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Developing and managing a portfolio of activities Teaching and Learning Centre Carola Nuernberg 5 December 2007
Today we address: • What does it mean to be in the middle of your PhD? • What can you do to manage? • What are the things that can get in the way?
We won’t address: • The exact components of your portfolio (specific workshop with Frances Meegan, also very important topic for discussion with your supervisor) • All the things you “should” do in order to raise your profile (rely on department, supervisor, topic-specific sessions, set up your own project)
Focus on • Priorities • Persistence • Perfectionism • Procrastination
What does it mean to be in the middle of the PhD? Let’s start by looking at the things you have already done, developed and achieved. Team up with your neighbour and conduct a talents interview: • The interviewer is a curious journalist who speaks to a promising young researcher about his/her career path so far. • Compile a list of talents and activities for each other. • Switch after 8 minutes.
What does it mean to be in the middle of your PhD? Bear in mind: you have already gotten somewhere.
A few pointers if you want to develop this further: Follow up on this with Careers Service and supervisor: • Describe systematically what you “have” and what you “can”. • What is it that you enjoy about this? • What do you want to do with this / where do you want to apply this post-PhD? • What would you need to add or develop?
Tell us a little story about your PhD life at the moment. The following is a group-writing technique from creative writing: • Everybody starts an empty sheet of paper. • Your task is to complete the sentences that I give you, one after the other. • Be spontaneous. Anything that comes to your mind is fine. No wrong way of answering this. • After you have completed the sentence, fold it away so that it cannot be seen. • Pass the folded sheet on to your neighbour. • Complete the next sentence on the folded sheet you have received from your neighbour. • We will do 6 sentences in total.
Complete the following sentences I have been working on my PhD since…
Complete the following sentences I like …
Complete the following sentences I dislike …
Complete the following sentences I really should …
Complete the following sentences Being in the middle of my PhD is like…
What does it mean to be in the middle of your PhD? • Honey-moon period is clearly over. • First attacks of doubt. • Acute awareness of all the “shoulds”. • Beginning to think about life after PhD. • Teaching load. • SLUMPED?
Shoulds, shoulds, shoulds • Develop & complete your thesis! • Work on your writing skills! • Network! • Prepare to publish! • Build up teaching experience! • Think about life after PhD! • Work together with others! • Finish on time!
Given all these demands… … what would be the worst possible way to continue from here?
in other words… If you were to DELIBERATELY do the worst you can do to manage your time and balance your tasks, what would you do?
A few things to mess up: 1. Working on the thesis 2. Planning 3. Reviewing the literature 4. Procrastination 5. Files 6. Relaxation 7. Saying “No” 8. Time Log 9. Rewards Anything I may have forgotten here that is also worth messing up?
Things that can get in the way… … get in the way of what exactly? Why “things” and not “barriers” or “problems” ?
The BIG Thing is… • difficult, ill-defined & complex ( original) • often a long-term project with long feedback circles • Not urgent, but important! • sometimes hard to translate into to-do-list • assessed with high standards • very often something you tackle completely on your own
The BIG Thing can be… • the PhD as such • the data analysis • the writing up • the preparation of a publication • the decision what to do next after the PhD
Things that (can) get in the way • Commitments and expectations • Procrastination • Circumstances • Losing sight
1. Commitments • Work on top of the PhD • Teaching • Partners / Family: Do they understand what the PhD entails? • Is your supervisor bugging you?
Commitments need to be negotiated • Differentiate: Urgent versus Important • Communicate : Negotiate other people’s expectations about your responsibilities, availability, abilities in order to ensure undisturbed and unquestioned work periods • Special case: supervisors. Do they know what you can do, what your overall commitments and circumstances are and where you need support?
Expectations & beliefs • Your own expectations: About yourself and your work • Your expectations about other people’s work & stamina
Expectations about yourself. • Other people do it brilliantly, but my own work is really poor. • I need to be 100% efficient. • It needs to be done effortlessly. • No point in starting to write unless I have something really brilliant to say. • I need to do everything fantastically. • Everything is important. • There simply is no time.
Adjusting expectations about yourself. • Find out if you are prone to “all-or-nothing”-thinking perfectionism. • If yes, act like a detective and try to catch yourself engaging in these thinking styles. • Learn to question these thinking styles (Socratic reasoning).
2. Procrastination • Two types of patterns • Feels unsatisfactory, but is psychologically highly “efficient” • Many “good” reasons to procrastinate • Knowing why is the first way out of it.
Procrastination: What is it? • Putting off a task which needs to be done • It can affect our study and writing • It may involve feelings of anxiety, stress, guilt, shame and depression. • We may disguise avoidance by being very busy • We may find things to do that are interesting or even useful, but don't contribute towards the “big thing”
Procrastination:Why do we do it? (1) • Bad time management • inability to prioritise • overload of tasks at a specific time • anxiety about the task • not knowing what is required • feeling overwhelmed • concern about failing
Procrastination:Why do we do it? (2) • fear of success • Perfectionism • negative feelings - e.g. "I'm stupid", • all-or-nothing thinking • being bored by the task • avoidance of things which are disliked or difficult
“Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans” Changes in “circumstances” • Financial security • Emotional wellbeing • Health Don’t be paralysed, embarrassed or keep silent. Find support from supervisor, counselling, friends, financial support office.
4. Losing sight of priorities • Can happen for all kinds of reasons • Overwhelming aspects of life (financial security, emotional stability) • Getting stuck in one aspect of the PhD • Being busy with too many other things • Isolation
Managing badly • Doing everything. • Doing nothing (and feeling bad about it). • Doing the wrong stuff (busy, but not going anywhere). • No breaks. • Killing yourself with high expectations. • Suffering in silence.
A few abilities to develop The ability to • Prioritise and manage your time • Keep going, despite doubts and uncertainty • Negotiate time, space, responsibilities • Challenge your thinking styles • Run your PhD as a one-man/ one-woman-project • Still have fun & relax
Managing • Priorities: Focus & having a sense of direction • More persistence, less procrastination: Tackling Difficult, Unpleasant & boring stuff • Doing the big difficult thing
Four Ps • Priorities (urgent versus important) • Persistence (keeping a sense of direction) • Perfectionism • Procrastination