Archive | April 2014

PhD Race Training


Last month my research group held a seminar for students on motivation, procrastination, and finding a balance between your studies and everything else in your life (work, family, social life, exercise…). In general I’m pretty motivated. My program is structured well, and even though the recruitment process has been long, and has not gone 100% according to plan, I enjoyed my first round of interviews and am slowly ploughing through the transcriptions. I have a list of things to do next, and have faith that I will eventually get to them. My problem is not really procrastination either, because I don’t have time to procrastinate. Teaching a course, working as a research coordinator, acting as stage director to my children’s lives (get up, get dressed, brush teeth, eat, wash hands, put on coat…do homework, take bath, put on pyjamas, eat…), not to mention personal chef and maid, well there is not that much time to procrastinate. At the seminar one of the other participants, who recently completed her phD, explained how it was important to her to make time for exercise, to maintain her physical and mental health. I think¬†she made an important point, and I enjoy training for running races, so I decided to get back into it. I won’t get into the guilt of taking time out of everything else to focus on my training, but I did realize that I approach the phD the same way I approach the race training. First of all, I make sure to follow a schedule, I get really excited about it, I buy stuff (mostly books, notebooks, pens, highlighters, a new laptop when I began the phD – new running shoes, tights, a little gadget so that I can run with my smartphone), and I follow blogs or specific Twitter feeds for continued motivation. However, all the other times I have run seriously I have been on maternity leave, sick leave, between jobs – I never been able to invest in 2 major goal-oriented tasks at once. So I’m hoping that the running doesn’t detract from the phD, and that the phD doesn’t get in the way of the running. I am convinced that taking a break to run is good for my brain, that I can also think and figure things out about the phD while running, and that there is somethings about tackling a long-term commitment, like a 10k race (I can’t do longer, my physiotherapist said it was bad for my knees) that helps me believe that I can do anything that I set my mind to. I’m just worried I’ll get so excited about the running I’ll lose interest in the phD. I wonder if I can find a group of phD students to run with – we could discuss our research and fitness goals!

What about you readers? Are you able to focus on 2 major life goals at once? Any tips?

Moving along…

I’ve reached the recruitment and data collection stage of the journey, after being passing my proposal defence “with minor modifications.” That means I will need to rewrite the first three chapters later, just when I thought they were done. I have started interviewing but am still looking for a few more participants, and given that my project involves 4 interviews with each of the parents, 2 with the educators and 2 with the teachers, I have to hope that not too many parents drop out, and that the teachers agree to participate in the Fall. It’s been a stressful experience, and I have made peace with the possibility that I have to continue recruiting next year, and delay finishing if that’s how it works out. I once met somebody who told me how he did a phD in biology, about butterflies, and it took him 3 or 4 years to complete his research because his butterflies kept dying or failed to reproduce. He was so traumatized he never published anything and got a job a job in the private sector as soon as he graduated. Let’s hope I still love research once I finish.

I found a pedal for transcribing, it’s not bluetooth, it connects with a usb cable, but, along with the software that allows me to control the playback speed, it makes transcribing somewhat less painful. I also bought my very own digital recorder, because I found it annoying to borrow the one from the university and to never be sure if one would be available at the time of my interviews. So now I am fully equipped to conduct interview research, which feels like a nice investment in my future career.¬†