As I mentioned in a previous post, at my last supervision meeting in December 2014, I have been told to focus on set small tasks rather than planning the future. Also I need to do one thing at a time, rather than doing everything all at once. The plan was to get three things done by March (I don’t know if I meant beginning or end of March… let’s say middle). One was a good draft of chapter 2 and 3 and also to merge my dataset and create my variable. One supervisor said she would be impressed if I achieved these things as they are all quite big tasks.
So how successful has this been since my last supervision meeting?
Well it has gone quite well.
First of all I designed my own motivational poster to keep me blinkered, can you spot it?:
Secondly I have been focussing only on one chapter and one topic – a historical look at the British education system. A large part of the time has been spent working out the structure of it which involved quite a few revisions before I got it how I want it. So I have the structure, many of the sections started with some finished. However, it is turning into a big chapter with two parts, so actually I am only really one-third through it now, but that is OK as it is good that I know what is going in it.
Third I met with my one of my supervisors for a data merging training session and have finally created my own variable and merged some data, which is possibly one of the most important parts of the PhD process so far. So a big milestone.
So why is this post about to turn into a self-pitying session?
Well, some very negative behaviour has crept back in. When I am anxious or upset about anything I tend to stay up very late and either stare into space, or watch TV, mainly QVC. I have always done this (not always QVC, there are many other late night things to watch like infomercials for box sets of 1950s music, or one of my favourites, the magic bullet chopper) and think it is an anxiety thing, not a PhD specific thing. However, the terrible knock on effect is that either you get up very late the next day, or if you get up early, you are so tired all day that you cannot do as much work, so your anxiety gets worse as mentally you are not helping yourself by being sleep deprived.
I think what happened was that I realised as the deadline was approching, that I was a little overly ambitious about having a nice complete chapter to give to my supervisors by Thursday night, so I subconsciously decided to self-destruct. What I should have done is try to tidy up what I have, summarise for my supervisors what the rest of the chapter will look like and just keep on going. I know they will understand that it is still work in progress, but what I have done is quite big stuff in terms of structure etc.
So this paralysis lasts about 3 days and then I realise what I should do, but by then it is too late and I only have one full day now to tidy up this draft and then I worry that my supervisors will be disappointed in me. I also think it is disrespectful to give them something that is too drafty, so then I worry that they will read it, tutting throughout.
Now my paralysis has worn off, I remember that my friend once told me, that I should write a list of little tasks I can do when these symptoms set in. For example, perhaps tidy up Endnote, read a couple of articles from my reading pile or a chapter of a key book, maybe tidy up some files and so on. She said I should write these down because, as has happened, once one is in a state, one does not think clearly.
So I will do this now and add the list next to my motivational poster.
So tonight I will go to bed before midnight (ooh, that’s now!) and start afresh tomorrow. My motto ‘Focus’ may have to have a sub-motto: ‘It’s never to late to re-focus!’
(As it’s midnight, I wonder what Today’s Special Value is?….oh wow… it’s a Vax Vacumn cleaner…. I really need to watch it……)