PhD Diary – January 2021

It seems that 2021 is going to be as chaotic as 2020, at least for a while. Aside from that, I have been making personal progress, albeit slower that I would have liked. Whilst I am still a night owl, my sleep schedule has been consistent, and I am more open and willing to work at later times when the house is a bit livelier. Also, the past few weeks have been far more productive. For the first time in a while, I am satisfied with the reading I was able to do whilst still retaining the concepts and linking it with previous knowledge. I’ve found that it helps me when I relate my reading to existing knowledge or even my extracurricular activities. José Zagal touches upon it in their book Ludoliteracy: defining, understanding, and supporting games education about how to leverage a student’s personal knowledge & experience of games to establish links between them and the concepts of game studies. To an extent, this is something that I am doing with my own reading but linking both my game experiences and other literature. Doing this puts the literature in a wider context and helps fits the information within a ‘network of knowledge’. My research relates to my hobbies which does help, so I am going to continue this approach for the future.

One thing that is taking me a while to adjust to is how there is not much work to show now. Having come from taught courses I am accustomed to having assessments due around now. My supervisory team have suggested to attempt a presentation, giving me a deliverable for the beginning of March. I am sure I will eat these words when I am buried in pages of writing, but I always like having more to do. But I know that this is a common feeling and that I should instead focus on the quality of the work, not the quantity. Speaking of the quality of work, I may be getting carried away with the reading. Because the field of skill acquisition is new for me, I wanted to get a broad insight to make informed decisions. Yet, in doing so I have started to look for reading that is deviating from the key questions I am trying to answer at this point. Some of these pieces of reading may be for later in the project, or even afterwards. Whilst it is good to have an idea of what literature is out there, it is more important that what work is being done is focused on the topics at hand. Being more aware of this should make me more cautious with what research is relevant.

PhD Diary – December 2020

Happy New Year! I hope that the holiday season has been a nice break away from what has been a less than ideal year. For me, the fortnight away was a great opportunity to come back to my work with a fresh, motivated mind. As such, there are not a lot of new topics to discuss.

I have been working on strategies to address some of the issues discussed in my previous entries. This involves separating my work and social life, since nowadays this all happens online. The idea of a time to stop working which I talked about in the last post has helped keep me from burning myself out. But I often get distracted without a rigid schedule, which is where the Pomodoro technique comes in.

A brief outline is 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break to check social media, grab a coffee, and so on. Repeat this four times and then take a longer break of 10-30 minutes, which becomes one Pomodoro cycle. Having periods of work and rest prevents distractions, helping me be more productive without burning out. In the past, I have only used this method with an impending deadline, usually assignments. So, it has been a challenge to follow this technique in a less intense environment that has a lot more distractions. To remedy this takes good old practice and repetition to make this a habit. There are many articles that discuss how to form healthy habits, such as having incentives or being consistent.

Having picked up the guitar for the first time during lockdown, I found I was most consistent with practice when I told myself “Okay, let’s go do my guitar practice today”. I want to try and make my work as routine as possible and having something that has worked for me in the past should make that easier.

As for the actual work undertaken last month, progress has been steady. There is now a key focus on where the literature is going, and which research is relevant for the work I aim to output. A consideration for me over the past month is exactly who or where the outputs of this project is oriented towards. I have a strong idea on those who would get the most out of such outputs, but I have considered who else would benefit. Understanding this helps give the project direction, which in turn narrows down the specific question(s) that the project aims to answer.

Looking forward, I want to merge the research and the project’s aims to ensure that the outputs are relevant and bring new knowledge to the field of esports research. Also, I want to further my outreach and participation in the researcher community. I still am worried that I am not qualified enough to have my say in discussions, which is due to impostor syndrome and inexperience. One way to address that is to get involved in topics I am interested in to test the waters & limits of my knowledge now. There is no time like the present.

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.

PhD Diary – October 2020

So this is a collation of my thoughts on the first month of the PhD. I want to write a short post every month about the project’s progress but also my own personal development. The course that I teach on have been getting students to make a diary to help them think about themselves. I found this to be an nice idea and useful in logging the large number of thoughts I will have during the next few years.

So far, there has been a lot of thinking about the future and how to work in the current global environment. What I’ve found hardest to get used to is the autonomous nature of the project. Even during the Masters, there was some scheduled teaching, but now it is completely on me to lead this. This may have been less of a shock if I was working in an environment like I was before. I was able to commute onto campus, but now I am working remote and a fair distance away from the city.

Working remote has its benefits. I can set my own hours and get to work in the comfort of my own home. Yet, the lack of structure means the beast that is procrastination rears its ugly head. Not having rigidity to my schedule makes it easy to push things back and then feel guilty about not doing it. I am going to try putting game-like elements in my work, or even a self-designed mental game. I should look into a ‘star’ system like I had at school where students with good behaviour get a star. If I reward myself with a new game for a certain amount of work, that may give me ample incentive to organise. I’m not too sure on how to do it, but some method of management is important. Especially at a time where I do not have a separate work/life environment.

The aim of this month was to lay the foundations of the thesis and begin the literature review. Being new to the topic of sports psychology, I got help from the supervisors who gave me some reading to start with. This proved to be useful and has begun to build my knowledge in that field, which will be key for the project aims. The next action will be to focus the literature on the topics of interest, but I have to figure out what they are first. Also, I need to be look at what skills I will need this first year and what taught sessions I should attend.

The literature found so far surrounds both Games Psychology and Sports Psychology. I noticed that there was a lot of overlap in what they discuss, but used different terms. So it may be useful to look into creating some visual links to begin to settle on what terms are most appropriate. But, I want to avoid reinventing the wheel or misinterpreting the original definitions that it draws upon.

There’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment, both for myself and for the project, especially with what else is happening in the world right now. But these questions are a natural part of the process. Looking forward, I want to begin to provide some structure and organization to what I am doing and how I do it. If I can start there, then things should begin to fall into place. The long road begins.