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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
It is hard to elieve that I started in April. The draft of chapter 1 was received well by my supervisors but I have done very little since then. The next agreed step is a draft Literature Review (Chapter Two) by the end of this year. It sounds far away and enogh time – but when I think how quickly August went by without a single letter typed I feel a little anxious. I have also done another PhD no-no and accepted a new job offer. The hours work well (if there is not a lot of travel) and I shold be able to put in enough of an effort. I just need to motivate myself to do so (not intended!).
I need to post about the apps that have made working remotely and from different locations easy. They were put to the test during the final days of the chapter-one draft and most passed with flying colours. More details on the next post.
Ok I’ve been reading quite a bit about this subject. It’s called teleworking, and whilst we don’t have anything like it in this part of the world, it’s a growing phenomenun in the West. I was surprised to see how many companies have offered more flexibility in the last few years – both in order to make savings (and keep jobs) and to offer a better work-life-balance to employees.
Still wondering how to bring this subject into a PhD… It has to be within the area of career progression and maintaining contact with virtual teams.
This is an exciting time, my wife keeps reminding me. I’m thinking about topics! BAsed on my experience, I’ve been thinking about the possibility about this topic. People who work away from their head offices. I’ve had an interesting mix in my work: both managing representatives across the Middle East and reporting back to head offices in France and USA.
This could be very interesting. The angle may be closer to home than I would like… I’m thinking about motivation and career progression among people who have are in similar positions… The notion of ‘Out of sight, out of mind’.