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.
Life has a way of planning the unplanned and no matter how much we put in place to create a path, God has a better one that may not always be what we expect. As my first year ended with not much to show, another summer of job change was on the horizon. Holiday plans have been cancelled, and I start a new job mid-May. I’m taking the opportunity to meet friends in London over the weekend and I saw my supervisors earlier today to assure them I’m still around. It looks like the part-time route is the right one since I am simply unable to find the hours every day to justify calling my research full time. At this time I struggle to even call it part-time. I have resigned from my job with Emerson and will be joining a local bank next week.
One of the first things I read – and may have mentioned on this blog – is not to get a job during your PhD. I am now on my second job during the first year! The good news is that my new job will be in the field of Human Resources, which matches my research. There is, thank God, no travel involved – or very little. Compared to today this will hopefully make a significant contribution to my time pool. I have agreed a new timeline with my supervisors for my literature review to be in by end of July (a draft version before if possible), the second half of the literature review (on the subject of Performance Management) by December, and my methodology chapter by June next year.
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.
From good to bad this week – but nothing unplanned. A business trip, followed by a week’s training (with evening group work) left zero time for PhD. Next week is another work trip – this time to London. I will take a few days after including a weekend to get some serious work done. I managed to get access (24 hours) to the library at my old university. I should be able to spend some quality catch-up time if I stay behind after the meetings.
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.
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.