Research Day 1: Skimming the Longest Tomes

I’m starting by skimming the longer reports I’ve chosen for the quarter. I’m doing this to give myself a teaser of what to expect and estimate how long each report will take to read.

For the longer documents, I’m giving myself two weeks to read and annotate each of them. For the shorter documents, a week should suffice. I’m not typically reading these cover-to-cover as if they were novels. Rather, I’m familiarizing myself with useful information that I can come back to, and identifying more directions to pursue.

Here are the questions I’m asking myself while I’m skimming:

  • What is the document, in simple terms?
  • When is it from?
  • What type of language does it use – legalese, engineering-speak, or layman-friendly?
  • What am I looking for in this document?
  • How many (readable) pages is it, excluding appendices and references?
  • What cited resources do I want to add to my TBR (‘to be read’ as the Booktubers say)?

The links to all the reports are in the post I wrote defining the project.

UNEP Emissions Gap Report

What it is: An assessment of climate mitigations pledged, implemented, and the gap that needs to be covered to limit warming to 1.5 deg or 2 deg C.

When it’s from: October 2021.

What type of language it uses: Policy, economics, and science.

What I’m looking for: I want to know the main areas of potential improvement. I have questions like: what is needed in each sector? How much investment is there already? How can I (we) participate in these improvements, through our jobs, volunteer work, personal lives, communication, or lifestyle?

Number of readable pages: 63, excluding the references, since I don’t usually ‘read’ the references section. I just ‘refer’ to them.

Citation I’m adding to my TBR: September 2021 NDC Synthesis Report by UNFCCC.

Taking Stock 2021

What it is: An assessment of what US greenhouse gas emission trends are expected to look like, based on current federal and state policy made by a think tank called the Rhodium Group.

When it’s from: July 2021.

Type of language used: Mostly economics-related, but it seems pretty layman-friendly. (Which is good. I don’t know much economics yet.)

What I’m looking for: What is driving emissions in each sector? (And what can I and we do about it?)

Ooh. The section ‘Drilling Deeper: Key trends by sector’ – that’s what I want to know.

Number of readable pages (main): 15, excluding the Technical Appendix starts on page 15. I may refer to the Technical Appendix if I have questions, but I won’t read it in the traditional sense.

2021 Aviation Climate Action Plan

What it is: A policy framework for the aviation sector to become more sustainable, released by the Biden Administration.

When it’s from: November 2021.

Types of language used: Engineering, economics, policy.

What I’m looking for: Answers to questions like:

  • What are the key enabling technologies for sustainable aviation?
  • What can we do to influence this?

Number of readable pages: 35, excluding the glossary.

Coming up

So that’s my skim of the biggest reports on my list! Next, I’ll skim the smaller links. Then I’ll be ready to get into the first big report in detail.

A Belated Multi-Project Update – Fantastical Research Quest

What projects am I working on in February 2022?

Sustainability Research

I’ve been learning about sustainability since about 2018, and gradually picking up speed. In the term ‘sustainability’ I include related topics like climate change, environmentalism, and green technology.

Combined, they are a vast web of topics and it’s been difficult to know where to start. Last year, I took a bunch of climate-related online courses (the first three were free or take optional donations):

… and that gave me a much better overall grasp of what I needed to learn in the first place. I’d recommend them all, but the first one especially, if you’re new to the subject. (I have no affiliation to any company or brand linked in this post.)

This quarter (January-March 2022) is the first time I’ve set myself a clearly-defined research project in this area, with a reading list and a deadline. I’m hoping that will help me make more regular progress.

I haven’t been doing a great job of documenting my progress thus far, and I want that to change. I’ve been collecting all my research updates here.  I’m also doing a revamp on this website – I want to turn it into more of a comprehensive resource wiki, where you can look up any topic or question about sustainability that I’ve ever researched.

My YA Fantasy Novel

I started the novel back in 2020, when an idea for a protagonist, setting, and magic system hit me all at once out of nowhere. I picked it up again in December 2021 after a lull where I was still figuring out my writing process. I post novel updates here.

I haven’t shared any details about the novel yet, and I’d like to start breaking the cone of silence this quarter.


Lastly, my painting isn’t quite a project the way I define it (something with goals and parameters, and occasionally a deadline). Painting is more of a practice I do to restore myself and enjoy my surroundings. However, I am listing my painting portfolio as a project that I update here.

* * *

So those are my projects for the quarter, and it’s a far more structured list than usual. I intend to document the journey here on the blog.

Below, I’ll comment on some questions you may have (or rather, that I ask myself constantly).

Why am I doing so many different things at once?

While working on fiction, nonfiction, and art at once goes against the conventional wisdom that you must pick ONE project for a period of your life, after a bit of experimentation, I’ve found that this is what works for me. I’ve done the thing where I’d be ‘just’ one thing for three months or a year or a season. It turns out to make me miserable, sort of like if you decided to only eat one food group for a whole year.

I’m not suggesting that this is ‘the’ correct way to do it, but it is ‘a’ correct way for me. I’m what they call a ‘multipotentialite’ – also referred to by various terms: Renaissance (wo)man, polymath, Scanner. They have different connotations some times (the first two especially are commonly applied to famous dead people) but I use them to mean ‘someone seriously pursuing multiple interests’.

Any notion of ‘ONE project at a time’ does NOT help me, but rather, one project per area of life.

What novel draft am I on?

Knowing how I like to work has been a huge improvement and an ever-evolving process of discovery. On the fiction front, an insight that changed how I approach writing (and all projects) was Ellen Brock’s categorization of writer styles.

You may have heard of ‘plotters’ and ‘pantsers’ – Ellen expands this categorization to better capture the variety and specificity of writing styles. Per her system, I identify most as a ‘methodological pantser’ – one of the most chaotic styles. We use a lot of systems and methodology, but we jump around from one to another as inspiration dictates.

Learning this has shown me that rather than try to pre-decide what aspect of a novel (or other project) I’ll work on, I need to instead capture ideas as they come, in the order they come in, and then organize them into a useful form. Imposing a small amount of structure on what I pursue is beneficial, but just enough. 

All this to say, I’m not sure what draft I’m on because there isn’t a clear demarcation between drafts. I spent most of December 2021 on worldbuilding. Now, in February, I’m drafting in earnest. If pressed, I’d tentatively say I’m on the 2nd draft.

How do I keep track of and break down these projects?

I’m essentially following Sarra Cannon’s HB90 method, with a few tweaks. I use Notion to track most of my project tasks in Kanban boards. I also have a ton of notebooks. I like to use notebooks for coming up with ideas and writing stories. I prefer to do most of my project planning and tracking in digital form.

I’ll expand on my process of planning and tracking for the research and novel projects by and by. I don’t intend that to be a teaching resource or tutorial – I’ll link the ones I’m learning from, but I’m not an expert at it – but rather just another aspect of the research quest to document.

My Sustainability Research Lineup For Q1

I’m told it’s 2022 already (what! it’s FEBRUARY?), and I’m planning a major push to catch up on my climate change education.

Though I’ve been interested in environmental matters since childhood, I only started trying to stay informed about the climate space recently. I want to build a strong foundation from scratch and learn all the relevant concepts, news developments, and terminology.

Words and phrases like Paris Agreement, Green New Deal, and COP26 go by in the headlines, I do my best to keep up with the developments, but I also like to go deeper after the fact. Reading the original agreements and reports can be fun because:

A] It makes me feel cool.

B] I’m looking for opportunities to get involved, and I want to know what initiatives are likely to come down the pike.

C] I want the complete picture, not just the parts that get the most circulation.

Here is where I’m collecting the past research I’ve done related to climate change and sustainability.

I have a huge stack of reports I want to get through, all downloaded onto my tablet and ready to mark up, and newer reports keep coming out as soon as I’m about to catch up! So the next couple of months are going to be a big push.

How I’m Accelerating my Research Process

The main improvement I’m making is to plan out my research a bit more.

First I selected the documents I’d like to read.

  1. The UNEP Gap report, which was mentioned in a lot of the COP26 coverage I read. (If you are wondering what COP26 is, it was a UN meeting regarding climate change that occurred in November 2021. I wrote about it here.) It outlines how far short we are currently falling in meeting our climate targets.
  2. The initiatives that came out of COP26.
  3. The Taking Stock 2021 report, which assesses the outlook for US greenhouse gas emissions each year.
  4. An HBR article about supply chain transparency
  5. The 2015 Paris Agreement, which I read once, but haven’t written much about yet.
  6. The Green New Deal, a bill introduced by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 – mostly as a history lesson, since it was not adopted.
  7. The US 2021 Aviation Climate Action Plan. Another document that came out of COP26.

I selected these because:

  • I want a big picture understanding of what precisely needs to be done. A part of that is understanding the current status.
  • I’m trying to give myself a crash course in the history of climate change policy. What did I miss?
  • I’m looking for tech roadmaps that speak to a coherent strategy on what needs to be developed. Then I (or you) can work on some of enabling initiatives and know we are moving the needle. The aviation action plan is the first sector-wide action plan I’ve seen. I hope to find similar plans for every sector.

As you can probably tell, I like to have a big picture understanding of things and start with an overview so I have all the information I need to make decisions. This preference also affects how I’m planning out this research project. 

The steps I’m going through are:

  • Skimming all the reports and summarizing their purpose. Also estimating how long each will take to read
  • Prioritizing the reports and scheduling out 25-minute sessions to read them.
  • Sharing the research dispatches on individual documents as I go. Some documents may need multiple summaries.

I’m not a naturally organized person, but I have been planning out my projects in Kanban boards out of necessity. My previous approach to research was to jump from obsession to obsession. So this new approach is an experiment.

More updates to come, and if you’re catching up on your climate change education too, I invite you to follow along!