January 18, 2013

First entry on Academic writing for arts and social science students

Workshop Tutor: Laura Davies

Introduction

My experience with the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award has been outstanding so far. I have assisted some great workshops that have pushed me to work on my personal and professional skills. And even though I started this process with some doubts about its actual benefits, I now see clearly the great advantages of the reflective writing process.

So here it goes again, starting with the blogging process expecting to take as much advantage as possible of the content discussed in the workshop. The reason I chose the Academic writing at Masters Level at this point is because I have been struggling with my first assignment. Ever since I broke a leg my life seems to have been put on hold: you can’t move, hence you can’t do, think or live. It has been a very hard process both physically and psychologically, and I have just started trying to get life back to normal.

Unfortunately this incident happened before I had the chance to turn in my first assignment. This meant that for more than a month I wasn’t able to do any work and hence I had to get an extension. In theory this sounds really good, but the problem resides in the fact that even now I have been having problems getting back in track with my work. And what is worst is that it is my responsibility to set the new assignment’s due date, and I am currently a bit lost about when would be a feasible date.

Actions

  1. So as my first action point, I wish to take advantage of the structure provided in the workshop to carry out the process of academic writing to be able to set a deadline for my assignment. This workshop was like a great checklist that gave me a complete idea of how to get along with my writing assignments in an easy way. So for my first action point I will assess at what point I am currently at with the development of my assignment. This way I will also be able to objectively say how long it will take me to get my assignment ready to turn in. This process will help me stop procrastinating and stick to an actual deadline to start getting work out. To make this action smart, I will say that by the end of this weekend I need to know when my deadline is going to be, so I can meet with my personal tutor on monday and tell him.

  2. My second action point will be regarding the critical and evaluative aspects of academic writing. I had never before thought about writing as a clash of ideas to create something new and in that way generate new knowledge. But is one of the things that struck me the most in the seminar, because it shows your ability to be critical and evaluative while writing. However a problem I usually encounter is that ideas seem to make perfect sense in my head, but then not so much outside of it. Which is why I want to excersice myself in the ability to keep a diary for my creative-critical thoughts around different subjects. I will start writing my thoughts to express them in a clear simple way, with the best words posible. My goal is to write at least during 30 minutes every night.

  3. And my third action point will be to work on my tendency to be over generalize and simplify when I am making an explanation. This workshop made me realize that in academic writing there is no point in being melodramatic to try and create a bigger deal of what you are writing. So you need to be confident enough that what you are saying and the way you are saying it is creative and critical with out falling to the temptation of saying that your work can accomplish more than it actualy can. If your are not measured in your writing then you will never be able to support what you are saying which may descredit a very good research and development. So to work on this, I will put to the test every statement I am making to see if I can give a couple of examples of this behavioiur before asuming it as true. This way I will try to keep my statements very succint and concise.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


January 02, 2013

Final entry on Organising yourself and your time

Workshop Tutor: Beverly Maynard

Looking back, this has been a long and eventful process with both progress and setbacks. Through the application of some simple tools I managed to solve a great problem in the way I organized my time and myself. Also by keeping in mind simple principles, like prioritize and delegate, I was able to stay calm and in control during challenging situations.

However I realize now that this workshop has taught me much more than just about organizing my time and myself. As I am doing this workshop within the WSPA I was forced to carry a process of reflective writing. And I say forced because I would not have done it if I was not intending to receive the award. I saw this as a mandatory task I needed to complete which was time consuming and not very useful. However I now understand perfectly why the blogging process is not only necessary but incredibly valuable.

As I thought thoroughly about what had happened during the process, analyzing whether there had been progress or not, I learned a lot about myself. Every time I went back to read my last entry before posting a new one, I ended up questioning the reasons behind my actions. It was not just about telling someone what had happened, but also about asking myself the reasons behind my successes and my failures. And it was only through this process that I was able to recognize and admit the true problem behind my organization issues during this experience at Warwick: “I am afraid to fail”.

It sounds a bit silly but it is true. I have invested a lot to be able to come here and do my masters, and so I have high expectations for its returns. However I know the outcome rests entirely on my shoulders; whether I succeed or not is going to be entirely my responsibility. And I see now that I have a tendency to panic and quit when the stakes are too high. My problem from the beginning was not that I didn’t know how to organize myself, but that I was afraid to do my best and still fail. Somehow it was better to blame failure on my lack of organization.

It can be said I am being to hard on myself. After all I do have a broken leg, I am in quite a lot of pain and had to go through it all on my own and worst of all during the holidays. But still I know I would have been able to do much more during this period if it was not for the fear holding me back. For instance I still have not reorganized my planner with the new deadlines and my plan to achieve them, which is quite an easy task. I had not even made a list of the things I have to do until two days ago. And I kept asking myself why, but the answer now is very simple: I was afraid. I am afraid of the time I have lost, of the vastness of the task and of myself not being able to pull it off no matter what. And so I have been hiding behind my broken leg, taking the pain as an excuse not to work.

Some of my weaknesses I recognized through this workshop were: I do not have to do everything on my own, I need to delegate when someone else can help me and stop being such a control freak. After admitting this great fear that was holding me back, following on what I had learned, I am proud to say that I asked for help. My family is now aware of how I was feeling, as well as my tutor and I am working to get passed it. So in the end this feels like a great way to start the year 2013, hoping to keep learning and progressing.


December 17, 2012

Follow–up on Organising yourself and your time

Workshop Tutor: Beverly Maynard

Heres a summary of how I've been getting on with my action points

  1. Macro-Planning

    I started by building a planner where I could visualize the different deadlines and the overall time I had left for completing the work. This helped me to organize my priorities and divide the time I had into smaller tasks that would constitute as steps to achieve the bigger task. This really helped me because having it hanging in front of my desk it reminded me of what needed to be done and when; and also why it was important not to leave it for later as I could clearly see that later I would not have enough time.

    However after a small accident where I broke a leg my whole schedule was changed, as I could not work for more than a week. This has been a hard process and very discouraging, Which is why, now that I am getting better, I need to reorganize myself through the macro planning process, and take advantage of it to get back some control of my life and what needs to be done. Because life waits for no one, broken leg or not, I need to keep my goals clear and the steps to get there.

    I will therefore restructure my planner to fit my new deadlines and incorporate new tasks by the end of today. I am confident by the end of this process I will be more calm and relaxed for facing my current situation: having a broken leg will not prevent me of achieving my goals.


  2. Prioritize

    As I stated it on my last blog, This is something I have been working non-stop since the beginning of term. It sounds like an easy thing to do, but in reality it is much more complex. However I am happy to say that I can feel myself getting better at it.

    By having a clearer idea of what I need to do, how and when, helps me take sounder decisions. I managed to finish term feeling I was in control of my time. And even when the accident happen I was able to manage the situation calmly, put my health first and ask for extensions to my assignments. I realized through this process that we can not control everything that happens but we can control the way we handle this unexpected situations.


  3. Delegate

    As I have said in the pas I am not much of a delegator, I am a control-freak, but thanks to this workshop I have been working to change that. And it is ironic because I am now in a situation in which I need help for almost every simple task.

    I am really glad that I had worked hard on this skill because it came really handy when I broke my leg. Before the end of term I was able to delegate a lot of work to my team mates and it paid out, as we had excellent presentations. I was also able to ask for help when I needed to go to the hospital, and for people to buy me groceries. And it is really nice to see that a lot of my friends have come forward and made my life easier during this process.

    I will not forget this experience and I will keep in mind how easy and rewarding it is to ask for help.



December 16, 2012

Final entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Amanda Randall

Definitely, we never know what life has in store for us…

I find myself writing today with a bright red cast on my leg. After falling during a session of bouldering a week ago, I broke my fibula and had to have my leg immobilized. And just like that, this has proven to be the hardest week since I arrived here in the UK.

On the one hand you have the pain and discomfort that comes with a broken leg, as well as the fact that you have to learn how to do everything differently. An on the other hand you have the emotional challenge it supposes to be alone on the other side of the world and having all of your plans fall apart. I wake up every morning feeling strangely like the prisoner in cartoons who has this enormous metal ball chained to his leg to prevent him from going anywhere.

As a result of this situation a lot of my plans and careful organization fell apart: for instance I will not be able to travel for the holidays with my friends and I had to ask for an extension for my assignments. However looking back at it I can say I feel proud of myself by the way I managed it. As I am writing this reflection now I can see that even though we cannot control everything that happens in our lives, we can definitely control the way we face it and what we decide to do with whatever life throws at us. And yet again I found myself in a perfect situation for self-reflection and learning.

Out of this situation I learned the importance of prioritizing and analyzing in a calm way stressful situations so you can make good decisions. In this case, the most important thing was my health and even though I was inclined to stress about deadlines and work, I knew I had to take this time to relax to be able to cope with the pain and discomforts in the best way possible. I was also glad to see that the time invested on building a good network of friends here in Coventry was of great importance in a moment like this one. You definitely need a support group and people around you to help you cope. But also this made me work really hard on my ability to delegate and ask for help, which is not my strong suite.

However the most important lesson in this process is about strength and drive. I know myself and I know in situations like this one I tend to get overwhelmed and give up. None of this happened this time, and I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the self reflection process has made me more aware of my personality, and has given me the tools I needed to see things in a more rational way. Plus I can see very clearly the goals I have ahead of me and that I want to achieve as well as the plan to get there; which means, even though there will certainly be obstacles in the way, I can tackle them and continue on my path to get to where I want to be.

So I take this specific experience to highlight the way this workshop has changed my approach to life. My action points are not specified through the description, but they are in the underline structure of this reflection. For instance I would not have been able to cope with this situation with out applying what I had learned about time management and prioritizing in the P7 workshop. The reflective writing process helped me in facing the situation and my way to handle it in a calmed relaxed way. And finally, all in all it would be harder to get along with if I did not have clear set goals for my career plan, as I know no matter how hard the process is, I have something to look forward and that motivates me to keep going forward.

I cannot wait for what the next workshops will teach me and how they will help me grow and become a better person. I look forward to continuing with the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award during the next term, as I have seen the advantages it can bring for personal and professional growth.


Follow–up on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Amanda Randall

Heres a summary of how I've been getting on with my action points

Given some unexpected circumstances I ended up writing both my third and final entries at the same time; because of an unfortunate accident (which you will find all about on my final entry) I was unable to complete the blogging process in an organized way. But no matter this inconvenience I wanted to give a clear account of what had happened regarding every one of my action points before ending this process.

First we have my completion of the workshop: Organizing yourself and your time. Applying the techniques that I learned on this workshop has helped me to start working on one of my biggest weaknesses. I have always had a problem with time management and as a result with following through and finishing things in an organized way. With a macro-plan as a way to visualize how to get to your clear goals, life takes a new dimension: it seems achievable.

Regarding the reflective writing I am happy to see I have a notepad with around 20 pages of reflections in different subjects. I am no longer afraid to write what I am thinking, on the contrary I use it as a way to organize my ideas, This is a mayor skill I have acquired after this first workshop, because I have seen the advantages it brings and the results it offers. I am now using it not only for my personal development but also for my assignments and I am sure I will continue using through out my professional development as well.

And finally for my career, this workshop has helped me organize myself around what is most important for me at the moment. I have now been to several meetings with a careers and skills advisor and I have now my CV revised and ready to be sent out. This is a big advantage, as it will help me take the next step in applying for jobs once the New Year arrives.


November 23, 2012

First entry on Organising yourself and your time

Workshop Tutor: Beverly Maynard

Introduction

The main reason I attended this workshop was to follow up an action point for the first seminar I attended which was An Introduction to Skills Development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio. On this first experience I found it incredibly difficult to keep the deadline for posting the reflective writing on my blog. I kept postponing it to the point that I ended up doing my first entry a month after taking the workshop. When this happened I recognized a huge weakness on myself, in my ability to organize my time and myself. I spent my first month here at Warwick with no specific plan to follow, and as a consequence I felt I lost complete control of my life.

So here I am trying not to make the same mistake of last time, and taking advantage of the benefits that reflective writing can bring to you. Looking back at the seminar I find it amazing that even though I was aware of everything that was discussed, I was not able to apply to my experience. The concepts of prioritizing, procrastination, planning and delegating are not new to me, but still I am not applying them appropriately to my time and life management. I think now I know why and it’s that I had never before called this “management”. I understand now that this is a skill that needs you to work actively and constantly on it. It will not just get done on its own, and it’s much more complex than just to do a couple of to-do-lists.

All this made me look at the process of my time management in a different way. I have always found it difficult to tackle the big tasks, and I keep delaying doing work for them because I had always concentrated on the to-do-lists. And even though these are necessary as well what I was missing was the big picture. This is why I believe that Macro-planning is one of the things I need to work on the most.

Actions

  1. So for my first action point, I am going to take advantage of the macro-planning process. I need to mark the different deadlines for assignments and group work and start working my way back in smaller tasks that will help me achieve the final product. This is of great importance at this point because I have been leaving my assignments for later and focusing only on my teamwork. Only for the fact that the teamwork is due before, but in fact my assignments are worth more of my final grade. So By the end of this week I need to have found a balance between the two, and have set specific actions on my planner regarding this subject.

  2. Other weakness I recognized through this workshop is my inability to focus and prioritize myself rather that what others want me to do for or with them. I think it comes back to the same issue of thinking very short term and not being very organized with my long-term goals. So I have been letting my flat mates, friends, and group mates control what we are doing, when and where. One example of this is that most of the times I am home after eating in the kitchen and even though I should go upstairs to do some reading or look up things in my computer to take advantage of my extra time, I end up staying and chatting with all of them. So I need to have my time management clearer in my head so I can take do the most of it. Next time this situation happens in different environments I will think of what I need to do, and base my decisions on that.

  3. And finally I need to work on my ability to delegate, mostly regarding the teamwork. I tend to want to do everything for myself, which doesn’t make me the best at team work. I find it hard to let others do things but I realize now that I can not handle everything on my own. So as a way to work on this skill, in the two group works I have for this term, I will identify tasks that I am doing but others with less work load can help me with and delegate this to them.

  4. I am feeling really positive about my process towards becoming a better manager of myself and my time. And I believe this is a skill that will be incredibly important for the rest of my personal and professional life.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


Follow–up on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Amanda Randall

Heres a summary of how I've been getting on with my action points

So I am happy to say that today I can write this follow up with a smile on my face, which was definitely not the case for my last one. It is amazing to see how the simplest change in your attitude can make you feel and be that much more in control of your life and things that happen around you. Indeed when I took the first step towards getting things done instead of just whining about them, everything started falling into place and life seemed somehow more manageable…

For me it has been all about organizing myself, knowing what has to be done (but in a SMART way), and then just sticking to the plan: et voila! Things are getting done! In the one hand I attended to the P.7 Workshop, Organizing yourself and your time, and it has been of great help. I have been applying what I learned in the workshop to my actual time management: I started by making a planner and completing it until the end of the year. In this planner I have put all my deadlines and started developing plans in the previous weeks of concise goals in order to achieve the final goal. This has proved incredibly useful, as it has turned the enormous assignments, which I was unable to tackle, into manageable tasks.

Regarding the reflective writing, and even though I did buy a pad exclusively for this last weekend, I haven’t been able to start writing on it. This is something I need to keep working on, even more so as the due dates for my assignments are getting closer, because I wish to take advantage of the reflective writing process to get my ideas clear and structure a better speech. So as I can see now that the reason I didn’t follow up with this task is the fact that I didn’t make it SMART, I am going to commit myself that by the end of this week I need to have started my diary.

And finally for my third action regarding my career, I am pleased to see that I took a step forward by attending a meeting with a career’s and skills adviser to discuss my future. After this meeting I had a clear structured plan with actions I needed to complete for achieving my goals, all of which are marked in the planner I mentioned before.

Overall I feel confident that I am moving forward and that I now have my eyes open during this process. I t changes everything to feel that I am in control and that my life is again in my hands. It is all about thinking, reflecting, concretizing and finally doing.


November 13, 2012

First entry on Getting started on skills development and the Warwick Skills Portfolio

Workshop Tutor: Amanda Randall

Introduction

I attended the P1 workshop on the 10th of October, that is 4 weeks ago. This means I should be on the final stage of my reflective blogging, but I am ashamed to say that I am only just starting. I took this workshop on my second week at Warwick, with high hopes of taking advantage of every opportunity the University of Warwick had to offer, but ended up falling flat on my face with the realization that once again I had let myself get overwhelmed by the situation and failed to comply with my obligations.

The process of settling in was not easy, and I felt that time was passing by faster than I could keep up. I let myself get dragged along and did not stop to think what was it I was doing by leaving everything for “later”. I lost sight of the whole picture, and forgot my final goal, but I am writing this reflection to get back in track. I believe that the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award will help me enormously in my personal and professional development and I am willing to work hard to achieve it. I know now it is going to be harder than I expected but I am willing to go the extra mile.

The P1 workshop got me thinking about REFLECTION, what it is, how to do it, and the benefits it delivers. I had never been more convinced about this fact than on this exact moment. Self-awareness and analysis is the only way we have to learn, change and improve both in our academic/professional and personal lives. We cannot expect to be perfect but what makes us better is to be able to face our mistakes and try to learn from them as to not repeat them in the future. For instance, through this exercise of reflective writing I have forced myself to break a pattern of not doing things just because it was too late. I am not sure if this will be accepted for the WSPA; giving that it is way past my deadline, but my motivation behind it is to stop procrastinating and start progressing.

Actions

  1. So to stop being that much of a theorist and reflector (which I am) and start being more of an activist and pragmatist (which I am not that much), I will set myself the action points I need to follow from now on. Subsequent to my admitted weakness, my first action is going to be attending the P7 workshop on Organizing Yourself and Your Time. I have now booked a place for tomorrow’s session. However the real challenge is not going to be attending the workshop but following through with the reflective writing as well as applying what I learn to my actual time management. But whatever the difficulty of the task I feel truly motivated to do this and see the advantages it can offer to me.

  2. My second action will be to take more advantage of the reflective writing process. I am astonished to see the difference it can make to just think and reflect about ones mistakes from actually writing it down and concretizing the issue. This is why I will start carrying a diary with my reflections about both professional and academic issues. I will write down my thoughts and force myself to analyze them more thoroughly in this way.

  3. And my third action will be regarding the ‘whole picture” I was talking about before. I need to get more active with my career planning, as there is no more time to loose. I have already attended some of the seminars from the Careers and Skills Centre about writing a CV, but now I need to attend the personal interviews to get it revised. My goal is that by the end of this month I have completed my applications for graduate schemes as well as internships

  4. Finally I would like to use tis space to apologize for the late entry, and ask you for the opportunity to continue in the process to achieve the WSPA. I would appreciate if you could guide me in this process and enlighten me on what is the next step in order to do this.

To write a follow up, go to http://go.warwick.ac.uk/skills//blog


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  • Thank you for this first blog entry. It sounds as if things have been very difficult but that you ar… by on this entry
  • Hi Maria Thank you for your final blog. I am sure when you came to the workshop and submitted your f… by Beverley Maynard on this entry
  • Hi Maria You seem to have maintained the focus of macro–planning, prioritising and delegating. I am … by Beverley Maynard on this entry
  • Hi Marie Please accept my apologies for the non–response to your blogs – I have had a few problems w… by Beverley Maynard on this entry
  • Hi Maria, Gosh, I am very sorry to read about your accident. What a difficult time you have had rece… by Amanda Randall on this entry

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