I think I have written on this more than once, and I know it’s a theme not only related to the PhD Game. It is easy to start working or experimenting with something, but to keep the good habits and routines going when other things crop up is a substantial challenge. It’s been like that for me with 750 words and the same with my annotated bibliography. For a while there, it was trucking along really well. It helped me focus on why I was reading what I was reading, get some notes down and it was very useful for keeping my supervisors in touch with what I was reading and thinking. It was great and useful. There were some times when I still managed to confuse myself about what I had found where, but between my notes and the search function in Mendeley I’ve been able to track down everything that I have in electronic copy.
When fieldwork started and other things turned up to interrupt the neat routines I’d worked out, this nearly went the way of the dinosaurs. I was more sporadic with my entries and there were months when I didn’t have anything new in the annotations to send to the supervisors. The changes in my activities meant that my attention was being drawn elsewhere. Dramatic differences between sites for when my fieldwork would fit with the class routine meant that it wasn’t possible to keep a consistent pattern throughout. One school was first thing in the morning, another was some mornings and afternoons, and yet another was middle of the day. Being able to work with others’ schedules is an important skill, but it does mean that sometimes those bits of advice to schedule things like reading, thinking or writing at times when you know you work best go out the window. If the time that your participants can work with you is the time when you’d previously planned writing, or reading, then fieldwork trumps that.
Interruptions happen. The same happens with other routines and habits. My recent bout of bronchitis meant that I haven’t been doing the physical activities that I’d usually do. It’s hard to get back into it, especially if you’re still at the tail end of the interruption and it will take a fair amount of conscious effort to get back into it. I’m still coughing and not quite back to feeling completely well again, so this morning the sluggishness won over the knowledge that I do better when I get up and go to the gym and the desire to get back into condition. I still have some fieldwork activities remaining and I feel a bit loathe to attempt a complete restructure on my work/study routines before I’ve finished it all. The thing is I won’t be starting from scratch because I already know some routines that do work for me. The tipping point is not using that, or other things I can’t control, as excuses for getting back into the habit.
Those small good habits have made major contributions to the progress I have made so far and have set me up to achieve what I want to from here on. That’s the point.
Realistically, I know that big changes all at once are not sustainable. It’s emotionally taxing and there’s enough evidence that a person has a limited amount of resilience for implementing changes in usual habits. It is something of a finite resource over a day (which is why routines are so valuable in the first place, it takes a chunk of decision-making out of the day). I have a lot I want to read and a lot I want to write. I have a set of priorities over the next month that have taken some choices away from me, including a deadline on resubmitting the revisions on the paper I hope to get published, a presentation I agreed to do (not strictly work related), a book review (also not work related but good practice), and another deadline for submitting an abstract for a conference paper.
Resolving to revive the good habits is a step in the right direction. Seeing isn’t solving but you have to see, feel, experience something as a problem before it makes sense to do something about it. Choosing what to do is the next challenge. It is hard to sift through all the advice out there because some of it is contradictory, and I know from experience that one size doesn’t fit all. Getting back into practice of writing annotations most of the time as I’m evaluating things as I read is another step, and I’ve done that. Writing blog posts, or even just 750 words that are for an audience of me are another useful practice. I do have a lot of backdated stuff I want to write up so I can put that next up the list. For this week I have enough to do with coordinating three other people to get these revisions submitted so that will probably take everything I’ve got.
Plus getting back to the gym. I think that’s enough. I’ll decide what next week’s project will be later.