Category: Work organisation

How to manage few projects in the same time? 

I’ve reached this point, where I self-disciplined myself, and I wake up in the morning, eat breakfast, go to the home-office and work 1.5 hours, take a break, work 1.5 hours, take a break… There is no place for any distractions, my tree grows, and I can stay focused on my work. 

There are still some self-organization challenges (during 27th Summer Academy in Bonn we were taught that it is better to use word “challenge” instead of “problem”, because then it is easier, and more probable that we will find a solution). What is my challenge now? 

I am this kind of person that I like to stay focused on one project, go deep into it, finish it, and start a next project. In real life it is totally unrealistic approach – in most cases we have different projects and responsibilities in the same time, and we need to find a way how to organise, realise, fulfil all of them.

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Magic of a “to do” list

One Sunday I was Skyping with my Friend and she asked me what were my plans for the next day. I answered – “You know, I will write this paper for this joint research”. She wasn’t satisfied with the answer and she asked – “can you be more specific…?” And I couldn’t answer that question… I was a little bit ashamed, because it looks that I am so well organised. In reality sometimes I forget about important elements of the self- and tasks-management… 

One of this elements is an everyday “to do” list. Sabine was talking about that, but I didn’t implement it. 

As you could see in the post about planning, I prepared almost one year plann of my PhD writing. As I realised after the talk with my Friend – it is not enough. Because all this task, and subtask are still too general (as my answer for my Firend’s question). 

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“Side projects” dilemma 

What do I call a “side project”? As I taught my students in Bremen – always define the used terms in the beginning of your paper to be sure that you and your readers think about the same things. The “side project” for me is everything what we do and what is not directly connected with our PhD project, for example:

  • Your supervisor asked you to wrote some paper for his/ her conference
  • A colleague from your department is a book editor and asked you to write a book chapter
  • Your professor asked you to be a book chapter co-author
  • Your colleague from studies asked you to work on some parts of his/her research project
  • Someone invited you to joint research and a paper writing afterwards
  • You applied for a scholarship abroad with other research project than your final PhD project
  • You found some interesting volunteering opportunities
  • Your Professor asked you to assist her/his courses
  • You received financial grant for a summer school (10 days somewhere)

Topics of papers/ research / activities can be related with your PhD research but not necessarily.

Take a part or not take a part in the “side project”?

It is hard question to answer.

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Ups I did it again! – About importance of the breaks

As I and my Husband say – “It is easier to give advices, than to apply your own advices” 

During a work on the joint paper I forgot about an important aspect of my new work system – breaks after every 90 minutes of the work. Or maybe it is better to say that I ignored it. Because I had my tree planted for 90 minutes and I was counting time in my teamwork, so I exactly knew when 90 minutes passed. 

And what? And nothing.

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Reflections after one week with the new work system 

Our daily schedule looks great in the paper, so how it went during the first week…

Successes

Room for improvement

  • 90 minutes of work
  • 15 minutes breaks
  • Housework division
  • Messaging apps “off time” until 17.00
  • Sleeping hours
  • Working hours
  • Internet “off time” one hour before sleep
  • Mail use
  • 15 minutes evening meditation
  • Evening exercises

I „planted a tree” for every 90 minutes of work, and then I had my 15 minutes break. I was focused on work during this 90 minutes, and 15 minutes I devoted for a real break. What does the “real break” mean? It means to stand up from my computer, and:

  • go to do kitchen and make raspberry or camomile tea. I love this raspberry tea from Herbapol, it is the only one which I know, which contains 60% of raspberry fruits inside, hibiscus flowers, and rosa canina. So it is real raspberry tea not only flavoured black tea 😛 I always take it with me for my scholarships 😀

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  • go to the leaving room to take a look on a world outside, and relax my eyes from short-distance looking, and to think about nothing, observe nature

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How to implement a new work system?  

It doesn’t work like that – “I will wake up tomorrow morning and I will change everything!”

It is more like long-term and cumulative process.

I’ve started my “process of change” when I was 17 from the book “Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom” by William Glasser M.D. (more about William Glasser and “Choice Theory”, see William Glasser Institute). I understood in that moment, that my life can be different. And this “process of change” has been about all life dimensions.

The “process of change” speeded up when I started my PhD studies. I faced new situations, new challenges, new people, new responsibilities, new requirements. During my first year I attended “Breathwork” workshops by Michał Godlewski (more about “Breathowk” see the book “Rebirthing and Breathwork” by C. Dowling, and more about “Mindfulness” concept see the article “Mindfulness: A Proposed Operational Definition” by Scott R Bishop et al.) and this technique helps me to work with emotions and previous experiences and to release suppressed emotions, feelings, memories, and free myself from living in the past, and be more conscious and grounded in present life.

Year in Bremen (I will write separate post about that) changed more than I could imagine, and to be honest – it was like a sprint right after a marathon. A lot of “processes of change” which I had started before just speeded up dramatically during Bremen-time to bring me in some nice, stable, normal, calm space/ time/ place in my life.

Huge changes comes from small  everyday decisions and consciousness in our acting.

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Good plan is a half of success

as we say in Polish.

Also Sabine Lerch underlined importance of a good plan and preparation phase. She showed as how to divide our projects on the smallest possible tasks and then plan how much time and other assets we need to invest.

My old PhD writing plan:

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To organise and plan my work, and to control time spent on different types of tasks (to help myself plan similar tasks in future) I use teamworkprojects application (probably there is a lot of similar applications, this one recommended me my Husband). I can make a list of main tasks of my PhD project, and smaller tasks and the smallest one (I use free 2-project version, where the first project is my PhD, and the second one – so called “side projects”. I plan deadlines and time which I estimate to spend on the task. And  I can control my work progress every week checking reports 🙂

To be able to write this post, I needed to motivate myself to plan new version of my PhD project – Sabine would be proud of me 🙂 I divided my work on PhD into parts (chapters), and then a work on each chapter I divided into subtasks, and I set deadlines, and estimated time spend. If I work according this plan I should finish in the mid-July 2017…

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Motivation – where to find it? 

As I was taught on some psychology or pedagogy course during one of my studies, the best one is so called “internal motivation”. But how to find it?

Ask oneself a question – “Why do I want to do this?” And then just remember the answer.

It is easier to say than to do 😛

When I was starting my PhD studies I wanted to do research useful for society. Then I faced reality and I realised that not all researchers do useful research, and even, that part of them don’t care about society at all, they care only to publish enough to receive a salary (maybe it is a problem of Polish science financing system, and parameterisation). Researchers who believe that their job is “for something” are in minority. Fortunately I was lucky to meet some of them 🙂

And it was like a general motivation to start a research/ academic career. When I think about it I have also this post “How To Feel Fulfilled: Tools From Aristotle (or Ari as I call him)” of  Karen Salmansohn in my mind.

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What have I done with distractions?

During last 3 years all types of distractions were my good “friends”. Most of them were internet portals with news, with celebrities gossip, and scrolling FB a few times per day. I couldn’t start working before I read all news, all new posts on liked fan-pages etc. But the worse type of distractions using was when I was under time pressure, but in the same time I was afraid of result of my work, I was not confident enough, I was avoiding finishing it. I realised it strongly while an essay writing (to pass one course at the Polish Uni). I was so afraid of Professor’s judgement that I was doing everything to not finish that essay. I had been spending a few hours on FB. In some moment I asked myself why I was reading something on internet instead of finishing the essay and had free evening later… I understood that I was going into distractions because of some fears… I wasn’t able to face my fears and it was easier to just did something else than took the challenge. It had been shortly before “Self and time management” workshop. From that moment and after the workshop I tried to change it:

  • I decided to do not use internet in the morning, before work afternoon at home right after a work to be present, when I am with my husband
  • I decided to don’t use internet one hour before sleeping time
  • I decided to have days without internet at all (Sundays or Saturdays)
  • I decided to put away my phone during work time and not even look at it

Sometimes it was better, sometimes it was worse. The most important that I was trying to change something, and didn’t stay in the same place.

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Sabine changed my life

During my 9-months research scholarship in Bremen (financed by DAAD) I attended a few workshops organised by ProUB centrum. One of it “Self and time management” leaded by Sabine Lerch changed my life totally.

I learned:

  • how to treat my PhD thesis as a project
  • how to organise my work
  • how to avoid distractions
  • how to recognise my natural work rhythm
  • how to keep life-work balance

We were discussing also our values, and what motivate us. We wrote on cards private (red cards) and professional (blue cards) values:

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