Now I’ve been accepted, arranged to stay on at work part-time (although it’s almost a full-time contract for normal people when you look at the hours!). I need to resolve being a student again, along with how to juggle reading, study, writing, teaching, marking, home-life, and work?!
I need to digress here somewhat and explain a couple of things quickly. One, I’m a control freak…things need to go to plan. Two, your PhD will probably end fairly removed from what you originally thought you were going to do that a control freak (me) will need to take a little time to resolve these issues in their head! It took me 3 months. I read, and read and read…started to write…realized things were changing (quickly), and had to try not FREAK! Oh, and work, live, teach tutorials, etc.
One word…PLAN. I created schedules. At the start of each academic year I would sit down with a table in MS Word and fill in what I thought I would achieve over the following months. Of course it’s fluid – some things will happen more quickly than others. It was important for me to be able to break down chapters into manageable sections (start with a template of how you will set out your chapters). If it helps, break the word count down across the chapters. Then, a perhaps McDonaldized approach of trying to plan how many words would go into each subsection within the chapters. Again, this will be fluid, but it just helped me to focus on this aspect of my life (today I’ll do ‘X’, tomorrow is ‘Y’, and so on. By working in manageable chunks, I made sure that I was progressing into the dreaded word count, and actually had something each week to show for the effort expended!
Now…what about work etc? University life is timetabled, making it simple to plan into your week. If you are going to be marking, you need to prioritize, and manage that workload in the best way possible. I would sit over the weekend, and just get it done – take plenty of small breaks, or you’ll become over-burdened and slightly bonkers! My advice if you are going to continue to work…make sure you get a set schedule so that you can effectively plan your week. Before I left the restaurant world, I was travelling up and down the UK each week, fitting in with other plans and schedules…you need to be slightly selfish and do what you can, so long as it fits in with your responsibilities. Home life…was actually great! I was able to work from home a lot (both PhD and work-work) which meant I could close myself away in my study. I need a workspace that isn’t in the kitchen, or sprawled on the sofa with my laptop…give yourself order and, if you have the space, set up somewhere that is where you go to work, and close the door! Remember to open the door and head out into normality throughout the day, and don’t get bogged down where possible (looking back, that’s perhaps something I should have practiced more in reality…eek!).
You can do this, and will get through it. I did it, and I thought I was the last person who would be awarded a PhD! My corrections (following Viva) were accepted 2 weeks ago, and it’s off to be printed and hard-bound. Roll on June Graduations back in Edinburgh…although I’m still not overly-fussed on the Fuchsia-Pink gowns that the Heriot-Watt PhD’s graduate in!
Picture by Camera Eye Photography under CC license.