zondag 9 mei 2010

New Feature: the Chronicles of a PhD candidate

Hi guys! The other day I was utterly bored with my work; I experienced a complete lack of motivation to do anything and my mind was flooded with thoughts, insights and whatever else, both related and unrelated to work. I get this more and more often, but also the deadline for my thesis is getting closer and closer. I just don’t find much joy in the project anymore. Or at least not enough to keep me motivated every day. It’s not like I hate my job, I’m just stressed out by it.

Since I have about 30 weeks to go until my ultimate deadline, I figured that I have to find a way to make this tolerable, preferably fun. I like to play and daydream and it is hard for me to do something I don’t find interesting. Luckily, I am able to find something interesting in most things, otherwise I wouldn’t even have made it through highschool (geography, anyone?)

So, I started thinking: How can I make this interesting, challenging in a good way, and fun? The topic on itself is interesting and I like doing research. I know my priorities and have a huge todo-list that I need to tackle in an efficient way. But…I wander off, playing and daydreaming all the time. I tried focusing using timers and rewards, but they don’t last for me. The only way I can do this, is turn it into a game.

Next step was to figure out what kind of game. I am not very competitive most of the time, therefore winning and rewards don’t work very well. The game should be fun on itself too. I like games that involve words, puzzles and organization/efficiency (for example solitaire).
So how can I use this to trick myself into thinking my work is a game? The good part about my work is that it is related to things I like:
- writing (=also word game)
- puzzles (= analysis of data)
- organization (= keep an overview of the results, but also the organizational aspects of conducting a study).

The difference with leisure games is that they look better and are usually funny. I’m sorry Prof X, but I don’t find a lot of funny things in my data (although, Prof X probably does not think there should be, but whatever). Here’s what I am going to do:

- Use more colour (typing papers, making notes, etc). I already use colour in my analysis, but I can expand that.
- Use different fonts: it is so much more fun to type if you don’t use Times New Roman (I know, I am a nerd). When I send something in I can always change it back.
- make more use of schemes and drawings.
- treat everything as an organizational game: organize data collection; organize data so that it means something: results; organize results so that it means something: conclusion; organize conclusions so that it means something: write a paper.
- make pictures of the process. And that’s where I got the idea of starting this feature. I don’t like to talk about my work a lot, but I can’t deny that it is a big part of my life. I want to start chronicling the last 8 months of my PhD until the birth of my thesis. This gives me the chance to put things in perspective and to try find the funny side. Like in those comedies where the situation is kind of sad, but the story is told in a funny way that makes you laugh anyway. Also, blogging about it, forces me to think of fun creative things to present my work week.

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