It’s been refreshing having time to catch up with my wife and kids. We even managed to spend a week in Paris and am now writing these words having had three meetings on Skype with my advisor. I sent an unfinished chapter on Motivation that we will no doubt return to one day. I’ve started the next chapter (headings and chapter plan only for now) and we’re talking about sample size and questionnaires which is great news. Not sure how the next few weeks will be – but I finally feel focussed on the research and am thinking about it from different angles. I’m also ensuring my days are spent as a student and evenings are family-and-me time. Hobbies such as photography and cycling have made a come-back too! Being a student and on holiday is a fun place to be: an important reminder to all those young people who wish their lives away wanting to rush to a working life after graduation.
Very much aware of the irony, but I need to move on from my chapter on Motivation and start my next chapter. In fact, if I’m going to go back to work later this year (I can’t remain a full-time student for long in case that’s not yet clear) I have to start thinking about my methodology too. I will send whatever I’ve done on the chapter to my advisor and hope we can call it a day on this for now. I hope to start my next chapter – on performance management – and to resume my Skype calls to talk about the next stage.
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.
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.
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.
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.