A Dissertation can’t be an Eight Hour a Day Job

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Before I began my PhD journey, I had a to do list of unrelated things I wanted to complete either before I graduated or shortly thereafter. Looking back on that list as I enter my third year in the program, I realize that I was able to accomplish only one goal: keep teaching. The other goals were pushed aside by real and self-imposed deadlines … and life.

Teaching, particularly a very interactive online course, takes up a large amount of time, both in prep work (on average it takes me about one hour to script, shoot, and edit one minute of video) and during the semester (student meetings, synchronous classes, and marking).

I try to front load as much as I can into the LMS prior to the semester because I need to free up time to mentor students through an undergrad research project, work on my dissertation, and also work at the university as a writing tutor.

I love the academic work that I do and will not give up any aspect of it; however, my side projects are slowly slipping away from me.

Previously, I’ve written about how I am aware of all the time I put into my academic career. I’ve also discovered that I can work on my dissertation for about four hours per day before my brain turns to mush. I feel much better when I can pack everything up after three and half hours, so that will be my new daily goal.

I’ve also found that videos turn out much better if batch write the scripts for one module and then shoot and edit all the videos in one day.

I do not usually tutor during the first month of a semester, but I can be at the university four days a week for the final six weeks of a semester.  The challenge is the varied hours, but thankfully I know my schedule a week or two in advance.

I know the days I tutor I can work on my dissertation for about two hour before my brain has had enough academic thinking.

This leaves me with time to work on my side projects, such as taking MOOC that has nothing to do with what I’m studying.

Having a break from my dissertation gives my brain the much-needed rest to process the papers I read, what I’ve written, and next steps to take.

Getting away from academic writing and lesson planning helps my mind stay fresh and helps me maintain a balanced life so I can successful juggle writing my dissertation, teaching, a social life, and unrelated side projects.



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