Category: Research

Time flies

I’m sorry it’s taken so long to update this blog.  A lot has happened, so in best/worst tradition a numbered list may be of use.

  1. I did indeed receive confirmation that I had passed my part one successfully, and have now progressed onto part two of the course.  I have already written 25k words of PhD quality work, so the thesis I will work on in the next couple of years only has to be 50k words.  I swing between this being an impossible target, and wondering how I’m going to fit in all I have to say in only 50k words.
  2. We had to put our supervisor preferences in by the end of January.  Clearly there was some issue with the process this year, as it didn’t go as smoothly as we expected, but around mid February we were allocated.  I got my second (of three choices) for supervisor, but early signs are that we are well matched.  We’ve had phone calls, Skype chats and I’m going up to meet him at the end of this month, which is also the kickstart week for my literature review.
  3. Whilst all this was going on I have been working on my confirmation document.  This in other words is the ‘proposal’, what I’m going to do, how I”m going to do it etc – consider it as this expanded to 5k words, modified, revamped, cut, pasted, and agonised over.  It is the roadmap for the next two years… and anyone who knows what my sense of direction is like will appreciate the importance of a roadmap.

Whilst all this has been going on I’ve written a paper for a journal focused on my ‘day job’, reworked another paper that will be published soon here, as well as my external examining duties for two different universities, external assessor for a third, my day job as a lecturer, and my Open University tuition too.  It’s no surprise therefore that I’ve been a little frazzled recently, and haven’t updated this blog.  The only reason I’ve managed to find time to do this is that I’m at an Open University conference this weekend, and so have been able to clear the decks.

This aside, I am enjoying working on my PhD, and a recent look back at some of the ‘how to’ books that I bought when I first embarked on this journey remind me why I am doing this in the first place.  The juggling of all the above wouldn’t be possible without the support of friends and family, the infinite patience of those closest to me, and those who I talk to on Twitter and Facebook, whom I may never meet in person, but are always there when staring at my own words on a screen gets too much, and I need a distraction.

Productive Procrastination

Procrastination is the devil of the researcher.  The inability to find the energy to read an article sensibly, put finger to keyboard, or put in the actual thinking time that’s needed to get through a PhD or other piece of research is well-known and well documented.

I know my own procrastination points, these include the perception that I can only study when sealed in my own tower at the top of my home, that I must have music of a particular type to listen to (in a playlist on iTunes), with plenty of post-it notes and highlighters around.  The biggest procrastination that I have to overcome though is the idea that my PhD can only be completed in day-long, or half-day blocks of work.  In reality the number of days or full evenings I can allocate to it in the coming year is constrained by other things, not least of which is my ‘day job’, and also trying to keep some sort of work-study-social life balance.

It was whilst reading my latest book purchase as part of my next (final) part of my PhD that I came across ‘twenty forms of procrastination’.  I was going to list them below, but to be honest they vary in quality from the valid (I just can’t get started) to the trivial (The oven needs cleaning).

Today I have been productive, reading the two chapters that I needed to before tomorrow, making notes which even make some sort of sense, and also reflecting on what I will post (we have three weeks of online discussion before we are cast adrift and left to our own devices).  But I have also managed to be productively procrastinating too, in that I’ve written yet another one-pager summary (one page summaries are easy, it’s turning the one page summary into the three hundred page thesis thats the problem), and in the process have also courted another potential supervisor (we have to put down a list of whom we would like to supervise us, a bit like speed dating, but without the sweaty palms).  I’ve placed an edited version of the summary on this blog, this will definitely be a work in progress and there are some major gaps at the moment, but it is a useful document for anyone who wonders what I’m spending the next couple of years working on.

Of course, the ultimate procrastination exercise is writing a blog entry about procrastination, and you’d never catch me doing that.