PhD Diary – November 2020

Following the first month of the project, I wanted to ensure that I maintain the momentum of doing consistent work at home. An extra concern that I did not address last month relates to both the autonomous nature of the PhD and working remote is sleep.

If there was one thing that has always been a problem of mine, it would be the quality and consistency of my sleep pattern. There is this understanding that students tend to struggle to get a healthy amount of sleep. For me, I found it easier to schedule my sleep on days with a fixed timetable & the need to go to campus. Yet, I found it hard to make a significant effort in my non-scheduled hours or on days where there was no teaching. This only got worse as teaching became sparser in later years and during my Masters, leading to me sleeping at unreasonable hours.

During October, I had a sleep pattern that I would consider acceptable and healthy. Eight hours, at a similar time every day with the only issue being that it was later than average, being from 1-2 am to 9-11 am. Amending this wouldn’t be a large issue as solving this would be to adjust the time in which I fall asleep over time. But as of late, I found myself staying up later and, thus, getting up in the afternoon on most days. If I still work the usual amount of time this would not be an issue, but I do not tend to work past a certain time in the evening. As a result, if I am waking up later but still stopping work at a similar time, I am getting less time in the day to work on anything.

Having outlined the problem, the task now is to determine how to address the causes and issues encountered. The first cause of the irregular sleep pattern is the time I close my computer and head to bed. In short, there comes a point in my free time where I convince myself to turn in for the night and usually this by feeling or instinct. My plan is to try to move this from a feeling to a fixed time where I have an explicit point to wrap up everything I’m doing before then. I hope that what this does is removes the temptation to fall into the ‘one more…’ trap, avoiding the awkward chat with the early risers.

Next is what I do in bed before sleeping, which now is browse social media and videos on my phone. Many sleep experts point out that using your phone in bed is not great due to blue light which can keep you up longer. I do have books that I can read instead, but I’m worried that I will fall back into the old routine. I would love to hear of any late-night routines others do to help themselves fall asleep quicker.

Outside of my sleep-related issues and the impact that has had on my progress, I am not too disappointed with what I have done this month. The first few weeks were actually quite productive despite little explicit evidence to show for it. I have been attending workshop sessions on critical reading/writing & constructing the literature review, both important topics for this stage of the project. I want to take what I’ve learned in those sessions to plan out my approach for the initial wave of research I am undertaking. If I can address the personal barriers that are preventing me from working at my best, I have confidence that I will find a method of working that suits me.

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