Week Six

Well… that was a short-lived celebration I fear.  I’m back to being confused again after a strangely short and misleading meeting a couple of days ago.  It was followed by an email from my first supervisor asking why I’m not involving him.  There is clearly a serious communication issue here.  I can probably figure it out – but is it really my role to CSI the situation?  In any case, I reassured my supervisor that I am doing nothing other than my PhD since the beginning of November, and that my bad communication is unintentional.  For God’s sake I’m trying and failing to meet my second supervisor who in theory should be available at least once a week- why on earth would I not involve anyone?

I suggested a joint meeting but with Christmas around the corner, it is not going to happen!  It’s back to email with one and, Skype with the other; and back to me wondering if I’m on the right road.  At least I’ve found my road so I’m no longer as lost as I was in a couple of months ago.  My navigation skills have improved somewhat- so I will push, pull, force, kick and punch my way forward- and hope and pray for the best in the new year.

Frustrating times again- and really missing my wife and children (and cat).

‘Much improved’ but why the change?

The feedback on the first chapter is positive (difference between the traditional supervisor and the one with a more modern approach – but that’s expected) and there is clear agreement that it’s a departure from the sad first attempt back in the summer.  Of course I always knew it had nothing to do with ability, and I’m glad my supervisors finally know that too. Some amendments have been suggested and I will work on them soon, but that’s not what made today a very difficult day.

The title of the second part of the literature review may suggest a departure from my original research.  In many ways it isn’t a departure at all, it’s the autofocus kicking in as I zoom into my particular area.  I only shared the work on Saturday (late night at that) and it’s only Tuesday today – so they haven’t yet read it.  When I was asked why the change, I explained that the research took me there. In fact it’s the most normal thing to hear that the research focus shifts slightly over time.  What I am perhaps not explaining well to them is that the last two months are equivalent to a much longer period, relative to the time I’ve spent studying the subject.  It’s a frustrating day because although I feel ready to talk about my research questions and methodology, I need to wait for the second chapter to be read and for it will hopefully bring us all to the same page (no pun intended).

I therefore need to get through this week… Patience is not something I associate with what feels like a race.  I know research is more of a marathon than a sprint- but at this stage of my ‘marathon’, I have no option but to sprint to make my final time look somewhat reasonable.

Breakdown?

It’s probably an unnecessary title but September ended up being slow after a whole month off in August.  I am paying the price in October.  Just when I’m starting to find my rhythm and the hours in the day, just as I restart communication with my supervisors in a face-to-face meeting on my way to the States.  Unfortunately after the first Skype call since July and after talking to my wife about spending daily sessions of uninterrupted six-hour slots, I receive my annual report.  Unsatisfactory again but very petty indeed.  I agree with its content overall, and with the new set objective – but it’s a punch below the belt considering only last week I was sitting in the same room explaining everything and putting it all into context.  Yes it has been 30 months… but with the extensive travel in job-one, switching to part time, and the demanding and somewhat draining job-two, coupled with health problems mid 2013 and a house build project earlier this year, I’ve actually only had a year or so on this research.  It annoys me on many levels and demotivates me (so to speak).   It also gives me the impression we have a serious breakdown of communication.

Homework

In case I felt I wasn’t distracted enough with life, this is how our home looks like today.  We are confined to one room and a dining table for a kitchen.  The plan was to study at my office at work but that’s about to change too (yes another post I think – just waiting for things to settle).  Must find time.  Must make time.

Unsatisfactory

Yes, it’s April.  No, I haven’t submitted anything to my supervisors for review.  I met my main supervisor last week who was very concerned.  I managed to reassure him but I will need to meet some serious milestones to show (in action not just words) that I am serious.  It is shocking how long I have taken on this chapter.  I reached 16k and tidied up the content to produce a cleaner 14k version in February.  Since then, very little has happened.  There are obvious gaps, and I’m hopeful that by the end of this month I will have something decent to call a draft.  The time I need for my research is just not there.  With all the pressure I put on my time outside work, I am still only able to produce an hour or so a day and a Saturday.  This is only possible with disappointed kids, family, friends: often all on the same day.

I am at a cross-road (yes another one) and it looks like a difficult decision has to be made – or has been made.  I feel the theoretical side of the research is something I can finally get my head around.  The practical side was always clearer.  To give up and let this slip out of my hands at this stage, and after some significant investments would be ludicrous.

 

‘More than a little disappointing’

This is what my supervisor said when I sent him an honest update of my delay – yet again – in getting some serious writing done. I’m so behind, I only found time today to update this blog.  January was hectic at work and, with the end-of-year appraisals for my team and bank-wide, it flew like superman shooting to the moon.  The truth is: there is time.  There is always time.  It’s focus and, ironically, motivation, that are lacking.  Moving the PhD office to work… didn’t work like I had planned.  Interruptions I expected, but deliberately finding a distraction is something I simply need to stop.  Even outside the office, I spend way too much time on social media.  The latter I’m not sure I want to stop – it provides sanity and contact that I enjoy.

I need to change the perception of my supervisor who was not reassured – despite my nice emails.  His most recent reply included not only the title of this post, but also a line that said he found my progress ‘unsatisfactory’.  I promised a chapter by the end of February (25th today and I’m just over the halfway mark); and another smaller chapter by the end of March.

Moving!

December? Really?

Life (mainly my work life) is getting in the way.  I need to get my act together or this will simply not happen!  I haven’t made any progress in the past five weeks.  Nothing at all, not even any significant reading.  If I stop and think how much I’m wasting on my university fees it may give me another kick – one that I probably need.  It’s time for some drastic action: less socialising (what it actually means is virtually zero socialising – at least for a while) and, more so, to know when to stop at work.  My work days seem to get longer and longer.  My two hours in the early morning are not well-utilised from cafe to cafe; and I’m too drained to do anything after a long day at the office and an evening jog.  Research time has been gobbled up by end-of-year appraisals and more new initiatives that seem to only add to my workload.  A long business trip (the first in months – but still) took out a good chunk of late November and early December – and any free time during the trip that was supposed to be for my research ended up being spent on much-needed leisure.

It’s not good enough!  Guilt – in case it isn’t apparent – is eating away in chunks.  My PhD now needs to muscle its way back into my life.  Decision: I am moving my PhD desk to my office at work.  This will give me two hours before ‘working hours’ and if I stay behind for two more hours I would get a total of four (pray, pray, pray).  This should be an absolute minimum but it’s a start.  On slow days (I am yet to have one!!) I could potentially take half an hour here or there on top – but I’m happy with the four if I can get them and would be very grateful.  Having my notes, books, papers open and ready all day will hopefully add to the urgency and reduce the time it takes to set myself up every time I find a good spot at yet another cafe.

I’m packing.  Should be in my new home over the weekend or Sunday at the latest.

Slipping if not careful

November already…  It would be unfair to say I haven’t had time to finish my motivation chapter – but if I had taken every available moment, I’m not sure I would be here today with the same frame of mind.  Travel is almost non-existent in my new job but long days with meetings are fast becoming the norm.  I am simply too tired to continue after a day at the office, short jog and family dinner.

My wife has been amazing and working out things at home (in fact doing everything in the morning including driving our kids to school) which gives me an hour or so in the early morning before I walk into the office and start my work day.  I need to get my act together and find more time in the week and focus better during the weekends.  Whilst I’ve missed this milestone (again), I will be able to submit something for motivation and performance management by the end of the year – and if I do that I will be happy.  As I write this I’m at 13k words.

Annual Review

How is it September already? My July milestone was missed and I tried to finish my Literature Review for September but that doesn’t look possible.  It’s the evening of the 24th and I have just met my supervisor who was not very happy.  Nor am I to be honest – frustration is taking over.  Frustration because I now know what I need to be doing, I just need to find the time to do it.  The review we both agreed was ‘satisfactory with reservation‘ and my comments and his were a fair reflection of the past year.  Slow progress but moving in the right direction.

I managed to reassure him in less than an hour – after it took me a week of reading nothing but Psychology to reassure myself.  The realisation that the answers don’t sit in Organisational Behaviour books, because the source of all the theories are from Psychology, was instrumental.  My reading of the past few weeks has been like a language course making sense of what was foreign text.  ‘Locus‘ of control, and ‘operant‘ behaviour and god knows what else.  It suddenly placed everything for me.  I should point out that my knowledge of Psychology until a few weeks ago was an image of Frasier (yes the sitcom) – and yes I know that’s Psychiatry.

Looking ahead, I have to complete a large chapter by late October (I’ve written 4000 words of the 20,000 expected), another chapter by January and my Methodology chapter by June.  Sounds reasonable – until I remember just how quickly September came.

Deep breaths.

Tension

Another very busy period and very little time spent on PhD.  I have written more here on this post and the one from May than I have on my thesis.  I have done some more reading which, although sometimes feels like a waste of time, is very valuable.  The new job started off much busier than I had anticipated.  Restructuring my new department has taken a lot more time and effort than working hours provide.  I am arriving home very tired and am not working on my research in the evening.

With the job move I also discovered that I have excessively high blood pressure, so more exercise and less stress are both a must.  I will need to find my rhythm – and soon – in order to get back into it.

Busy End and Messy Beginning

The couple of weeks before Christmas, then my kids were home for the holidays, followed by a very tough period at work where three major projects have come alive together, have made the end of 2012 a very challenging time.  Just when I was connecting the dots and putting in place a map to build my knowledge onto, I am physically and mentally too busy to read.  The first two weeks of January have not been any better – in fact they’ve been worse.  I’m writing this in Dubai having spent most of the day responding to emails after a long day of presentations in nearby Sharjah.  I am drained and am surprised I have the energy to write this post (recovering from a cold too).  It must be the guilt of not reading for three weeks – and indeed not having any conference call contact with my supervisors.

I must (and will) take back control very soon.  I need to re-start the weekly calls and more importantly go back to my reading (and some writing). I will also book some time away from the office and away from family and friends… a PhD holiday of 100% focus on nothing other than my research… It’s time to sleep at the university library.

Not Good Enough!

Ok so I’m not doing enough reading and my ‘draft’ of my draft literature review was a source of concern.  After a tough meeting with my supervisors, and dinner with my second supervisor, we have agreed weekly conference (Skype) calls to ensure I’m reading the right and relevant material – not secondary sources such as text books.  I need to do a full upload of everything written about Motivation over the past 60 years.  Like keeping fit, or controlling weight, this is simple but not easy.

One thing is certain: I agree 100% that I need to bring my learning and work up a level or two…

Motivation

It is ironic that I am writing here after a lull of two months and announcing that my PhD research is evolving into the subject of Motivation! Specifically it will be about Kuwait’s public sector and the problems that we have there with people not pulling their weights and demanding salary hikes matched only by bankers in the western world.

I have not been working as hard as I should be. However, I have been reading a lot about the subject and am becoming more and more fascinated. My senior supervisor suggested I draft the Introduction chapter – which is usually written last – in order to get my ideas into words. I agree with him and am now drafting my ‘Chapter One’ to share with my supervisors in the next week or so.

I need to update this blog more often if I am to look back at it as a diary. I will come back as soon as I have sent off my draft, to write about my paperless work-flow in case anyone else may find it useful.

Ouch

I have left this post as late as I could to avoid jinxing any chances of getting funding for my three years of study. Unfortunately I have not been able to get sponsorship for my PhD from Kuwait and will therefore do it on my own expense. It will not be easy – nor cheap. I will, God willing, register tomorrow and pay the first installment. My wife and I have discussed this and she’s more supportive of it than any wife should be! The best way for me to reduce the ‘shock’ of using up our family savings is the analogy of a midlife crisis and pretending I bought a sports car… Just like that. At least this one will offer a little more return.