Friday, June 27, 2014

Your Writing Space: For Productivity and PhD Motivation

by E. Alana James, Doctoral Net:
Do you ever have you PhD motivation lag? I can relate.

This blog is written on the first of a couple of road trips this summer as I begin to sell DoctoralNet subscription services to universities.

I started in the UK at a conference for 21st Century Global Universities - a topic I may overview and write about in the next few days.

This blog is written on a personal note because I find as I travel that I have to re-evaluate my use of work spaces to keep my motivation and productivity high.

Three times, I built an environment that proved exactly right for both motivation and productivity. I hope that anyone lagging may take some ideas from these.

1. During my PhD work I set my alarm 15-30 minutes earlier than my family. I crawled out of bed, past sleeping dogs, made coffee and snuck into the room where I kept my home computer. Every day I could see what I was doing grow and change. I also kept a research journal - not to comment on what I had done so much as to plan what I wanted to do next - to keep my eye on the ball of finishing.

2. My current office is as nice as it gets - lovely built-in cupboards that hide the clutter, an ergonomically sound chair and a window which looks out to the seaside area where we live. It is important that it is beautiful as I spend so much time there (probably 60 hours a week). My to do lists/ research journal continues but when I am at my desk it is often up on pomodairo tool which I set for 50 minutes of work and 10 minutes of break.

3. All is destroyed when I travel, so today I am celebrating my setting up something that works because it is always changing. Where do I work and how do I keep my motivation when I am staying at a somewhat funky air bnb space with no desk, and a roomate I don't really know? Moving around seems to be the answer for me when no one space works. In Liverpool, I found a coffee house with wifi - I start my day there for a couple of hours, giving the room-mate time to leave for work. Then when that chair gets too hard I move on. I also messed up my normal routine, showering in the middle of the day - eating at odd hours - each timed to perk me up when motivation was flagging. This reminds me of a man who came to our first live retreat - while everyone else closeted in their room David went to the coffee shop.
Fortunately we live in a time where we all easily travel with the music we like - choose something upbeat that you can easily ignore but that keeps your mood positive (soundtracks work for me).

What are the overarching lessons? 

- Keep at it - no matter what. Take short breaks and mess with routine but keep coming back to the work.
- Keep your eye on the next steps - those closest to you and cross them off your list at regular intervals.
- Keep your body/ mind comfortable - whether that is through movement, music, beauty or comfort.

Of course we have a lot more motivational tips and tricks on the home site: 

Let me know what you do - we can all learn from each others tricks.

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