Monkey Pilot

The idea of a pilot study is to check the research design: test the questions, the length of the survey, the data being collected, and the method by which it is collected.  My first lesson was about paper questionnaires.   intended to have them available because I wanted to ensure no data bias, by giving access to those without internet at work.  I very quickly realised that many – if not all – have internet connection on their devices, and certainly at home.

Although it wasn’t cheap, Survey Monkey questionnaires look great, viewed on all devices and operating systems.  The builder works very well too.  I managed to create the questionnaires just in time before a busy period at work.  I was also fortunate with the translation to Arabic which was done and checked by kind colleagues.  A few minor edits and I was live at the beginning of October.During the past four weeks, I posted links on my social media accounts and sent emails out to friends and family.  I was hoping to achieve 50 or so responses.  I am thrilled to have received more than double that.

The exercise of analysing these responses should also shed some light on any changes I need to make before I start my empirical work at the end of the year.

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Two Months of Not Much

September crept up very quickly.  I noticed my last post here was back in June.  I managed very little since then but I am moving forward.  Immediately after the family holiday in California, I stopped over in London and spent a whole day with my supervisor.  We discussed secondary sources of data, sampling, and the questionnaire in detail.  Since then I did very little due to three main distractions: the holy month of Ramadan, the terrible bombing of a mosque in Kuwait, and a very busy spell at work.  I don’t mean busy at work with meetings and emails… It’s been a period of writing and calling job applicants, being there for hundreds of assessments in July, and conducting a hundred interviews August and September.  All this, with ‘work’ having to find its way into the day, week and weekend, somewhere.

Therefore PhD work didn’t have a chance.  My family, until last week, were still in London which meant that late evenings were relatively free.  Although I was exhausted from work, I did manage to work a little on the questionnaire design.  Late August, I shared it with both supervisors and their comments were positive.  Waiting for some more feedback on my revised draft.  I need to start working on translations and uploads so that I can meet my milestone for the pilot study (needs to be completed by the end of October).  This is going to be challenging when I look at the next six weeks.  They are looking to be even busier at work than July and August were!

$64,000 Question

Instead of perfecting my theory, and reducing some of the quoted material, I wanted to get into something a little more practical.  I’ve started looking at the questions that I will ask in the survey, and at what each of these questions (or a cluster of questions) will capture.  Although this too is theory-based, I will be able to switch on and off easily from it- unlike writing a critical review of the literature.  In this way I am hoping to be able to get back into it as work is starting to invade my time in a rather big way.  Alarm bells are going off everywhere!

The family’s summer holiday is close.  I should be back into gear soon after.

Confirmed!

No detail of my confirmation viva, nor the destruction I’ve caused to my nerves, would come close to describing the relief I feel today. I am pleased to confirm that I’m through! After a meeting of over an hour followed by an agonising twenty-minute deliberation – whilst my supervisors and I waited outside, I was given some recommendations and informed that I am now a confirmed PhD student. This sounds like zero progress, but this is huge considering I faced being kicked off the programme in October. The letter of my unsatisfactory performance was as recent as January 14th.

What does this mean now? It means with doing the recommendations of the panel (which add about three months work) I can move ahead with the research. I have received a nod from the university for the topic and how I intend to study it. I have successful defended its potential theoretical contribution and (less importantly) its practical.  I can move ahead with the empirical work soon. The recommendations are sound and although they will add three months work now, they will save a some time during the analysis stage- so I’m hoping to remain on target for a completion in 2016. Anything beyond that would be financially, psychologically and probably physically no longer feasible.

Today I will just remind myself that I’ve passed, upgraded, transferred, confirmed or whatever the hell anyone wants to call it.

The Surge

When I said I would be moving to London and focussing on nothing but the PhD, It meant I would leave my wife and kids behind (and all of what that means!), delay and risk loosing a dream-job offer I had received (for a December start) and spend more money on tickets (yes again) and a temporary move… With all of this, I was genuinely worried I would do all of it and come back with nothing. On many levels, that would be worse than not going at all and quitting.

The good news is today I am able to breathe the sigh of relief and report that what will from today be known as ‘The Surge’ has worked! There is no doubt that since I started this PhD back in 2012, I have changed the wiring of my brain from a business man to an academic researcher. There is also no doubt that from knowing very VERY little about how motivation works, I have become an expert in the area and familiar with all the major theories and thinkers in the field. I’ve also learned how to read and understand a paper without reading the acknowledgements twice and wondering what font they’re using. However all of this is (and wasn’t) enough to show progress in a PhD. I was told in no uncertain terms that I was on my way out of the programme, if I did not submit a confirmation (called transfer or upgrade in other universities) report plustwo chapters by mid January.

BEFORE
I had written (and very poorly) about 9,000 words on motivation describing it very generally and textbook-like. This and the learning above was all I had to show for my time on the PhD. When I started working in the first week during The Surge, I had already deleted 5,000 of those words at the very least.

AFTER
Today I have completed a literature review on the topic of motivation which is a lot more critical than the first attempt back in summer 2014. Another literature review of organisational support, and another on previous studies in Kuwait as well as Kuwait’s culture. This, together with a methodology, brings my current word count to 40,000 words in four chapters. The thesis is effectively half-written if I can pass my confirmation at the end of February.

All in all this is great news – because I will not be kicked off the course and my lifeline continues until my February meeting when I hope to get the nod for the next steps… I believe I have now caught up to where I should be at this stage… and all it took was 7 weeks of 16 hour days with only four days off (did some reading and editing on those). This really hasn’t been easy – but like I said before: it was never meant to be.

It’s 2015

I just spent five wonderful days catching up with my wife and kids, my family and my friends.  I even found time to think, plan and do nothing.  Cycling, meals out and zero reading and writing for almost a week.  I flew back to London on the first day of the year, and today I make a start on my final two weeks of the big push that I started early November.  It will not feel like I’ve achieved anything until I’ve passed the confirmation (or transfer) which will most likely be sometime in February/March.  However, I will not be where I am today had I stayed in Kuwait and just hoped for things to get better with the hour here and there that I was spending on my PhD.

First meeting of the new year with my supervisor(s) is this week – hope we all come back on the same page as that’s one frustration I could really do without.  Two more weeks before I submit my report.  It’s half ready at present and will be complete by then if I put in all the hours God has given me in the next fortnight.

Week One

Ok it’s just over a week and I am pleased to have just sent in a revised chapter to my supervisor for his feedback.  That’s a proper rewrite of 13,000 words and some 200 references. Now working on the next chapter and hoping to start on my methodology as soon as possible.  Waiting to Skype my supervisor as he’s still not back in London and will hopefully be even more clear about how to maximise the next few weeks in London.

Special blessings and a lot of help have come this way from my amazing wife.  None of this would be possible without her!

London

It’s day five and I have managed at least nine hours a day since getting here.  I should be able to do more considering I have NOTHING else to do.  I’ve even managed to get access (via sconul) to a local university library which makes my daily ‘commute’ a 15-minute walk.  Yes.  There are no excuses.  I am fortunate and extremely thankful.

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This week I managed to complete the structure of the second part of my theoretical framework (this would have taken me three weeks in Kuwait).  I should be able to send my supervisor a draft of the whole thing early next week.  He already has the first part (I sent it before I travelled) which he is reviewing and we will discuss soon.  Unfortunately, the same weekend I moved to London, he left fora 3-week trip to Canada.  It will therefore still be via Skype when we eventually speak again.  I hope to see him in person as soon as he returns.

Difficult but exciting time.  Difficult because I miss my wife and kids.  Difficult because I have left everything for her to manage (as well as helping me with my research).  Difficult but necessary.  Feels great to take control again.

7even

Was a little busy this morning, but I got to test out the theory of doing nine hours with zero waste today.  I had seven hours to test and I timed it without a minute wasted with any sort of distractions. No achievement to speak of though! Still learning my way around the process of critical writing … Need to learn and fast.  Tomorrow I will have a full nine hours and the timer will stop with any distraction – including my call with my supervisor (on Skype – I’m still in Kuwait).

Lockdown

Like it or not, the content of the annual report is mostly a true reflection of the status.  Yes… some was out of context, but frankly it has been 30 months and I have only done a year’s work at best.  I’m moving to the UK (I am so blessed I have a wife and family who support me – and not just in words) and will be there until I get this situation under control.  I will stay until I hand in my confirmation report which has been set to me as a make-or-break target.  Not going to be easy nor fun – but I’m remembering now it was never meant to be all fun – some pain is always necessary for anything worth having.

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.

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.

Too many words… too little time

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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.

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.

The Other Way Around

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.

Good Job

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.

Year One

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.

Huge Leap Forward

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.

No-Study Weeks

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.

Study Week

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.

photoMy 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.

Eureka

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.

Day One

With the Easter holidays keeping the university quiet until next week, I have not yet actually started. I have however registered and am in the process of initiating my IT account in order to have a university email and access to the online resources. The next step is to join the library and get my ID card which will provide access to all sorts of doors and equipment on campus.

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In a couple of weeks, I will have a formal induction to the PhD programme. I am also looking forward to meeting my supervisors. I hope we can start a special relationship where I ask just the right number of questions and get just over the right amount in answers.