5 time management ideas… from part time PhD students

Last week @lanceb147 contacted me on Twitter looking for advice on doing a PhD part time. @lanceb147 is not alone. There’s a surprising number of students doing their PhD part time. At RMIT where I used to work 50% of research students were enrolled part time and this institutional profile is not unusual in Australia. Some are self funded students from the beginning; others have been forced to take up part time study after their scholarship rans out.

Many academics have the impression that part time students are troublesome and take ages to finish, but a study by Pearson et al (see reference below) showed that students who study part time for their whole degree finish sooner and have better results than full time students. Clearly they are doing something right!

I did my research masters over three years part time and worked for 2 days a week for all but 6 months of my PhD. So I know a lot about managing study part time – for me. If there’s anything I have learned about PhD study in all my years of whisperering it’s that everyone is different. So I asked on Twitter if part time students would share their time management secrets with me – and what a rich treasure trove of information they gave me!

I reckon part time students could teach full time students a thing or two about how to manage a long term research project. I have enough from my Twitter conversations for about ten posts, but I will confine myself here to five

Why do academics work so much?

Recently a Forbes article claimed that being an academic was the least stressful job of 2013. However, a storm of protest on social media forced the author to add an addendum acknowledging that this probably wasn’t the case. In fact academics work a a lot and that work tends to intensify in the so called ‘down time’: January here in Australia and July in the North of the world. Freed somewhat from the distraction of emails and the responsibility of caring for students, us academics inevitably find ourselves not at rest but facing the deep end of the ‘to do’ list.

Going paperless part one: your desk

A couple of months ago I published a post called ‘Are you a piler or a filer?’ In it I compared my experience of going paperless to giving up smoking; I have been trying diligently for a year, but still print out about 50 sheets a month.

In response to my post Marek Martyniszyn (@Martyniszyn) sent me a long desccription of his working methods. Marek recently submitted his PhD thesis focusing on international aspects of competition law at the University College Dublin. For the 2012/2013 academic year he joined the Institute for Consumer Antitrust Studies in the Loyola University Chicago School of Law, where as a Senior Research Fellow he will be conducting research on the interface of competition and international law.

The document Marek sent me was very long and detailed. I have decided to publish in two parts because I think this is valuable advice for anyone in the process of giving up the paper habit.

5 more phone apps for researchers

… to celebrate my new phone I thought it was time to revisit my list of top five phone apps for researchers, which I wrote about a year ago. On that list I included a PDF reader, Evernote, Book catalogue app and ‘Loot’ for managing your money. Many more apps have appeared since then. I now wonder how I ever lived without this little computer in my pocket.

Things they don’t tell you about writing

Becoming a writer is also a bit like becoming a parent. It’s not until you have walked the floor with a screaming infant at 4am that you can truly understand what all the talk about ‘tiredness’ is about. But there are many aspects of parenting that no one tells you – or doesn’t think to mention. Here are some of them.