(c) Dr Seuss
This last month has been a little hectic. I am a full time employee and a part time PhD student. I am not new to studying while working, in fact my two master’s degrees were completed in this way. I have found though that the workload (which is my creation, rather than anyone elses) is doubled. I want to do more reading, more writing and more critical thinking about subjects. I keep getting sidetracked by subjects that are almost the one I am looking at. All of that is fine – when I have the time.
I have just spent the last 6 weeks recruiting and training the latest batch of student ambassadors for the university. This involves talks, applications, assessment centres, then three Wednesdays of training to make sure they are knowledgeable and smiley enough to put in front of visitors. I have managed to get this done within working hours, so no late nights at work to distract me from studying in the evening. However, as there isn’t any thinking time during the day. There is always a task that needs doing that requires some brain power.
Now, many people may be thinking that this is what work is always like, but spend 5 minutes contemplating this. On a normal day I have a list of things I need to do and I work through them. There is time in between to have a chat to a colleague, someone drops in and so you stop and chat to them, you finish a task and there is some time to think about the next one, you have time to react to the unexpected and change your plans . There were days in the last 6 weeks when this didn’t happen, one task finished, straight onto the next one. It left me exhausted, a couple of nights I went to bed at about 8pm because “my brain had stopped braining”. (I actually said that one night when I ran out of words!)
This impacted on my PhD work. I could do the reading, that wasn’t a problem at all, but I had a massive case of writer’s block. I had the information in my head and in my notes, but could not get it onto a page in any sensible fashion. Luckily that time is done (until next time).
I have come to terms with this, it is alright to have a month where only reading happens. As long as there is some progress!
I now have my upgrade paper to begin.
I have been reading some texts that I find a little more challenging than others. I think this is because of the language and concepts within them, it makes me have to read every word rather than skim through and get the idea of what it is all about. While reading these kinds of texts I get ideas, almost like moments of clarity among the fuzz of information. I do worry sometimes that these ideas and concepts will just fade away and I will never remember them again. They do come back though, when I reread a passage I have marked in that book, the idea returns and I can write it down.
I said last night that I needed a beekeepers hat to stop the thoughts flying away like butterflies! The response I got was Pearl Jam lyrics-
Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies
Oh, he don’t know, so he chases them away
I should have written this post back in December but I have been suffering from an inability to articulate myself for a while. In the last few days I have climbed over the wall blocking my way and put some tentative words onto the screen in the hope that they will make sense. I think they will eventually with some editing and poking about.
My supervisor used the phrase ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ during our last meeting to describe where I should be starting my research. The phrase has really stuck in my head. It is daunting, but I picture myself climbing up these academic giants in a Jack and the Beanstalk kind of way. Having looked up the quote (embarrassingly I hadn’t realised its significance until recently) I can see why this is appropriate. It does not make it any less daunting though.
This is where I feel like I am at the moment.
My problem before my last meeting was that I was going about things all back to front. I didn’t know where I was in my field or who my giants were. I also didn’t have an end goal, such as writing the beginning of a literature review or article. I was floundering and felt like I didn’t know anything at all at one point. But I do. I realised that I even know my giants and have met them in person in some cases. So I feel a little like I started again in December, I have get a routine back, I have organised my reading lists and notes. I have a system. But I still had a mental block when it came to writing.
Last night I decided I needed to type something into the word document that had been sitting minimised on my screen for over a week. I have the notes, I have a plan, I have further reading to do as well, but I needed to put my finger tips to keys and type something. So I did. I managed 200 words. I felt better for it. I had to come out of my comfort zone of reading and note taking, and I found it wasn’t all that bad.
I don’t know if on track is the right phrase, but I definitely feel that I am making progress.
Another supervision meeting down… I feel like I am starting the get the hang of what I am meant to be doing. Well, I feel like I am making some progress and that I maybe know what I am talking about! Which was one of our topics of discussion during my supervision meeting, being self deprecating. I wrote a short piece on me and my motivation and included the phrase “I didn’t do so well in that,” which ignores everything I have achieved since!
So new plan (especially after I was telling students to do this) – some self recognition on my achievements and that I am working towards a qualification that will put me at the top of my field and that I know what I am talking about. Note to self: remember that you know what you are talking about.
So apart from that and my reading list becoming longer, I have some writing to do. I also have a pilot study to think about from the ethical point of view of working with small children. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but small children know what they like and don’t and are able to give consent in research studies. So there is some thinking to be done around that. I am looking forward to getting to the point of being able to run a pilot study, there are a lot of unknowns from this and it would be good to see what some of them might be.
As usual, cat picture…this time the cheeky Fatty is stealing my water.
Filed under PhD, Supervision