All 2 entries tagged Skills

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January 08, 2013

New Year, New Skills

Whoop! We made it into 2013...hello Mayans.

Have you found it easy getting your research groove back? Many of my colleagues have been lamenting on how difficult it is drag themselves back to work after such a blissful and speedy Christmas and new year holiday. Well, if you are in that group, this shout-out goes to you - GET UP!

As usual, the start of the year gives you a blank calendar, I call it a canvass, to paint appointments, events and to-dos on.

I have spent this morning crawling through all the free events and workshops on the Research Students Skills Programme. Here are a few I've signed up for already:

The Confident Networker

I know I am confident quite alright, but I think this workshop is worth attending to build your skill in interacting with people to get your desired outcome. "This practical, relaxed workshop will help you to develop your confidence and communication skills, and to practice them in a safe and friendly environment." There are only 8 Spaces left as at my publication of this post today. For more information click here

Cafe Enterpirse - Public Engagement

If you've never attended Cafe Scientifique, I think you are missing a lot (lots of ideas and FOOD!). Cafe Enterprise is an offshoot of the Scientifique edition. "Café Enterprise events encourage you to think about the relevance of your research, how you can reach out to different audiences and how you can be innovative in your research. January's Cafe Enterprise event is themed around Public Engagement." Details on here.20 Places left, but i tell you, don't push your luck - book now.

Public Engagement - Reaching Out to New Audiences for your Research - guest from BBC Coventry & Warwickshire

You may have guessed I have a thing for public engagement by now - yes! "The ability to communicate your research to a non-specialist audience is an important skill, and to do this well is an art-form. Gathering public interest in your work is absolutely dependent on understanding the implications of your work for society or for the individual, and on using this understanding to capture the imagination and interest of your audience. Rosie King from BBC Coventry and Warwickshire will be in attendance to share her expertise!" Details here. 18 spaces left, but I bet you it's going to be exhausted real quick.

There are loads of other workshops going on that may be of interest to you. These are the ones that have caught my eye so far and I'm looking forward to them. Because of workshops like these (which i spent my entire first year attending by the dozen), I am a better presenter, writer, planner and strategist in managing my project and many more. This year, I hope to put my skills learnt in "organising conferences" to use.

Attend these workshops and thank me later.

Have a fabulous 2013


November 13, 2012

Procrastination & the PhD – James Dennis

GUEST POST: University of London

James Dennis (@dennisdcfc) is a second-year PhD student based at the New Political Communication Unit at Royalphoto.jpg Holloway, University of London. His research aims to explore the effect of routine social media use on political engagement. Outside of his PhD James gets distracted by vinyl records, basketball, and the perennial life-destroyer that is Football Manager. For more information on his research visit his research website

Managing your time as a PhD student can be exhausting. As part of the PhD process students often find themselves swamped with a number of time-consuming tasks. Since the start of this academic year my juggling act has included redrafts on my literature review, a number of research skills workshops, preparations for conference presentations, teaching commitments, and external research. Often you’re doing these tasks for the first time and the learning curve only accentuates the pressure. Even for those who are blessed by a productive nature and excellent time management skills, the workload can be a strain. This is acutely felt by those who 'suffer' from a near-universal condition,procrastination. Given the personal freedoms associated with managing your own research and the often harmful working habits contracted during undergraduate study, completing the bare minimum can be a constant struggle. Do not fear though, help is at hand.

Managing online distractions

The Internet is far-and-above my biggest vice. I can easily waste an entire afternoon contemplating a friend’s latest tirade on Facebook or tweaking my fantasy football team. The ideal solution is to disconnect completely. However, this is increasingly difficult given the rich array of resources online and the move to cloud based services. Instead turn off those services that sidetrack you the most. Block email, IM, and social media notifications and revoke access to those pesky sites, like the Daily Mail gossip column (or so I hear…). This article offers an overview of simple tools for this purpose. Personally I use two browsers, FireFox with 'Leechblock' for work, and Chrome for play.

SMART Targets

Procrastination often comes from poorly crafted planning. Throwing yourself into your PhD without some kind of structure can be overwhelming and can trigger procrastination as means of distraction, which only worsens PhD anxiety. Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-specific targets can help break down the colossal beast into something much more manageable. Try adopting a timetabled daily or weekly plan and prioritise the tasks that need to be completed. Make sure they are realistic targets. Failing to meet a set of unfeasible goals only heightens negative feelings which are the breeding ground for those comforting time-wasters.

A clear, organised, and efficient workspace

Your working environment needs just as much structure as your work itself. Clear the stacks of papers and books cluttering your desk. They can form an intimidating obstruction to productivity. The same applies for your virtual workspace. By reducing the time it takes to search and find the document you need, you will diminish the likelihood of becoming distracted. Try using Evernote, a note storage tool you can access from any device with access to the web. The in built search and tag functionality makes finding the relevant work a breeze. For those who prefer a pen and paper try the 'Page Camera'[1][function to convert your handwritten notes into digitally-optimised images. Finally if, like me, you enjoy working in a communal office space but need to send a signal to your colleagues that now is not the time to discuss the shocking revelations on last night’s Eastenders, then don a set of headphones. Even if the euphonious sounds of Slipknot aren’t your idea of a relaxing working environment, headphones without music still display a resolute 'do-not-disturb' vibe.

'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'

I quickly learnt that pushing yourself too hard can be an isolating and unproductive experience. The key to productivity is a positive state of mind. As with anything in life, you will encounter peaks and troughs during the PhD process. During those periods of dejection it is all too easy to think that the solution is a dose of hardcore, isolated study. As a result you can quickly find yourself staring longingly at a blank page hopelessly willing for some divine inspiration. This can manifest itself in all sorts of unpleasantries. It is therefore essential to embrace procrastination within your schedule, as the time you enjoying wasting isn't wasted at all. Long days in the library slaving away over your PhD should always be rewarded. Go out with friends and have a beer. Spend some quality time with your favourite TV show. Load up Football Manager and weep uncontrollably as Jeff Hendrick requests a transfer away from your beloved Derby County. The key is to ensure a healthy PhD-life balance.

Feel free to chime in the comments on your best strategies for avoiding procrastination.

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