I do not need reminding that this is an important milestone and a deadline to stick to. I must complete my literature review on Motivation by the end of October. On a short family holiday last week, I spent more time in the hotel lounge than anywhere else (including sleep) and am a third of the way as I write these words. I need to get to the more quality content after finalising a draft structure and putting in around 10k words (of which half will probably remain) as an introduction to the topic and the relevant theories.
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.
The most basic of time management skills would have taken me to where I need to be without much effort, yet somehow in my attempt to achieve good balance, I tipped everything over. The main victim has been my study time with work, family, social engagements and exercise taking over the rest of my time: on most days, in that order. Since February this year, I have been looking for scraps of time here and there for my study and this simply doesn’t work. A chat with my wife last week spelled out the very obvious. I need to make a change – and now. I have to do things the other way around.
Study time has to be set, respected and utilised. Life has to fit around my PhD. This is especially true with me switching to part time and thus requiring a somewhat lighter daily investment . Family stays number one (they let me get on with it more than any family could), work is no longer allowed to invade the rest of my time (not as much as it has been the past few weeks), exercise (not a luxury with my hypertension) will be shorter daily sessions instead of prolonged ones on alternate day. Everything else needs to push its way in.
This sounds logical and simple, but I have missed it completely. I feel a lot more positive now – even if I’m missing a major milestone as I type these words. I can see that with this new approach I can quickly catch up, and meet the other milestones set for the next twelve months.
It really is hard to believe that it is one year since registering at Surrey. It went by quickly and I have achieved less than I had anticipated. However, when I consider that I took on a full-time job in July last year it is probably no surprise that I slowed down on the PhD project. Today my achievement is a draft chapter one which I know will change 100%. Effectively this puts me exactly where I started a year ago… but…
It was very much a year of discovery. From knowing nothing about motivation, to knowing a lot more than the average human should. I have read (or looked at) every book on the subject and am slowly working my way through key journal articles. My aims and methodology are not clear but as I read more and more I am becoming familiar with what needs to be tested – and more importantly how to test it. I have also begun to understand the academic world and the process of research at a whole new level. I am asking and enquiring as I read and critique. This is the part that I enjoy most: learning to have an opinion.
In short, I have nothing tangible to show for my first year – but I am supposed to hand in a draft of my literature review by the end of April. If I do that, I would be very happy and with it I will be able to stay at my job and switch my PhD to a more realistic part-time programme. The next meeting with my supervisors will be in May. Until then I need to spend all the hours God gives me to finish my literature review.
It was a busy start to the week with preparations for a meeting and a whole day with clients in Reading. The last few days have been wonderful. The first time I really knew what I was doing with my writing and I was able to make a good start on the structure of my chapter as well as the headings. Now it’s about filling in the right theories and presenting the relevant studies within the right headings. Relatively simple but very time-consuming.
It has been great to be back at Imperial. The library is well stocked with good internet coverage and comfortable working areas. It’s also not very far by underground from where I live – which is a great bonus. It’s going well. I know I have a few business trips and engagements when I return. I will take a week off in April to catch up with my family (I have seen very little of them) during the day and with my writing in the evenings. It’s probably the only empty slot I have left until the end of April when my literature review is due.
The more I get involved in this project, the more I realise that an hour here and an hour there (even if they add up to half a day) are not the same as a good chunk of time taken together. I took the opportunity of national day holidays to go to London and be alone with my research. I managed to do a lot of reading before meeting my supervisors.
My review was a little more positive this time, and my next milestone is to hand in a draft literature review about motivation by the end of April. ‘It’s about 500 words a day’ said my first supervisor. Easier said than done with work and travel. It also looks like I will be switching to part time in April. We will make the final call then if I’m still working.
Reading at record speed recently. I am having to slow down now and then when work is especially busy or when I travel. Family and friends time is also suffering but I am going through a lot of material with some good progress on learning my area of research and linking the main theories together into a model that is starting to actually make sense.
Although there were words on paper that described – in detail too – what I wanted to do with my research, I was not quite sure what it actually meant. What did I mean by ‘testing a theory’? It took me long enough to grasp the significance of theories and how they draw the pencil lines for management systems that come years (sometimes decades) later. My draft of the Literature Review is forcing me to put down the little I have learned over the past few months into sentences and paragraphs. My supervisors who have left me alone to get on with it thus far explained in our last meeting that my aims would become clearer after I finish the Literature Review. Like many things I am learning in this process, I chose to ignore that and tried many times to adjust my aims to make it into a ‘real doctoral research’. I kept asking them and my wife if there was enough there… Well, today I have finished my Literature Review plan (which is yet to be appropriately filled) and my God it is all making sense. I almost know what I meant when I wrote my proposal over a year ago. It should not be a celebration – but it sure feels like one.
I should probably call this post paperless because Papers helps achieve this almost instantly. I spent a significant amount of time reading through what researchers do to ensure a good workflow of reading, collating and referencing articles and books. Had I not seen my wife’s trees of papers blocking doorways and becoming the size of furniture pieces, I would not have even imagined it would be an issue. In the same way many projects fail because logistics are underestimated, I felt this was something of a weak link that needed addressing.
My target was, and remains, to have the ability to work on a flight, in an office, at home or in a cafe with everything – yes everything – to do with my PhD on me or accessible online. I am pleased (and cannot believe) that with an iPad and a few apps this is truly possible. It is not the only app I use. I have a page on my iPad dedicated to my PhD apps. The synchronisation of DropBox and Pages is very useful and apps that help with searches in journals are always welcome.
The only other thing I carry is a small notebook and a pen. Whilst there are notebook type apps, I’m still more comfortable doing that the normal human way.