Monday 10 February 2020

The importance of spending QUALITY time with your PhD

Take time by the forelock. Lost time is never found again. You just add on days, months and even years to your PhD.

Dedicate time to your PhD (it doesn’t have to be 9-5)

§  You want to finish on time – there is so much more to do. You want to put to use the skill set that you have developed throughout your PhD
§  You want to free up time for other things – otherwise you will keep worrying about your unfinished research. You will constantly be stressed. You will become one of those complaining aunties whose company no one will want
§  You want to engage with others in the same field – how are you going to do that, if you waste time and set no targets
§  You want to see growth – you should be able to look back and assess how far you have come

What then is quality time?

Strict 9-5? Is this even possible? What can you get done between 9-5? A lot? Reading, writing, socializing, exercise, preparing meals, eating, shopping, sleeping in, taking a nap, idling? How can you pluck out quality hours out of your 24hrs? Shakespeare advised: ‘Let every man be master of his time’. Know what you need to do and get it done. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted. If you have not completed reading an article, please read it. Do not start on new activities without completing old tasks! You may itch to postpone your reading time, but don’t’ do it. Give yourself 2 uninterrupted hours to get your reading done. Then do whatever else you planned to do. Remember, distractions and leaving tasks undone keep you from answering your research question, exploring a theory, preparing for field work, or preparing an outline of a draft chapter. Start by giving yourself 2 hours of substantive work, meaningful work, written work. Then dash off to do other things if you must or continue with the substantive work.

Draw quality out of your distractions

Distractions are always welcome. They are addictive. They are friendly. They are a time pass. They present this surreal world for you that gives your mind a break from the PhD. You get distracted because you want to. So, when you do get distracted, do something worthwhile – either for your present or toward your future, or for others. Write a blog on your PhD journey, write about how you would yourself supervise your potential future PhD students, write tips on how to do research, work that bibliography, enhance your social media presence. Distract yourself by some YouTube history clips, documentaries, some politics, something that adds to your knowledge. Remember:

If you foolishly spend your money,
you can always earn some more.
If you happen to melt your sundae,
there's plenty more at the store.
If you happen to wreck your bike,
you can get one just alike.
Carelessly drop your candy bar?
The candy store's not very far.
But when you're old and look to the past,
wondering how it went so fast,
You realize all things you waste,
that of time you can never replace.

Measure your quality time by how you balance your work and life

Do try to wake up early. It is sweet to sleep in but just get up, start. Eat, and be on the move. Please don’t skip breakfast. Working on a hungry stomach leads to you being UNPRODUCTIVE. Plan what you want to do for the day, otherwise your day will start to slip away, you will be bored out of your mind with nothing to do but to waste time. Shakespeare reminded us: “The course of true love never did run smooth”.  Therefore, plan. Plan your day. Traveling for a conference requires planning. Preparing your paper/presentation for the conference requires planning. Your physical health and nourishment require planning (if you don’t think of your meal plans, you will slip into KFC’s claws, ruin your health, fall into the constant fatigue mode and become unproductive). Socializing also requires planning. Consistency also requires planning. 

A procrastinating lion never did any game kill!

What does it mean to spend quality time with your PhD?

Knowledge is like a garden: If it is not cultivated, it cannot be harvested. If you do not spend quality time with your PhD, you are not likely to get that PhD. 

§  Do not neglect yourself. Decrease your stress and anxiety levels, improve your immunity, understand what gets you to ‘tick’, work on your physical health, and focus on thinking positively – all this will increase your productivity.
§  Understand the worth of your PhD. If you do not have time to read and reflect, you will not know what to write. Interact with your work. Cross check your work for consistency in the claims that you are making and the discussions you are developing. Do not be afraid to go back and forth between your current and previous writings. Keep your research questions in mind at all times! Think about how your work falls within a particular school of thought and keep confirming this.
§  Don’t settle for mediocrity. Do not rush your PhD. Do not rush to write immediately after reading. If you do that, you are influencing your PhD based on someone else’s thought. Think, relate the content to your work and write your opinion. Study your opinion later, can you develop it further? Can you use it to draw out a fresh argument in explaining current academic debates? If not, delete that work and go back to reading. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on! 
§  Keep to your deadlines. Determine your own finish line. For this, you need deadlines. Don’t allow yourself constant adjustments.

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