New insights into job downgrading…the blessing of having time to learn new things

Have you ever felt that there is never time to learn new things that could make your work better…but that are not extremely urgent? That it is faster to do things “the old way” since learning the “new way” will take too much time? Do you tell yourself “I will do it in summer when I have more time”….

Well, that happened waaaaay too often in my normal job.

Only that when I have holidays or weekends the very last thing that I want to do is something not even remotely related to work. I need to disconnect. Not re-connect.

So now that I am volunteering, I realize that I have finally time to devote time to learn new things: new tools and new courses. But I also have time to read papers just for fun or curiosity and not because they are related to a paper that I am writing or an application I am putting together.

And this is giving me a lot of joy and energy. (Thanks S. for helping me realize that!).

So, what is all this about?

The joy of reading (papers) just for fun or curiosity

Well, one of the papers that I have read these days is about the tatataraaaaa

“impact of riparian buffer zones on water quality”

What? you might think. Riparian what?

While it sounds so complicated, it is actually not. It is about assessing how many meters of forest one needs to maintain around a river to ensure the water quality, by looking at both the length and the width of the forest patch (aka the buffer zone). And it was actually quite interesting.

I learned that in Costa Rica it is forbidden to cut trees that are within 15 meters of width from a river or a running water source. And that while increasing that width did not have any apparent effect of the water quality, increasing the length did.

This knowledge came (unexpectedly) handy when we saw that our neighbors were actually cutting trees inside the buffer zone of the little stream that serves as the border for all the plots here. So, we went to ask them -very carefully and nicely- if they knew about this law and why it was important for the water. The result: they stopped cutting trees so close to the stream (which is by the way, the corridor that the monkeys use).

The joy of having time to learn new tools

In my current volunteer work, we had planned to do face-to-face interviews but due to the Corona, that went out the door. Instead, we needed to do the survey online. While I am familiar with online survey tools but these time I had some extra challenges:

  1. It needed to be very easy to use for the recipient since many of the fishermen cannot read or write.
  2. It needed to record the responses regularly, since the internet connection here is not so reliable, particularly mobile internet.
  3. It needed to be for free or quite cheap since it is for an NGO

So, I have been learning to use Google forms, SoGoSurvey, and Surveymonkey. At the end and after some frustrations with an unsaved response from a fisherman, we ended up migrating to Surveymonkey. I have learned quite a lot about Migrating surveys, Using gliding scales and other visual tools to answer questions, and being creative sending surveys to mobiles, since this is the only way to contact most of the fishermen.

All in all, transferable skills for conducting surveys in developing countries.

And guess what? It has been FUN!

My next step? Finish an IUCN course on the management of protected areas.

And continue getting sparks of joy for having the time to learn new things.

Oh my, I LOVE job downgrading!


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