I have been really busy in the last two weeks. I was in charge of organising the Careers Week at my school, which was a very rewarding experience, but also a very tiresome one. In the past two weeks, an event that occurs every year has also taken place, and as every other person living in Glasgow, I am still trying to adapt: no, it’s not frozen over yet, but British Summer Time is a goner. It would be fair to say that it was barely every here (summer, uncapitalised, that is), but long evenings and early mornings are better than nighttime at 4pm and darkness into mid-morning. Going back to GMT, the timings against AEDT, which is the ‘Summer Time’ equivalent in New South Wales and Victoria in Australia, meant that I was doomed to miss the How to Survive your PhD MOOC as it starts just as I am walking to work. Having so much to do meant that I also missed the main topic of discussion this week, which was love.
The Thesis Whisperer asked to show some love to an inanimate object that is really helping with your PhD. I find it hard to nominate just one. But I have a ‘band’ of helpers that are totally pulling me through some difficult moments, and I thought they deserved some recognition. So, in the same way as a lead singer would ‘sing’ praise for his/her band, there are some unusual suspects that need to be told ‘good job and thanks for sticking by’. In a non-patronising way, of course, something more poetic than “well, you cost a fortune”, “I own you”, or “thanks for not getting lost”.
The old farts
The notebook – or the concept of a ‘lab book’. I do not work in a lab, but at the very beginning of my PhD I heard the line “keep a lab book, and at some point in your res
earch, the lab book will keep you”. I completely understand that statement. From my very first year’s Pukka pad, to the recycled A4 jottas I kept returning to, to the nowadays more portable and ‘greener’ Leuchtturm 1917, which make me feel slightly more mature at times (must be the size and the type of notebook), all lab books have “kept me”. In all of them, I have not only written ideas that I had, plans, structures, and drawings of some sort, but I have also spoken to my former and future research self, in things as random yet as useful as my mood when coming up with these ideas. I feel there is a correlation between my mood (or the weather) and how productive I can be, and when trying to figure out where I am in my PhD, the notebooks have always saved the day.
The netbook. An old fella at the age of four (which seems ridiculously old for a piece of technological equipment), I purchased my netbook as I was writing my masters dissertation and my laptop had started failing. It was always a slow mover, and it still is, even though in recent times, I have given it Windows 10 and it seems to be going slightly faster. These days, I use my netbook for Shut Up and Write; it is easy enough to carry and to set up. I even use it around the house, when I can’t be bothered turning on the big computer. I also use it in the library, which is also a recent discovery. It has Scrivener and EndNote installed on it, and I am a proud owner. Many chapter chunks have been written thanks to its continued service.
Tablet and keyboard. It alternates with the netbook when I need to take long trips. It is great for note taking and thought generation. It is also great for watching stuff in bed, of course. It has every app and programme under the sun that I could need to sit down and write a little bit. Some great ideas have been generated through it.
Evernote. My literature review wouldn’t be written without it. Take a massive bow.
The new kids on the block
Write-o-meter. I love it, I freaking love it. And I have only been using it for less than a month. It is like it was made for me – daily word count and timer (pomodoro-style) included, plus you can keep track of your rewards. Every day I get to the office and I get a reminder that I need to write some words. And when I wake up in the morning and my brain is ready to rumble, it also helps me get going. Keeps me accountable without having to think too much. Love it, thanks.
The library. I have always been a library lover, but since I gave up my office space due to lack of use, level 5 (the postgrad level) in the library is my new hub. All it has really is wide desks, and power points, and as a person who goes there to write, that is really all you need. Whilst it is inconvenient because you can’t really check many books (logistics are complex), it is a great place to write. It is better than my work office, and it is nicer than most levels in the library. A recent finding, I hope it carries me home through the next few months.
And that is my band. My PhD wouldn’t be where it is today without my inanimate friends.
So, thank you!