This is my diary – no wonder I don’t study.

Thought this would be a good way to see just precisely what I do to waste time when I should be working on the PhD. Here’s a picture of my week:

Picture 1

So, there’s a lovely swathe of free time on Friday, right? Yes! I can do PhD work then. All my other time is literally 1-2-1 time with singing clients until quite late at night. My breaks are infrequent and my timetable is like this more than 28 weeks of the year, and this one doesn’t include my tutoring work. Plus I take audition workshops and panels in the holiday weeks.

Normally, too, I teach from 8.30am – 2.30pm on Tuesdays as well. So, time to do housework anyone? Nup. Time to take the dog for a walk? You see I’ve squeezed in a moment or two for that. Dinner? Stopped cooking. Breakfast? Yes, yes I can do that. And I was wondering why I have no time for PhD land. Or food shopping.

Now, you would think I have plenty of time during school holidays and summer to write, and so I do, but only during summer break. Winter is too busy with other work now. So let’s see where summer break gets me. November my uni teaching ceases. There may be marking to do – say, about 1 week’s worth. There are several catch-up lessons to plan – let’s say about 1 week’s worth. My private practice is still going until December. That means I have about 2 weeks in November where my teaching only reaches around 15 hours per week. So I legitimately have 50+ hours to study in November.

Then December hits. All bets are off. It’s holiday time and Xmas, and December is a wasted month – I’ve written about his before. So, January, right? Yay! January! One whole lovely month for study, yay! Let’s see if that happens this year – it should because I want to get the blasted thing finished, but time – well, it gets away from me.

Many kind people have suggested I get up super early and write for 2 hours in the morning. While I like this idea I am simply not a morning person. Although I reckon I could fit in an hour of reading then. So I might try this next week and see where it gets me. Because mapping out my day sure isn’t working. Giving myself small step goals isn’t working. I’m not sure what IS working. Perhaps looking at my ‘to-do’ scroll above my desk is helping. Well, yes it is. So off I go now, to try and do “Topic 1: Cultural Psychology”.


Bwahaha I am so funny!

Apologies to anyone who read my last post and thought I was serious about my PhD study plans on Wednesday and Friday.

I was yust yoking, folks. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself as I failed (yet again) to do any meaningful work on my literature review. Not from lack of trying, however. I DID manage to create a very pretty scroll outlining my topics:


Of course, as I was determining what was known and not known I realised there was plenty I still didn’t know about my research, never mind what the rest of the world doesn’t know about the work I am researching.

Worth doing the research to support my topic review? Hell, yes. Do I want to do the research? Hell, no. Am I lazy? No. Bored? A little. Does this part of the PhD feel rather like the homework I failed time and again to do when I was in secondary school? Why, yes, yes it does. Do I need a kick up the bum? Yes, yes I very much do. Am I procrastinating again? Yes, it looks like I am.

My last post promised to be assertive on time management and planning. This I clearly failed to achieve. But I will try, try and try again to plan this thing and do this thing. Because I am SICK TO DEATH OF THIS THING. So, this is what really happened on Wednesday:

10.10 arrive home from the gym, sweaty and hot. Put a load of washing on.

10.15 get out my Cultural Psychology books and open Michael Cole’s seminal 1996 publication “A Once and Future Discipline” (Belknap Press of Harvard Uni Press).

10.20 get mildly diverted by FB and email and just have to respond to a request for singing lessons.

10.40 play with the dog and decide to make a proper cooked breakfast. Shower and get dressed. Stack and turn on the dishwasher.

11.00 wash up remaining dishes and put on a load of washing.

11.30 get started on PhD after closing my internet browser. Look at a book on completing one’s PhD. Read the notes from last meeting about the literature review shape. Print out the current PhD literature review. Look up FB and email again. It’s a tic I can’t stop. Clearly I’m addicted.

12.30pm start to create the scroll of literature review – designed to hang on the wall and shame me into doing it. Write a few points down about how to shape the review, from a very good 2012 book called “Completing your qualitative dissertation” by Volpe and Bloomberg, Sage Publications. Get confused. Stop.

1.00pm hang clothes on the line. Remove dry clothes from line and fold. Clean house a bit. Read another bit of literature. Write several unsatisfactory lines about the history of Cultural Psychology and realise I don’t actually have to do that because it’s somewhat superfluous in an 80,000 word thesis, and besides, Cole has already done that for me.

2.00pm all over red rover – I have to teach.

Friday was a little better. While thinking and constructing ideas I often wander about the house cleaning and this is what I did, showering, dressing and eating before 8.30am and managing to start work by 9.00am. Nevertheless, I was coaxed into going shopping by my good friend and very bad influence Sharon from 1.00pm. Which is what I did – any excuse not to work is a good one, in my opinion.

So, I think for punishment and perhaps absolution (one can never really escape one’s Presbyterian past – guilt, flagellation and martyrdom run hand in hand) I will do some work this afternoon before taking the dog for a walk. And maybe on Sunday I’ll do the same.

I am SOOO funny. Ha ha bloody har.

Making the big decisions!

I made a big decision this week. I decided my study falls into the “mixed methods” camp as per my original vision. I spent a lot of time devising a pretty good survey of singing students, and had 97 participants in the study. I think that counts as a good participation rate, given the overall size of the population. I want to include the results of the study in my thesis as it informs my case studies.

Why now? Why this? WTF and what am I thinking? Well. My PhD journey can be seen in part as a rather unsatisfactory attempt to follow the methodological desires of my principal supervisor. Leading to all sorts of depressions and angst by yours truly.

I specifically designed my study to be Mixed Methods. I like the approach and I’m not going to pretend that my survey phase doesn’t count just because I didn’t do a specific statistical analysis of the questions. I analysed the findings descriptively by percentage. Not sure why this should be discounted. Nevertheless I need to make sure my survey chapter doesn’t take up too much space, and only examines the key questions pertaining to my thesis. At the time of constructing the survey, I felt that more information from participants rather than less was going to be more useful. So it is, but I can’t include everything in the chapter…

Still. I’m in a happier place than I was this time last year. Ok. So, now to finish the thing. 2 weeks ago I started my introduction chapter because I knew it wouldn’t take long. I’m halfway through that. I am about to tackle my literature review, having been given some good, targeted structural advice by my supervisor. Makes it much easier to break down when one has a structure in place. I’m already about halfway through the chapter in draft form, having done a lot of work in previous years on the history of singing and conservatoires.

So, I’ll take about 2 months to finish writing this, if I only have one day per week (and maybe some of the weekend) to do it. Which takes me to October and my discussion chapter – in sections that the research questions determine. One month to write that and I’m in November. I have more time for study then as my Uni teaching dries up from November – I have Monday, Tuesdays and Thursdays back. Then it’s writing the survey chapter, finishing off the introduction – maybe I’ll do that this week -, revising the narratives (not much, actually, because I had a look at those on the weekend and there’s not too much to do short of paraphrasing some of the longer quotes as they don’t really add to the narrative’s significance), fixing the methods chapter, et voila! I’m putting it out there – I’d like to submit by February 2014. Now, I know I’m on leave until then, but it’s the time to do it – when I have some breathing space. I CAN do this.

Hear ye, hear ye: Submission by February 2014!!!!

August: Finish introduction; revise and rewrite literature review.

September: Literature review continued.

October: Write discussion chapter and conclusion.

November: Write the survey chapter and construct the survey appendix. Revise narratives. Revise literature review.

December: Revisions of methods chapter, survey chapter.

January 2014: Revisions.

February 2014 1 – 14: formatting document, SUBMISSION.

What a difference a day makes!

Ok, now I’m not feeling gloomy about my methods chapter. I read it against another narrativist whose methods chapter I thought was AWESOME and mine totally stacks up against it just fine. Mine could probably use some culling, but it’s basically done. I’ve done the conclusion and I’m finding all the references I’ve not included and putting them in at the end so that my supervisor knows I’ve done the referencing right.

I’m a very happy camper. In other great news, I had a haircut today, and what with my new physique and improved wardrobe, I feel like a hotty again. I really do. Just need to stop eating the sweet delights AND the wine. Maybe one a day, but not both, and not multiples. Otherwise food is also going well. Here’s a photo of me (finally, because I now feel awesome enough to put myself out there) – not the whole body shot because I can’t take selfies that work, but a head shot of my nice new hairdo.


I’m having a great day.


Study, much?

Study, much? Or not at all? The latter, I’m afraid. In the week hubby has been away I’ve managed to work a trillion hours in my full-time teaching job, and I’ve finished all those pressing little jobs such as editing a book, finishing some overdue publishing etc, but study? No.

My supervisor asked whether I would have 15 hours a week to devote to study NOT on the weekends. I fibbed and said yes. Because on weekdays I do have a bit of time – about 6 hours – to study. But it’s the weekends that I need for my study and, frankly, after the week’s work, I’m not really capable of coherent thought, let alone targeted, deep thought.

I had a cunning plan to just do one thing per day on my methods chapter, whether that be writing the ethics approval section or the replicability section, because in truth I think each small bit will only take an hour, but after finishing teaching at 9.00pm, then eating after that, I have no heart for it.

So here is my report: I have not done my methods chapter. I have not done my discussion chapter. I am tired, and I just want to buy my money for my trip, do the washing, and watch some TV. I will attempt some study today but in truth the afternoon yawns ahead depressingly full of last minute things to complete before I head to overseas.

Study, much? Not at all. Bring on the writing retreat. Bring it.


Too tired…to…write

I would write a nice long post, but I’m too tired. Here’s what has happened this week (nothing bad, mind).

I haven’t lost any weight. But all my clothes are too big for me, so that’s ok. Even my size 8 pants from Laura Ashley are too big. I’m exercising regularly 3 times per week, aiming for 4, except I’m not really managing 4. We ARE walking the dog quite fast, though.

I’m working very hard. I have started teaching again, so my timetable is looking horrendous. No time for shopping or relaxation. I will have 37 hours teaching per week over the university semester. That’s one-to-one singing lessons and 2 tutes. Ugh. I love teaching, but even I’m feeling the pinch this week.

I’m finishing off a thesis edit and formatting the document, messy stuff. I’m writing a glossary, coordinating staff to get them to add to the glossary, and compiling the results for the Musical Theatre students. I’m TRYING to write the first chapter of our singing book so that I don’t have to worry about that again. This paragraph should be over by next week.

And I’m trying to finish off my PhD.

No way, Jose. So, there it is. And Poppy the dog is gorgeous, but very nippy for a little puppy. Annoyingly so.

And now: bed. Night night.

The PhD finish line – morphing in every sense.

It’s starting again. The dreaded PhD study. I’m desperate to finish now, and desperate to get away from the thing. I guess the best thing I can do is finish the darned thing so that I can get away from it. The finish line has morphed away from 3 years to 3.5 years to 4.5 and I’m not sure when I or my supervisore will be happy with the final result. Because this is the pointy end. The time when the writing, the research, the finishing off, has to be done in painstaking detail. Minutae of editing, rewriting and positioning.

I’ve sent through my change-in-candidature form, updating my details to “yes, I’m still doing it, but part-time”. I’ve a meeting with the supervisor in a week. I HAD begun work on the thing in January, but children and family matters tend to interrupt January. It’s not a great time for working, even though it looks enticingly long and work free. When I count the days I had on my own throughout from December 12 – January 28, they add up to 5. That’s not enough time to pull together my brain for study fun when I’m just getting over new puppy love, fence building love andĀ  Christmas!

Anyway, no more excuses. Except, can I excuse myself because of other work commitments? Please? Such as an overdue assessment project I’m NOT managing very well? Four papers to write on that to present in Feb, March and April? Overdue chapters for a Springer publication? 2 papers of my own to write for international conferences? And, foolishness on top of madness, an editing job that is running late? Oh! Plus, my teaching commitments (fast rising), and the other stuff I’m doing associated with my job at the Uni?

All excuses. The editing thing will be done this week. My Springer chapter is as good as finished and I’m nearly ready to do the next (DH has to take SOME responsibility for this too!). The Assessment project needs to be done, done, done, so that’s the main competing brain work. Otherwise, I’m getting there with completions of work. And the PhD sits, looming over them all.

LOOMING. I’ve been reading some posts by Happy September and other PhD bloggers and they ALL feel the same. That’s small comfort. Pat Thompson also wrote a great blog about Methods Chapters which I’m going to take to heart so that when I reshape my methods chapter it won’t be as crap as it currently is. And when I’m done, WHEN I’M DONE, I’m taking a big, long holiday from thinking and writing.

Wish me luck. (At least I’m fit and healthy and slim now.)

Back to the grind, in every sense!

DH and I arrived home from our Christmas holiday and we’ve returned to the usual grind of New Year activities. Today, I’m talking about grind. The grindstone, hard work, honing and polishing and refining of New Year’s resolutions and other travails.

I’ve identified four main areas of grind for me. The first is, of course, my health and fitness. Like so many during this holiday season, I’ve eaten and drunk way too much, and I’ve done no more exercise than an elegant stroll down the beach. Well, ok, the stroll was 8 kms long. I’ve probably put on half a kilo, but I’ve stuck pretty well to a pared down diet, with dessert being the main culprit. DH and I were married 5 years ago December 28, right in the heart of the festive season, so all our revelries occur in one week. Cunning, huh. And, of course, far too much drinking. Less than I would have this time last year, but still! So it’s back on the diet wagon (and aren’t I relieved about that!) and I have my first personal training session tomorrow afternoon. Ugh. That’s gonna hurt.

The second grind is to complete the works on the house we’ve organised. For me, that means sanding and painting during VERY hot weather. It’s going to be vicious. But it’s important to get a start on it before our carpenter comes back to build the remaining fence.

The third grind, and probably the hardest, will be to start up my reading and writing for my doctoral thesis, which is due to begin again in February. I had a lovely break from it and I feel much better now, but it’s time to get cracking again. I tried some of it today and boy, all I wanted to do was get up off the computer and clean the house or literally do anything other than study. That was hard. But it’s a resolution I’ve made to myself to complete it this year, as expected. So I’m starting with my methods chapter, because I need to do the reading for Narrative Inquiry methods again, and start to shape the chapter from its rather bloated state at present.

The fourth grind, and one much easier to sustain, will be to begin my singing teaching again. I love my teaching and while I’m enjoying the holidays, I’m looking forward to developing my practice for the year ahead. My times are quickly filling up and then when uni starts: whew! It’s gonna be a challenge to maintain the study and the teaching, as I’ll be teaching about 30 hours per week. In fact, I have to do as much study as possible before teaching begins because it’s so hard for my brain to switch from one activity to the other. I’m dying to do some professional development n singing teaching but until I finish the PhD I won’t have the time – or the money! So I’ll have to content myself with some reading instead this year.

4 grinds. A big year ahead.


Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue?

SH (smashing hubby) and I are long overdue on a book submission to a well known academic publisher. Our own fault: we’ve been busy. At least, that’s the excuse I’m giving! In truth, I could have taken the lead on the project and allowed SH to swan in at the last minute and fiddle with the co-authored chapters a bit. But that’s not how collaboration works, in my mind. In my mind, collaboration is a true connection between people, an equal engagement with the project and an equal say in the outcomes. I’ve been dithering about not doing anything on this project because I was waiting for HIM to do something. Bad move. Time for me to take the lead.

So Thursday night I made sure I quarantined some special time for us on the Friday morning to “finish off” the project. That is to say, we finally went through all the chapters and made decisions about whether to let the chapter go straight to the formatting process – otherwise known as “the brilliant RA” – and thus onto external review. Took 2 hours. Done. Why had we not done this before, I hear you ask? Because neither of us have written our own contributions yet. In order for an edited book to count on one’s research outputs (bloody universities are crazy about this stuff) one has to write or co-write one’s own chapters. Never mind the work that goes into throwing it all together! Because I am “less busy” than SH, I’ve eaten a shit sandwich and will be doing a major rewrite to one chapter – it needs zjuzzing up to meet a vaguely academic audience and the author acknowledges their novice status as a writer. I’ll start our introduction chapter (SH has therefore insisted I go first named author on that one) and finish off my own submission, which is 6 months late.

Birthing a baby: easier than this.

So why the title something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue? Well, as I was writing my chapter, which is a truly excruciating experience of boredom and frustration and few flashes of brilliance, I came across an old paper presentation I’d given in 2009, which I’d never published. Yippee! I read it and realised much of what I’m saying in 2012 I was saying in 2009. And it was pretty good, too. And I’m thrilled with that – I’ve made it through the wilderness; somehow I’ve made it through (thanks Madonna) and now it’s clearer to me than ever that what I wanted to examine in my PhD, I actually HAVE.

So in the midst of writing something new, I’ve added something old. The borrowed bit is easy: it’s the literature that gives my work legitimacy. The study of others that reveals where my work fills the usual voids in the research. And the something blue? It’s the bad bits. The days when I feel miserable about my research, when I feel my work is worthless. Luckily, it’s also the blue of a clear blue sky, on those days when I feel my work is taking off in positive ways. It’s the clear blue sense of accomplishment.

Writing for academia is much like the old marriage saying. In the quest for new ideas, new research and new findings, the old and the borrowed are always embedded in the final write up. It’s fundamental to how we plan academic papers and how we acknowledge the good or bad work that has gone before.

On the long list of things to do before February next year, I can tick off another task. Only another 8 major things to do before December.