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Getting things done: becoming a more effective researcher
Transcript of Getting things done: becoming a more effective researcher
Use 'autoplay' to follow the path I have set for you
Click on things to examine them more closely or play videos
Getting things done (when there are lots of other things to do) Thanks for listening!
You can contact me on:
www.thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com But the problems aren't always obvious Research students are often assumed to have trouble with time management... But most of them don't have this problem at all This can be more troublesome than 'not enough time' Many of you would have grown used to dealing with conflicting demands What do you do to cope? In groups of up to 4, discuss some time management strategies you like to use.
Make a list of about 5 to share with the rest of the group If you think you are suffering from IObsessive Article Collection Syndrome (OAC) try:
1) Going cold turkey: just stop downloading for a week and spend time reading what you already have.
2) Remember the four Ds: Delay, Deep breathe, Drink water or Do something else
4) Remove the props: disconnect from the internet so you cannot connect to databases. "Lack of clarity about the behaviour expected in a job or position" (www.businessdictionary.com) "role ambiguity" "role conflict" Trying to perform multiple roles with different expectations And what to do about them? Just because Mr or Ms Bottom is 'paying a trip to chair town' it doesn't mean that productive work is always being done... You can fail your PhD...
It's not common, but it happens
(at RMIT it was about two per year until we started the completion seminars) However there are about 10 a year who have to make major revisions (an extra year of study!) Most get through with minor changes Belief systems Identity Quick Poll! What activities do you tend to put off as long as possible? paying bills / doing 'administrative stuff'
cleaning the house
returning phone calls / catching up on your email
confronting someone about something that makes you angry or sad identity is multiple: different 'yous' want different things Remember all these?
Or just feel like this... Beware of the reading death spiral It's easier to become hooked on the anticipation of a reward, than the reward itself.
This might explain why downloading papers is more addictive than reading them! And this? Place and other people play a role in which identity is 'in charge':
When I get home at night my inner 'scholar' is less dominant than my inner 'TV watcher'.
When I am at a family gathering my 'mother / aunty /daughter identities are more prominent than my scholarly one especially if 'Bones' is on This is what my inner scholar looks like Your scholarly self is but one of many 1) Only the smartest people finish their PhD 2) I’ve always been a great student. PhD? No problem! 3) My supervisor is the foremost expert in his field. I can’t lose! 4) Writing a dissertation is just like writing a book – yes? 5) I’ve never heard of anyone failing their PhD, therefore it can’t happen. Are you getting in the way of your PhD? The beliefs you harbour can structure your reactions to events 1) Elation when you realise you know more than your supervisor about your topic and you feel brave enough to argue about it 2) Fear of being ‘found out’ as fraud, not really knowing enough/being smart enough to be Phd student 3) Unexpected admiration of your own writing 4) The “I’m a genius! Why hasn’t anybody thought to do that before?” moment before people point out the obscure paper you’ve not read 5) Misplaced smugness after photocopying/downloading loads of stuff but not actually reading it Tony did his PhD at RMIT and kindly lent us this image. He also recommends "treating the PhD like a job". Start Here This is how you will feel when you finish (and maybe at other points inbetween) Some of this is normal
Too much and you probably need to go and see the counselling service. This is meant to happen - but can cause tension if it is not managed well. You might bounce around these for awhile... Some people think doing a PhD looks like this But the process is not that linear I think it looks a bit more like this ....Problem Solving..............Creative................Sorting.................Planning.... 8am - 10am 10am - 12pm Save tasks that need concentrated attention for when you first sit down to your desk. Start with a problem you have identified earlier. This is also a good time to read After a couple of hours your brain has warmed up - now is a good time to tackle something new - free writing can be a good thing to do at this time. Or when you are first getting to work if you are a night owl Try breaking the day into quadrants, with a different type of task in each Your productivity will be affected by sleep and digestion Food can make you sleepy for a couple of hours after lunch This might be a good time for data analysis - if it's sufficiently repetitious. Otherwise do 'busy work' like organising files, doing emails, returning calls and attending to paperwork. 3pm is a great time to have coffee meetings In the last hour or so you have left spend time planning tomorrow's activities - particularly the 'problem solving' and 'creative' slots. The main aim of the 'planning' window is to have a flying start tomorrow. The writing problem Virginia Valian: "learning to work", 1977 What is the 'right stuff?' Positive attitude to mistakes
Ability to finish - despite a lack of interest
Ablility to get immersed She saw her mistakes in cooking as opportunity to learn, whereas mistakes in academic work were seen as a dead loss. She thought this was because her identity was not 'cook', but 'scholar' Valian noticed that various emotions would start to rush in when she tried to finish: panic, boredom, fear. Eagerness to finish rarely appeared unless on deadline. Valian claimed that learning to commit to your work is like moving a love affair to the next level... you can't keep 'flirting' forever! Getting things done (GTD)... "How to get things done: the art of stressfree productivity" David Allen, Penguin, 2001 http://www.davidco.com/ Allen's (2001) claims there are 7 basic categories of knowledge worker 'stuff' to manage: A 'projects' list
Project support material
Calendared actions and information
A "next actions" list
A "waiting for" list
General reference material
A "Maybe later" list* The way I implement this system is with manila folders and post it notes. The folders contain everything which relates to that paper / project / chapter. The post it is my 'to do' (next actions) list* *I have a parallel 'virtual' system, using scrivener as the 'projects file' and www.evernote.com as my 'scrap book' *Resist the urge to create a 'hold and review' category!
If it doesn't fit in any of these categories, you probably don't need it www.evernote.com is great for this For things others are doing that you care about 'punch list' for the day ahead This can be papers, data, notes to yourself etc You can break your thesis up into various 'projects: chapters, papers, pieces of work etc. This diagram is adapted from
"How to get a PhD" by Phillips and Pugh, Open University Press What new emotions does doing a PhD make possible? Here's what people on Twitter think: Here's what the workshop group on the 19th of April, 2011 came up with Or perhaps like this The reading problem There are high stakes... More Thesis Whisperer blog posts on productivity can be found here:
http://thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com/category/getting-things-done/ There's a larger problem lurking behind all the 'housekeeping' you will have to do: how to make sense of the information you collect? Reading efficiently and effectively is an art. If you take it seriously, reading inevitably leaks into every corner of your life. How can you learn to manage it without going mad? Doing a thesis is like eating an elephant - it's easier if you do it one very small bite at a time. What tools and techniques can help you avoid being a 'binge writer'? It's not just you in this PhD - life goes on all around you. How will you cope with that? You don't have to use MS Word! This video is a demo of Scrivener, using a PhD manuscript to illustrate key features Writing structures thinking. If you can write it clearly you can think it better. To help you do this, try making 'templates' by by stripping out words from papers you read:
“The evidence about________ shows that__________”
“The findings of X have important consequences for the broader domain of________”
“The standard way of thinking about (topic X) has it that_______________”
“____________ for instance, demonstrates___________________”
“In making this point I am challenging the common belief that _____________”
Is this plagiarism? No, because we academics rely on conventional forms of writing and speaking to be understood. For more templates and advice on how to use and make them, read: "They say / I say" by Gerald Graff: http://astore.amazon.com/wwwthethesisw-20
It's ok to keep your training wheels on The hardest part about writing is starting. Here's some ideas Shut up and Write! Get a gang of friends together, in a cafe, set a timer and type.
It's that simple.
To help, Thesis Whisperer readers have made you a google map of thesis writer friendly cafes: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ptab=2&hl=en&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=205614989299811132381.0004ac6c429b7fc687f91
(There's even one in Madagascar!) http://www.pomodorotechnique.com/
Choose a task to be accomplished
Set the Pomodoro to 25 minutes (the Pomodoro is the timer)
Work on the task until the Pomodoro rings, then put a check on your sheet of paper
Take a short break (5 minutes is OK)
Every 4 Pomodoros take a longer break
You can use the 'tomato of truth' RMIT University has a 'shut up and write' session at Pearson and Murphy's cafe, 9:30 am every Friday at this bench table up the back.
All welcome! Try 'time boxing' Don't try and manage your references manually Let go of the idea that you can possibly read everything that might be relevant. You just can't. Is there a cure for OAC? http://www.endnote.com/ Will be managed and supported by your library, so if you want to minimise risk, you should use it. But it's not your only option There are masses of databases, let alone articles:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_academic_databases_and_search_engines Learn to read "like a mongrel" My friend John Ting claims there are two ways to play tennis: with technical precision, or like a mongrel - with the intent to win at all costs. He extends this analogy to reading.
Reading like a mongrel means: fast, agressively and for a purpose. Target the abstract, and perhaps the conclusion or method before deciding you want to read the rest. This saves you wasting time on material which is not relevant. This is not easy.
So use technology! This is evernote And here is a good blog full of tips for using it:
http://evernote.tumblr.com/ The key to database happiness is getting a grip on your metadata.
Broadly speaking, there are two strategies: emergent or heirarchy. A combination of both is perhaps the most effective. For instance - how would you tag this image? Compare your tags with another person's. Which do you think will be effective and why? For the first hour
Write down three key words which describe the sort of knowledge you are looking for (or ask your supervisor for some)
Login to Google scholar through the RMIT library homepage (this enables you to download full text of most papers you find)
Try your key words, have a look at the papers you find: what keywords are on them? (usually they are listed in the header)
MAKE A NOTE of all the keywords you find and start building a longer list.
Run another search for each of the keywords on your expanded list, read ONLY the abstracts and export most interesting citations to Mendeley (use a 'scratch' folder)
Have a break, get a coffee and look at your collection of papers - what journals are they from? Which journal seems to have the most interesting papers? Make a list of three journals to target for the next pass.
For the Second hour
Go to the home pages of those journals, run some of the author names you have found. Locate multiple works if possible: this is a good sign that authors are active and engaged in the field.
Pick the author with the most citations (most databases will have a button, it's very easy to do it in google scholar). Go to the bibliography of one of their papers. What are the oldest papers they cite (even if it was 2 or three years ago)?
Look up these older authors in Google scholar - are they cited a lot? If so, they are likely to be the 'village elders'. Download these papers.
Browse through the people who have cited the village elders - who has the most citations? Download these papers.
If the citation is recent, look them up on the web and see if you can find where they work - who are their colleagues? Most research groups will list their papers on the web - this will help you locate peripheral works.
Take all your papers and arrange them according to date. Start reading!
Give the reading some limits It's very easy, even for seasoned researchers, to get into a literature panic. What is the matching academic task? The problem is...
Doing a PhD is full of problems!
Here are some. As some guy once said: know yourself