Mastering time and becoming productive

Since my last supervisor meeting I’ve had a bunch of stuff on: I travelled OS for a conference, I’ve been teaching a lot, I had two major parties to organise, I’ve been conducting a minor research project, and my folks visited for a week. And I’ve just had the devil of all bad colds – so sick that I spent two days in bed, sleeping. So I’ve had to put my skates on to get prepared for my meeting with my supervisor in two weeks time. Fitting in my study around my life should not be the way to approach my PhD but it might be the best one for me. If I know I only have a few hours to squeeze in study, plus a deadline looming, I’m more inclined to set myself achievable goals.

I am a full time PhD student. Over the school holidays, which in Australia is early December through the end of January, I was not teaching. We had my step-children staying for three weeks, so I felt I could not work then. I know I should, but I tend to do little brainless things rather than big head-thinky stuff. Then, once they had gone, I was back into my study. I worked slowly and consistently but it was spectacularly unedifying without consistent supervisor meetings and support. I sent my supervisors two chapter drafts and they were pretty horrible. So, having great swathes of time for thinking and writing doesn’t seem to cut it for me.

Then February hit. The work was progressing as usual – badly, but my teaching load had recommenced. Not such a problem. Teaching for me is easy, especially the one-to-one experience. I love it, and I think I’m getting better at it. Rather, I was falling into a horrible hole with my PhD, depressed and directionless, and felt there was not much I could do to break the impasse. Finally, as mentioned in my last post, I saw my supervisor and things started to improve.

Now I am enjoying my study again. I have revisited one of my narrative drafts, which I have discovered is better than I realised. I have sliced 4000 words from it, I have started to make connections between accounts and I am even returning to the primary data for more detail. The chapter is still too long, but I think some of the minor repetitions can be culled.

Yesterday I worked for 6 hours on this chapter – more work done in a day than I had achieved for months. I realised then that I’m happy to work – but that it needs to be squeezed tight beside other activities. Such as doing my hair, which was yesterday’s pamper. So, when I awoke, I went to the computer straight from bed, and opened my PhD files. After returning from my hair appointment, I went straight back into my work. Three hours either side of a hair cut. Not bad work, and something I can certainly continue in future. It may only be three hours study on the days when I teach for eight, but it was a successful day for me. Perhaps a successful approach, too.

My supervisor recommended a course of action which included three main exercises – finding the “telling phrases” in each narrative, charting the research questions with the participants from each study, and revising my narratives with these in mind. I’m also trying to make connections between my survey findings, the narratives and my research questions. All this before I see my supervisor in 2 weeks. A lot to do between now and Friday, because I need to send my supervisor the draft a week in advance. This is challenging, but rewarding stuff.

So, today, on a Saturday, when I’ve had shopping and cooking and caring for our step-children to do, I’ve managed to fit in two hours of PhD work. I’m hopeful I can keep this up for the next few weeks at least. I read a blog by Patter – Pat Thomson, who writes  about their study space and the need for it to be separate, cut off from the home. My work space is also my teaching space, at the front of the house, and as our house is on a busy road, it is a noisy, intrusive, hot space at times. I prefer to write in our kitchen, at the back of the house: a lovely, friendly space away from the noise and heat. Today I even worked with my children and husband in the room. Finding space to write is not the problem, I suspect. It’s finding the space inside my head.

I feel that with an impending supervisor meeting and having some goals to achieve, that mastering time and becoming productive might not be so impossible after all.

*much, much later….it’s now 3.00am and I have been working solidly on one of my drafts since 10.30pm. So that’s 6 hours today, or is that yesterday? Time to manage my bed time, I think….

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