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This may seem to some like a rather stern, if a little generic and hackneyed, title. However, I will try not to apologise for this as this blog is primarily intended as a tool for myself, to help me weather the psychological and emotional peaks and troughs of my ever-oscillating motivation as I wade further into my PhD; now about to start the 4th calendar year of my part-time studies.

I have been struggling for the last 1-2 years, in particular, with a severe (IMO) procrastination problem; I will create plans and checklists and tasks and systems within systems; colour codes within colour codes etc etc. However, so far, very few of the strategies I have gleefully invented, or transposed from other peers' apparent breakthroughs, have stood the test of time and helped me move forward with a sustained focus on getting on with what I **say I want to do.**

My shorthand answer to this is to begin, from today, until my intended submission in Summer 2016, to:

hold myself accountable.

What does this mean? What does it involve? Well, I think an important principle underpinning the kind of accountability I mean is, befitting prevalent PhD 'conditions', being evidence-based and concrete as far as possible.

Setting goals that have real, tangible, measurable characteristics is important. This is partly for monitoring progress to even be feasible, because there is a 'thing' to monitor, an observable 'object' to observe rather than just a notional entity or abstraction. It is also because I believe in my own PhD, at least, being a thoroughly embodied thing, for me; an 'embedded-in-the-world' application and expression of the questions I am compelled to ask and pursue new understandings about in relation to my subject (contemporary arts practice and cultural education). For this, it needs to be able to take on a life as a concrete, independent (or interdependent) entity, to which I can direct care and attention and in which I can meaningfully invest my (sometimes incredibly sparse) time and energy. As an in-/ interdependent creature, the cared-for PhD will, I have no doubt, bring much joy into my life just like a well-fed and suitably protected cat!

So, accountability to me right now means making a friend and companion of my PhD. I have some complex feelings about this, just like its possible to at times feel ambivalent about one's friends and have a loving, warm distance from them. I hope that as I develop a practice of tending to my thesis more regularly, and with greater honesty and vigour, some great life lessons and skills will come through this that are much bigger and broader than the doctorate itself.

Does this psycho-babble make sense or ring true to anyone else?

Returning to studies

Hello degreecollector, I don't know if I can be of any real help as I am in the exact same position at this point in time! Returning in September/ October from an interruption from my PhD and feeling really lost and 'dumbed down'. I hope you aren't feeling despondent like this!

I have spent some time doing some goal-setting, however, and this is starting to help me rekindle my motivation (and reacquaint with my placeholders; where I last got up to with my research project and what was left unresolved at that stage which I can pick up from here, rather than from ground zero).

Don't know if that's of any use as a potential strategy to start with, but at least we can keep each other company as we transition back to studying, with this thread perhaps?

PP xx

'Writing your did in 15 minutes' book- anyone have the pdf version?

Will PM you now, Noctu...

All this sharing gives such a warm glowy feeling. Nice start to the weekend :-)

'Writing your did in 15 minutes' book- anyone have the pdf version?

Hi all,

Not directly relevant, Button, but I have a few of related books on PDF if you're interested:

The Unwritten Rules of PhD Success
Mastering Your PhD (2nd Ed)
Inside Track: Writing Dissertations and Theses

Mumbler, sorry to be cheeky, but could I possibly access your kindle version of the '15 mins a day' book - happily in exchange for something else. Feel free to pm me..also, to convert it to PDF for Button, you could try Calibre which I've found useful (calibre-ebook.com)

Hope that helps


To all Oct 2011 PhD students

Hi everyone,

I just started my PhD, too. Very slow beginning - just an induction and a couple of evening lectures. My main supervisor is away at the moment, so I'm meeting the supporting one (who I already know from MA) on Monday. Maybe that's when the pressure will switch on - a feeling that I quite welcome, as I'm finding it hard to know where to start in a way.

Glad to be doing it, though, and full of excitement about how much project will evolve over the coming months!

(p.s. fyi - I'm another f/t worker, p/t phd-er, so that's also why the slow start I guess)

last minute panick: what do I do now?

Hi Corinne,

Just wanted to say well done for getting to this point, not that I can really add much. On a minature level, I had a PDF issue with my MA dissertation, where the original word doc had been re-embedding previous edits i'd done, so they re-appeared in later versions (like pop-up rats in an amusement arcade) and, inevitably, despite contact re-editing -in my bound version. Also, being in a field in the close family of art history, I had images which came out horribly (parched and pale and 'liney') and the printers kept trying to tell me it was fine. It really seemed like they were used to working with purely text-based theses, or maybe those with black and white diagrams at the most.

It's really frustrating, and I definitely sympathise with the scale at which your annoyance must have been magnified!

Hope you're sup has some helpful suggestions...good luck getting it resolves

PP x

Asking work to go part-time for PhD

Hello again,

Just posting an update for those that helped/ are following this thread. I took some time to stop flustering over my conflicted ideas, and to see if a decision would 'come to me' more easily that way. Me being me, of course I keep wanting to please everyone by amassing both PhD and work etc, but I'm come to the realisation that this attitude can't really go on if I'm going to actually do well at it. As you say, Ian (if I may?):

"You can't have it all and you have reached a crossroads. Which direction do you want to take?"

So, today my ESRC application went in with F/T mode selected. My supervisor said it all looked v strong :-) If I win funding I will quit my job, simple as, and focus on the PhD for which I am lucky enough have financial support.

If (when?) I don't get funding, I will be better prepared emotionally (because of the finite nature of a 'no') to make a decision about my job - also bearing in mind what part-time work is available to me, come June. In the meantime, I will see if I can perhaps find a non-threatening way to mention my interest in expanding my research journey to my boss, or even that I want to - in the near future- do a PhD and am considering options. If, given the job loss situation, the timing is bad for this, I will mention it as soon as possible after my DTC's decision. I suppose that's the best I can do for now...

I still maintain, if someone reading has experienced having this conversation with their boss, I'd love to know how you handled it and how it went.

PP :-)

Asking work to go part-time for PhD

Sorry for adding such a long post: it actually cut me off!

I just wanted to thank everybody for helping. As suggested, I think I need to maybe take some time to clear my head once the stress of getting my grant application in next week has subsided, and the organisation may be a little further along its restructuring plans. I suppose it won't greatly help my line manager to tell her before this, and it definitely won't help me.

I might as well just wait to bring it up when I know about the funding, I suppose. Unfortunately, it won't make me popular if (IF) I walk out with a research studentship when others are losing their jobs, but I will have to remind myself its not my fault and I would be wanting to start the PhD with or without these circumstances...

Asking work to go part-time for PhD

Quote From CR1980:

It really depends on the relationship you have with your line manager. Could you have an informal hypothetical chat with them about the situation without it becoming public knowledge or being used against you? I think that's got to be the best way to go. Does anyone know you are interested in a PhD? Have others done it? Might your employer consider funding/supporting you?

I wouldn't do anything til your funding is confirmed personally because you don't want to shoot yourself in the foot.

...do you want to still work in your current job when you finish?

Thanks for your response, and sharing your experience with this - Ian/ Beefy and Chuff, too!

To answer various questions:

I have a pretty good relationship with my line manager, but that's largely because she sees me as a very reliable individual. That foundation could be quite shaken by my revelation, as I don't know that she particularly sees it coming (although she's noted before that I seem to be most motivated by research tasks so think she'd understand why I would make such a choice, to some extent). I've spoken confidentially to a couple of friends/ colleagues whom I trust, one of whom has just informed her manager of some freelance work she'll be doing on the side in a different field (so some parallels). That person was supportive, so on that basis the colleague advised transparency. The other one probably has less experience in this arena, but nonetheless felt that I was valued enough by the line manager to have some room for negotiating (I'm not sure its as simple as this for obvious reasons....)

In terms of the wavering commitment and indecision that I am giving off: I wholeheartedly want a career that I couldn't have in the same way/ as 'quickly' (!) without a PhD. I've shared this with my main sup and she said as much, too. I see myself publishing and presenting work, doing some consultancy in my field and some lecturing/ industry training. I gain satisfaction from having a number of things/ projects on the go at any given time... However, I don't want to downplay the personal passion. I would do it anyway, probably even if I was told I would never get this exact career ideal. I'd make it work for me, I hope.

I definitely would want to have moved on from my current post during/ following my PhD, but I am also aware that its not going to be easy to find another source of income during my studies, that is also enhancing my profile for said career vision. I suppose its my fear and insecurity of not finding a part time job to see me through my studies that's as rewarding and important to my future role. I suppose I was hoping my strategy would alleviate the common problem of having to be grossly overqualified for the post-phd job, if there are no academic posts available when I complete. However, I've had a reality check from the contributions here, and perhaps I have to accept a demotion to see me through financially. I did that during my BA, too - data entry, coffee shops etc, even though I officially wasn't allowed to work - but its painful to go back to those sorts of roles after investing so much in my work in the last 5+ years.

Chuff, I do take your point that as a means to an end, maybe its the best way to see keep my head 100% focussed on PhD while earning...Realistically, I know a 4 day week won't make much difference, as it will probably take me 1-2 days to clear my head from work, leaving only 1 day for P-T PhD....

Beefy - I did 16 or so hour days for 2 years while balancing this job with MA, but I know I couldn't have gone on for 4-5 like that. So, its good to be reminded of that reality. I thought of doing it for the first 1-2 years, while saving and then stopping work or reapplying for research council grants, as my institution has a multi-modal procedure where you can apply to switch from part- to full-time or visa versa

Asking work to go part-time for PhD

Quote From Mackem_Beefy:

Will your PhD benefit your employer? That's the one possible argument you can use, however, if the two are unrelated then I'd think very long and hard about what is most important to you.

You either want the job (career) or the PhD. If you want the PhD, look at a fully funded, full time option so that at least you have an income.

Hi Mackem,

Thanks so much for your reply - and the bluntness is exactly what I was hoping for, as I want to see it from all sides before making a move.

To clarify, I am applying for full funding, but I am being realistic about my likelihood of obtaining it in the current climate. My PhD is actually really relevant to my employer, and could be an asset to them under normal circumstances; however, as the cuts have a tendency to reorder priorities and the strategic reordering of staff and workloads etc, I doubt it will be seen as added value when it simultaneously comes with a request for reduced hours.

The truth is, given the problems many new PhDs are having securing post-docs and jobs, if I had the choice I would probably keep doing my job on a p/t basis anyway (even with full funding) as I do really care about the projects, my colleagues, and the success of the organisation BUT not to the exclusion of my dreams and ambitions. So, for me its not really as simple as either/ or work and PhD - especially as my proposed project has quite a significant practice-led element.

The other option is that I make a clean break from this organisation rather than dilute my role there, to take on p/t work in another org (hopefully still related to my PhD field - but obviously there's not a great deal out there right now). It would seem to be preferable to have the weighting of work/ PhD clear to an organisation from the outset, so that they know what they're getting - so maybe this is fairer. In the same breath, I should also point out I was part-way through my p/t MA when I started at the current post, so they know that I still work at full force even when studying - and my dissertation has continued to benefit them and attract attention to the project with which it fitted.

So, its not too straight-forward really, but I'm taking from your post that I should be transparent and give them due notice about the fact I was investigating the possibility and have had a project accepted by a supervisor, which I intend to start in the autumn and really see it as a benefit to the org - etc etc. Argh - not sure!

Any more thoughts MB, or anyone else? There may be a virtual easter egg in it for you!(gift)

PP xx

Asking work to go part-time for PhD


I just wondered if any PhDers out there (or those poised to start one) have any experience of negotiating hours with their employer (who is not particularly supportive of academic/ 'extracurricular' pursuits) in order to take on a p/t PhD.

I am in a position where I won't know about my grant application until June, but am unlikely (in my social science field) to obtain full funding anyway. Therefore, I will most likely have to make arrangements with my employer to relieve a bit of my very large workload. I'm thinking I could perhaps ask for an 0.8 or 4 day week without being completely sniggered at, but at risk of sounding uncommitted and 'too big for my boots' as one of the youngest people in the organisation.

I sound like a little 6 year old, I know, but the reason I am finding this hard is because in less than a month a significant portion of our organisation will likely be losing their jobs. My department is in a relatively sound position, compared to many others. So, I feel like ethically I need to inform them before the 'restructuring' in case they want to create some kind of job share or something with another colleague (though something tells me this would be too creative and flexible a solution! Also, mine is quite a specialist role so it wouldn't be an easy option by any means). This could backfire and leave me jobless and unable to start PhD (no savings, no other income etc).

How would you go about this? An informal scoping conversation with my line manager at the soonest possibility? Wait till after the chaos/ after the funding decision? How would you sell it as a positive thing, that doesn't smack of wavering dedication to my post?

Thanks for your help!
PP x

2 articles needed, please


Can anyone please access the following articles for me:

Karl Maton, 'Putting Emotion and Reflexivity to Work in Researching Migration' Sociology October 2008 42: 935-952


Mark O'Neil, 'Essentialism, adaptation and justice: Towards a new epistemology of museums' in Museum Management and Curatorship
Volume 21, Issue 2, June 2006, Pages 95-116

Many thanks!


Potential supervisor's influence over ESRC studentship decision

Thanks v much, Natassia - sorry for late reply, have had a madly busy week at work.

PP x

p.s. will be back to post a bit more in a bit...hope everyone's having a good weekend x

Potential supervisor's influence over ESRC studentship decision

Hi all,

Thanks again for the support...I'm glad I suspected it was going to be more 'interviewey' than perhaps prospective sup's casual wording suggested. There were some quite probing q's amid all the friendly banter. Then at the end, they exchanged glanced and verbally offered me a place, and said they'd be putting me forward for the ESRC! Woooo! Actually surprised they offered the place there and then, as I felt like I wasn't on great form, verbally...ah well

Then we discussed a little bit what I'd do if I didn't get it...I mentioned I could broker the topic of dropping a couple of days from my job, but that my employers didn't really support study/ research - especially as they don't understand how its relevant to my department ( :-s smacks own head).

They hinted that ESRC have more confidence in studies backed by an institution/ employer that could be one of the case studies....I kind of couldn't be clearer than I was that this WON'T work, but maybe I need to at least imply its a possibility on my shortened ESRC proposal (500 words). Will they hold me to it, if (in a parallel universe) I did get a grant and the employer case study doesn't materialise.... ?

slightly excited PP x

Potential supervisor's influence over ESRC studentship decision

Hi Bewildered,

Yes, my institution just found out recently that they are to be a DTC. So if I follow you, that means the decision is at least internal, so they will have a better idea of who I am/ what I can do than an entirely detached ESRC person, at least. I will ask today if they definitely have a studentship allocated in this department.

Regarding my references, I have contacted a former tutor from my BA who is happy to help and even offered to meet me to catch up on what I've been doing (to write an informed reference). The other referee, should I ask my potential supervisor/ former MA tutor or someone different (eg. work - puh, not likely! Or an institution where i did some other postgrad training, and 60 M credits)?


PP x