There is some truth to the notion that deadlines are motivating… but I wonder whether boredom can outweigh that motivating factor sometimes?
These days I am trying to rework the text of my thesis, yet again. I think I am going to struggle to look at this text again. I am officially sick of it. And bored with it. And wishing that it was already behind me. I received some of the comments from the members of my PhD committee on Thursday, and am waiting for comments from a few others today and tomorrow. But I’ve already started working out some of the smaller, less time-consuming issues while waiting. Fingers crossed the comments of the various members of the committee are not contradictory. I’m hoping for smooth-sailing from now on.
The trouble is not so much with the comments, or with the committee, or even with the PhD itself, the trouble is more with myself. I just find that I no longer want to work on this book. It’s 300+ pages tell a story that I know inside-out, that can’t teach me anything. I am spending my days restructuring sections, changing words here and there, thinking about the conclusions a bit more, but I am learning nothing new. And it’s pretty boring.
Boring means unmotivating.
I wonder already how on earth I could ever come back to this text once the whole process is over. As part of my PhD contract here, I have to publish the PhD (which will require some text editing – AGAIN). I think a long holiday before I even think about it will be required.
Back to the editing. Sigh.
In those final months and weeks of writing-up, there’s a cloud of guilt every time I do something other than writing… The world can party on St. Patrick’s day, but I’ll be here tapping away at my laptop.
There are two breaks from my laptop and my various draft chapter versions I foresee over the next 8 weeks (besides when I’m sleeping): the Easter weekend when I visit family, and Earth Hour on 23 March when I’ll turn off the lights and the computer. Beyond that, I cannot manage to pull myself away from work: whether that is actually writing, re-reading chapter drafts, thinking about what needs to be written next, panicking when I discover there’s a vital piece of information that I’m missing, or feeling guilty for watching rugby games when I should be writing (thank goodness the Six Nations is over, and not only because both Ireland and France sucked this year and it’s something we’d rather forget…).
I don’t mean to make the whole PhD process sound like hell, it’s just a bit testing at times. But the light at the end of the tunnel is there! And in some masochistic way, there is a real pleasure to be found in seeing the pages mount up, and the number of corrections reducing… Plus there is a massive community of people out there who are going through the same, or have gone through the same. If they can do it, so can you. I often take heart from seeing comments on twitter from fellow researchers on a weekend when they are also knuckling down to their own to-do list.
Working on Sundays is not forever, just for the moment.
P.S. Happy St. Patrick’s day
The other day I was reading a book called “How to write a lot” on the métro on the way to work. The book is really excellently written – informative and funny. Its one central message is simple: schedule time for writing and stick to that schedule.
I had scheduled writing time from 9am to 11am that particular morning. But, irony of ironies, because I was so engrossed in the book, I actually missed my stop on the métro! I ended up going too far, had to get off and wait for a métro back, then missed my connecting tram and had to wait for the next one.
The upshot? I arrived at the office 20 minutes later than planned (at 9:15am) and lost precious “scheduled” writing time, all because I was so engrossed in the book that tells me how important it is to stick to a writing schedule…
I have just realised that I need to finish EVERYTHING in the next two months, or else wait until September. The curse of the university summer semester.
Lesson of the week: be sure to read the PhD regulations of your faculty early enough so that you know the sort of hoops through which you’ll have to jump in order to get this thing over and done with. This week I discovered that there are no PhD examinations in July and August. And that once I submit the thesis the jury have two months to read it before I have the internal examination. Then there’s another month before the external examination. So the examination process takes three months, unless they want me to carry out major corrections, then it would take longer.
Penny-dropping realisation that I had: my plan to submit my thesis in May is flawed. If the jury have two months to read it, then my internal defence would have to take place in July. But there are no defences in July and August, so in reality it wouldn’t happen until September! So what would be the point of submitting in May? I could just wait and submit in September and graduate later. But that would mean the whole thesis would be hanging over my head during the summer, and frankly, I just want to be rid of it.
New unbreakable deadline: APRIL 2013. AH!
Well. PhD comics says it best.
Courtesy of phdcomics.com
It’s a pretty regular occurrence for me: the existential crisis. The question: well what’s the point of all this anyway?
In the beginning, I thought I’d be able to save the world with the research I was doing. But now all I’m thinking about is keeping the 5 or 6 professors who may read my thesis happy enough so that they will pass me… Then I can get on with life – right?
At least I know I’m not alone in the existential crisis department.
Thanks to phdcomics.com for keeping me sane.
I wonder if it’s just me, but I seem to work better when I have my ears plugged with music. Is this because it blocks out all the other (albeit rather limited) office noises? Is it because it makes work just a tad more enjoyable? Whatever the reason, it certainly works for me.
I’ve discussed this before with some colleagues. One or two think I’m crazy to sit at my desk listening to music all the time, and probably make the jump to assume that I’m just dossing and not working at all. A few others do also listen to music, but have very specific playlists: only classical music or only instrumental music, eg.
I, on the other hand, seem to have a great time with whatever happens to play next. Sometimes I don’t even notice what song is playing, and I pretty much always keep my play settings on “shuffle”. Maybe I’m a fan of surprises.
Here’s a sample of some of the artists that have serenaded my working life today:
The Felice Brothers
The Head and the Heart
And, yes, I managed to get through a huge amount of work today. In fact, I seem more likely to be productive with music than without it. Part of me kind of thinks that when I like a song that’s playing, I will stay at my desk and continue working just a bit longer in order to hear the end of the song… I wonder if someone has done a phd to look into that?
Do others have similar music/work relationships?