The Comfort Pursuit

#AcWriMo update

Image by Flickr user Andreas., shared under CC
Image by Flickr user Andreas., shared under CC

This week I decided to postpone the planned post and make a confession instead. AcWriMo has been teaching me heaps… About myself!

It is the evening of AcWriMo day 18 in New Zealand. So it is time for an update.

I have been pushing myself to accomplish (at least) the minimum writing goals for the day, but not all days are that easy. Some things I realized:

  1. My biggest problem is not being tired or having “no time”, my biggest problem is transitions. For this reason I decided to work from home most days, so I don’t have to set up my computer or files in different places and I don’t waste my time commuting. But that doesn’t work every day. Some days I still have to go to the university for meetings, supervision, workshops or even to research at the library. In these days my writing productivity is much lower than the expected.
  2. Although routine is very welcome in many cases, I have been very bad on keeping up with the evening routine of going to the accountability spreadsheet to fill my daily achievements. This happens sometimes with my planning tables, when I struggle to keep them updated. My goal for this week is to improve this aspect of my AcWriMo efforts.
  3. The pomodoro technique has already taught me that although we tend to think we work many hours a day, daily hours of really focused work is a real battle! This can be seen checking the academics’ writing goals on AcWriMo accountability spreadsheet. To be realistic, 6 to 8 pomodoros per day seems to be a good deal. This means 3 to 4 hours writing per day. Tasks that require different skills can be done in the remaining hours of the working day. I have set up the goal of 5 hours or 10 pomodoros of writing per day, but rare were the days I managed to keep up with this goal. Four hours was much more frequent.
  4. As PhD students we are required to be highly adaptive, as the research is a process. However, for me these changes along the way can be very demotivating, especially if I have clearly set goals. So this happened: 1 November (Friday), I set up the AcWriMo goals; 4 November, I met my supervisors and decided to work on revisions and editions on previously written chapters before moving to the Literature Review and Theoretical Framework chapter. As a result I haven’t started to work on this chapter, which was actually the goal for the month, until 12 November. I was still writing and trying to keep up with the pomodoro-writing-goals, but basically half-month late on the overall goal.

In the attempt of accounting my writing hours, the question of what counts as writing is still an open one for me. Although I have read some considerations about it I am not convinced about the answers I found. Probably because I have been focusing on the Literature Review chapter, it has been impossible to focus just on writing, as the basis for the argument is built on reading. Maybe results or discussion would have been easier chapters for a full month of writing.

The way I have been working with my supervisors is highly flexible regarding order of chapters and preliminary deadlines and has been working very well. But it has been a challenge to fit the frequent changes into the AcWriMo goals. Maybe the goals should have been more flexible as well… But it is all a learning process and this intensive month has been showing more than just how much I can write, it has taught me how to improve the process of managing goals, time and realistic hours of (writing) work.

For the next 12 days I will try to improve some of the challenging aspects I have found so far. Another post with the final reflections will come up early December.

Take-away message: Enjoying and learning a lot with the challenging process!

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