Category Archives: Distractions

Class Reunion and Working Practices

I had a class reunion today, in the coffee shop. My classmate* from my MRes and I met up to chat PhD things.   She began her part-time PhD in October last year and is essentially in the same situation as myself, working full time, studying part time and commuting to see our supervisors every month or so.   She messaged me because I said it was important to speak to others in the same situation and as we both commute to our respective universities meeting up in the middle ground (work) is the simplest option.

I hope she won’t mind me mentioning this, but she said she had hit her first hurdle with being able to concentrate on work. She has a space set up at home to study but finds herself getting distracted.   I was given some advice by my supervisor about distractions quite early on.  She told me to allow some distractions to distract me.  If I am working from home, water the plants if I keep staring at them, put that washing in the machine. Otherwise the small distractions become bigger distractions.  This helped me a lot.  I could shrug off the guilt of moving away from the desk for five minutes and I felt that I was more productive while I was “in the zone”.

We also spoke about where we work. I try and work away from the computer as much as I can when I am at home.  I am mostly desk based at work so coming home and thinking that I might be stuck at a desk for an hour or so in the evening would put anyone off!   I do a lot of my reading and note making sat on the sofa, sat in bed or soaking in the bath**!  I find it hard to work when there are voices on the TV but if the other half is playing computer games it is not a problem (and definitely not a problem for him as he is encouraged to play games!).

Hopefully some of my habits are useful to help her get sorted out. I think we all have to find our comfortable space to work in.

Yesterday I ended up in an interesting conversation with a maths academic about museum visiting. I mentioned my PhD and we ended up discussing class inequalities in museum visiting.  It made me feel quite confident in what I am doing and in what I know.   Hooray for baby steps!

*There were only two of us on the MRes when we took it. We both work(ed) full time and are now both on part-time PhD courses. The stats for progression following our degree must look amazing for our cohort!

** The bath has its downsides, dropping papers in the water and difficultly in jotting down ideas when they come up!

In a twist of fate, the PhDSupportNetwork posted this which is strangely relevant to this post!

paperclips and coursework

Numerical paperclips for organising articles, so satisfying!


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Filed under Distractions, Hints & Tips, PhD, Supervision, Uncategorized


Life is full of distractions at the moment.  I began 2015 with all the best intentions and made a list of rules that I would stick by to make sure I put a generous number of hours into my research.  The list takes into account that I need a social life, but also need to make sure I spend time on my PhD. (I will clarify that I work full time, usually in office hours Monday to Friday, but sometimes a little outside those hours as well.)

Here is my list:

  • Spend a little time each day doing something PhD related – reading an article, making notes or writing something substantial.
  • Have one weekend a month off.  This is social life time, visit someone, get out of the house.
  • On other weekends allow myself to go out in the evening or watch TV, play a board game and be social if I have been studying through the day.
  • Take opportunities as they come, fill in ‘spare’ time with studying if appropriate.

I stuck to this through January and have been incredibly productive, but February has come with it’s own challenges.  These challenges are:

  • Six Nations Rugby
  • Incredibly good TV shows on demand
  • Housework
  • Crocheting
  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Special events with my family and friends

Maybe it is because February is a short month (maybe I am looking for excuses).   My office space is also messy, which is distracting as I want to tidy it but feel it would be wasting my time. Maybe I should dedicate an evening to clearing it properly so it is less distracting.

During my last two degrees I was focused, I had set targets and found it easy to put time aside to study.  Apart from the set targets, which is something I can fix myself and which may help no end with this, I am looking for hints and tips to avoid getting distracted.

The cat is very supportive, she encourages people to read books.

Fatty reading

So, any suggestions or anecdotes on avoiding distractions?  Comments below please!


Filed under Distractions, PhD