. Except I’m kind of scared of excel, so I’m using a table in Word for the moment. I will graduate to excel-using in a few days and transfer the information across. But baby steps.

3. At small-scale procrastination, I mean. Large-scale self-manipulative procrastination I am apparently a pro at.

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2 thoughts on “Past Emmeline’s Epic Mental Manipulation

  1. Very common scenario all round I would say (from things I have heard about other people’s research travails and the ‘help’ cries I frequently get about computers). The transfer from Word to Excel should be easy – you can copy and paste and afterwards there are some pretty big advatages. Loved reading your blog – learning to forgive ourselves is so very important – well done.

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