Most of us academics have deep and meaningful experience in matters of commitment. I mean heck, doing a Ph.D. is arguably commitment of the highest order. Then there's getting tenure (did that, thank the gods and the universe and all good things). I also separated from a repeatedly unfaithful husband (while I was still untenured). Yup, I get commitment. So what about this meme, then?
New research projects are just so darn tempting. Maybe it's a colleague's proposal to join a project or a team. For me, it's reading the news and seeing a pressing issue of some wild importance and becoming convinced that the research I've been doing for the last 10 years is meaningless in relation to this fleeting news story. Alas. Everyone's time will come.
Academics are clever folk. We get bored easily. In my case, once I draft out a paper, I feel like I'm "done" with it. My mind is purged, I've said what I want to say, and I'm finished. Sometimes I even feel this way after I collect data. I've got it, I know what it means, and okay, done. Hey, what? Now I've gotta write this stuff up? Revisions? Save me. I've talked to my aca-twitter pal @johncarter about this, and he has assured me that I'm a normal academic (ish).
One of the best pieces of advice that a colleague gave me years ago was to make a list of my research projects, and finish the one I'm closest to finishing. How simple. Yet how difficult. Because the vast landscape of summer is ahead, and if i just start on this new one, I'll have something exciting going on this fall! I have to remind myself to park that new idea(s) and keep pushing on the one that's nearly out the door.
Of course, multiple research projects are a necessity. No academic can work on one paper, finish it, and then start anew with the next. Still, managing multiple research projects isn't easy. It's especially not easy if you don't have a lab manager or a lab full of grad students who are plugging away at your future publications (I have neither such blessing/curse). I make a list of my research projects and then work on the one I'm closest to finishing. I can certainly allocate time to additional data collection and projects in the works. However, my main focus is to follow the sage words of Van Halen and finish what ya started.
I've got my list of papers, list of deadlines, list of tasks, and list of lists. In my case, I've got one more paper to draft out before I park myself on a Cape Cod beach. Sure, I'd like to have collected the data for a new project. And I will. However, the fireworks on the Fourth of July will be all the more enjoyable because I know that my paper is under review while I've got salt in my hair and I'm sipping a Cape Cod beer.