By Craig Lennox |
It would be true to say that I don’t think I have ever been busier or happier, and quite often I add in more tired to that list. I am currently working full time whilst studying for my my EdD part time, and a year ago we adopted a little boy who has not long turned two years old. So, there are a lot of plates to keep spinning at one time. To make all of this work I simply have to be organised and I have some key tips that you may wish to consider for managing your own schedule.
I make sure that I have access to everything that I will need for my studies in digital format, scanning or using my smart phone to take photos of hard copy materials as much as I can. I received an Amazon Alexa for Christmas last year and initially it wasn’t put to much use, but today Alexa has become my personal PA who never complains and who also doesn’t always get things right, which can be entertaining. Alexa keeps me up to date on appointments, deadlines, and while I rush around getting ready in the morning, she can rhyme off my daily schedule and to do list. I also use Alexa to make calls as this allows me to call hands free, perfect for multi-tasking.
I use Microsoft One Drive and I have set up folders here to file admin, coursework and assignments. I found a blog post online a while back with tips on how to file literature and I immediately adopted the approach and tweaked it to suit me. I have two key folders in my One Drive. One is for unread literature, where I dump articles that I find that may be related to my research. The other folder contains subfolders labelled A to Z (by author surname) and this is where I store literature from the ‘unread folder’ that I have since read, marked–up and made notes on. This makes it easy to find information as I progress on my doctoral journey and accumulate more and more files and articles. I find this helpful as if I find myself with five minutes to spare then I can easily access One Drive and read an article, check a deadline date or make some notes for my research. Everything is at my fingertips on my phone, tablet and computer.
I have my student email setup on all devices so that I can access it easily and respond quickly where necessary and I have a to do list in my tasks in my email that is overflowing with every little task I need to do. That little reward of ticking off completed tasks feels great.
My calendars are allocated colours to easily stand out, work (red), study (green) and personal (blue) and all calendars automatically feed into my personal Gmail calendar so that I have everything in one place. This allows me to easily see what is happening when, and it makes planning much easier. I can identify gaps and understand where I am going to be swamped and perhaps need to move things around just at a glance. My partner has calendar access to see what’s planned and this helps to keep us both organised. Now and again I will see time has been blocked out for date night or simply spending time together.
Forming habits and routines makes multi-tasking easier. Our son sleeps from 7pm and I normally plan to study once he is in bed. I can do two to three hours of study, reading, planning and so on maybe two to three nights per week, depending on what deadlines I have looming. I have the baby monitor set up on the iPad positioned next to me as I study so I can glance and see he is OK – a parental necessity and also reassurance that it’s fine to keep studying. He spends plenty of time with me and I am certain he doesn’t feel he is missing out on time with me.
I also try and work at least one full Sunday per month whilst my partner spends time with our son. These longer sessions allow me to really get into the nitty gritty of the degree.
If I have a study session planned but for whatever reason I don’t feel up to it then I simply don’t study. I’ve quickly learned that forcing yourself to study is detrimental and it’s better to listen to how you feel. Take that time off, enjoy it, and feel ready for the next study session that you have planned.
I am fortunate to be surrounded and fully supported by really amazing and understanding family and friends. Also, our son thrives on routine, making it easy for plans to actually materialise. My partner happily looks after our son while I study and I do often hear them giggling and laughing and feel left out, but then I think about why I am studying and that spurs me on.
When I am upstairs studying in the evening, my partner sees this as the perfect time to take control of what to watch on TV and never grumbles about my focus on my research.
These techniques work for me and help me to feel that I’m mostly on top of things, but it could be that they do not work for you. With some trial and error as well as some tweaking, I have come to this way of working and I am sure it will continue to evolve alongside my research.
Craig Lennox is a part-time Doctor of Education student at UWE Bristol, currently in his second year. His research focuses on higher education marketing, identities of staff and students in higher education, the concept of students as consumers and the effects this is having on the teaching and learning experience. He also works full time at UWE Bristol in Research, Business and Innovation, and records his doctoral journey at www.craigjlennox.
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