Some Thoughts and Reflections on the ideas of Time and Planning
After a period of festivities (including eating far too much) it’s time to get back to the Ph.D. beginning with a short period of initial planning of what I would like to achieve this coming year. During the planning and strategy development, I have been rethinking questions about what time is, and the importance and value of time when it comes to planning. What is time? In what way can time hinder or assist? It’s important to remember from the beginning not to view your planning and strategizing as something that has to be set in stone and followed in an absolute, unchanging way. Give yourself room to be flexible and manoeuvrable and try not to set it into your head that you must complete a particular task by a particular time, but obviously do your best to achieve as much as you can within any given time frame. Time is a man made creation. Time itself has little control over us, but we can use time as a psychological guide or frame of referencing that assists with our task identification, task ordering, and task structuring, with the order based on the way in which we perceive the need to complete the tasks. The act of structuring and ordering the tasks therefore is time independent, although time itself can be a useful framework if approached in a flexible way.
Several times during the previous year I found that a certain task took longer than I had originally planned, but the task led me to ideas and directions I never considered before. This resulted in the strengthening of my ideas, of my directions, and substantial understanding. I completed some tasks way outside of their original time frame, but I find this as perfectly acceptable because of the way in which the task contributed towards the further development of my ideas and research directions. If you do not complete a task outside of whatever time frame you categorised it, don't panic! If you complete a few tasks then that is fine, but don't beat yourself up if you do not complete every task. Simply replan, and always, always, try to monitor your progress so that you can adjust accordingly.
When you are writing your plans, you cannot at all predict this sort of event or occurrence, and if you are absolute and regimented in your approach then these potentially useful events might not occur at all. Why? Because you would be so focussed on completing a particular task within a particular time that you would not be able to view the task beyond what you have conditioned yourself to observe. Do not allow yourself to be trapped like this. The best you can do is allow these events and occurrences to happen, deal with them accordingly, and readjust your plans as necessary. Do not fight these potentially enlightening, creative, inspiring, developmental yet challenging moments. Let them happen; let them develop you and let them develop your ideas. Dynamism and flexibility are keys here.
The possible time and task independence does not negate the importance of good, appropriate planning at least so you have some sort of guide to direct you to the next important task in the ordering or structure of your plans. Do not rush, and do not be so regimented and strict with the planning process that you enable the process itself to suppress your creativity and originality.
A Brief Look At My Planning As An Example:
My two, long term, main goals of this year are:
· Continue to draft the thesis
· Continue to develop the theoretical framework
I am telling myself here that focus of the year needs to be placed on drafting the thesis, and to continue development of the theoretical framework. Would I be able to complete, for example, the construction of the theoretical framework? It is possible, but I am not going to commit myself to that because I do not want to view the definition of time as more important than the creative, innovative process that come with developing a theoretical framework. If I were to commit myself to completing the theoretical framework, I would be in danger of missing out on moments of creativity and innovation. I really cannot predict if I will complete the theoretical framework this year, but at the same time I am not saying this is impossible.
In my planning, I have broken the rather abstractly stated main goals down into a series of medium term goals and tasks, and short term goals and tasks. I have used a time frame (blocks of time: now and Easter; Easter to summer holidays; summer holidays to Christmas holidays) to categorise and order the goals and tasks, but I am not using time in a regimented and dogmatic way: I am using time as a rough guide to assist with ordering the completion of the identified tasks.
What is most important to me is not to use time in a regimented way; a way that forces me to complete a task at a particular time, but to use time as a rough guide with more focus and emphasis on the importance and value of ordering and structuring task completion, irrespective of time. But, that does not mean I would not be able to complete a task within a specific time period; however, I do not want to restrict whatever creativity the methodology affords me, and whatever unexpected insights within the data that come about that inspire me to return to literature exploration, or to collect more data to further develop conceptual or practical insights. I do not want to get into a position where I am so focussed on completing a task within a particular time frame, that the quality, insights, observations and careful thinking reduces. Be flexible! This is important for Grounded Theory projects. Don’t let your use of time restrict your creativity and your ability to innovate. Plan and think very carefully and use time as a resource, and not the be all of everything.
Do not use time in a way that enables time to restrict your creativity, your ability to view new insights, to develop existing insights, and to observe and critique new events and ideas that you develop and identify. Breaking down your abstract long term goals into more observable, measurable medium and shorter term goals, and understanding the importance, value and order of the tasks you want to carry out is more important than the time you give yourself to complete them. Obviously, do the best that you can and strive to achieve, but don’t ever rush yourself and don’t ever restrict and suppress your creativity in the name of completing within a time you set yourself. I think this is more relevant to grounded theory projects, simply because with grounded theory you simply cannot predict what you are going to find within the data. I might be able to develop some sort of anticipation of what to find as I reread and code more data, but ultimately those anticipations could also act as restrictions.
Be open minded, be flexible, be dynamic, and don’t restrict yourself. Remember that time is a man made construct that should not be used to control and suppress you, but to be used as a guide.
‘till next time! And that was a timely pun!