Quick thought: which one of these most represents how you’re feeling today?
And if none of them look right to represent you, what kind of face would? Which of the faces would you most like to be like? Why?
(drawn yesterday afternoon after I cleared something off the whiteboard!)
Quick Thought: just sharing something that I have found quite a provocation in the last week
Seth Godin’s latest manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams, has been out for about a month now. I only got around to reading it last week, and I can highly recommend that you – whoever you are – read it too. The book is all about education and in particular the future of education. It very much follows the feeling and thinking of Sir Ken Robinson’s excellent TED Talks (this one and this one).
I really liked how the book covered the broad canvas of education, all the way from nursery through to postgraduate education. There is lots of stuff there to get you thinking – but more importantly to get you talking and sharing. A week after it was released Godin announced that close to half a million people had read the book – he estimated that if the book had been on-sale maybe three to fifteen thousand people would have got it. Which, in itself, is quite a thought-provoking idea…
Stop Stealing Dreams is free to download and share in a variety of formats. Go and do it, and then join the discussion.
Quick thought: I love my whiteboard!
In case you didn’t see on Twitter, I got a whiteboard yesterday!
More doodles soon!
Quick thought: a provocation – how long does a PGR spend on a PhD?
The average PhD – whatever that means – takes between three and four years. There’s lots to be done, but plenty of time. Isn’t there? I’ve been wondering for some time exactly how much time people spend on their PhD – or, I suppose, being more careful with my words, how much time they spend on the research for their thesis.
Making an assumption that people by-and-large like their weekends free, there are 261 weekdays in a year. We lose another 21 days for holiday allowances, and at least 10 days for bank holidays. I think that is possibly conservative, but it takes us down to 230 days. Less than 2/3rds of a year.
Do you work 9-5? An hour for lunch? Twenty minutes to half an hour for a tea or coffee break. Take out 30 minutes to an hour for email, Facebook, Twitter and anything else. Any tutorials to run? Assignments to mark? Any exercise classes or sports activities? Any days of the week when you have to leave early, or arrive late? How much time is spent going to seminars that aren’t directly connected with your research?
How much time do you spend in a typical day on your research and thesis? Is there a lot of time to get things done?
I don’t have big answers to these: I’m just thinking. And making assumptions, so please dissuade me if I am being too harsh with things that take away from time (or if I am forgetting obvious things that take sand out of the hourglass).
And, regardless of all of these: how can people use the time as well as possible during a PhD? How should they direct their activities so that they are as productive as they possibly can be?
Alternative title, “What Have I Let Myself In For?”
I’ve been inspired by several things over the last few years when it comes to presenting things. In the first case I was pulled away from Powerpoint/OpenOffice Impress by the siren song of Prezi. I love making Prezis, but I get obsessive about the details, much as I did with Powerpoint. More recently, I’ve felt a growing urge to draw more in workshops: to just use a flipchart/whiteboard and get drawing. This is largely down to reading a few good books – Gamestorming and The Back of the Napkin spring to mind – and also seeing a great TED talk by Sunni Brown on the importance of doodling.
Quick thought: getting started every day, and being in-progress
On several occasions in the past I have come across the following advice for writers:
“When you quit for the day, stop halfway through a sentence. When you come back to writing you have something to work on right away.”
(that’s my paraphrasing for you, if anyone can attribute that to a source, please let me know)
I can see the sense of it, and I am wondering if this can be more widely applied. I don’t know about you, but I find getting going in the morning – at least with something creative – to be a bit of a grind sometimes. You have these files and folders, you might have a note on a post-it, but that first step just doesn’t seem available.
Although having a next action defined (which I saw in Getting Things Done) has really helped me, I wonder if this “in-progress” idea is one that could work even more. Not so much as a “next action” but an “in-progress” action. It reduces the resistance (something I have been reading about in the last few days in The Flinch) because you’ve already started. At the start of the day, when doing something creative you don’t have to fight to get started. You’ve already started. You just need to continue.
Starting is great; being in-progress is better. What do you think?
Quick thought: some thoughts on ideas as bridges
About a month ago I wrote about sources of inspiration (I was riffing on my dreams and using interesting things that others had said to inspire me).
Divergent thinking is the key component that I focus on when I’m doing creative work: you simply have to get lots of ideas out, throw them around, record them and only when you have an abundance of them do you turn a critical gaze on to them. One technique that I have found extremely is based on some of Edward de Bono’s exercises involving random words.
Quick thought: afternoon off
Because sometimes you need to. Right? I’m going to work my socks off this morning and then sit in cafes reading all afternoon. It’s a particular itch that I find needs scratching every now and then. And at the same time it feels wrong: the hours between 9 and 5, Monday to Friday – those are for WORK.
Well. Not today. Today I am not trying to maintain my work/life balance, but to redress my interesting/boring balance. I don’t like the graph so I’m changing the axes! I’m taking my Kindle, a few books on visual thinking and a stack of drawing paper, and making a tour of my favourite cafes. Is it work? Is it relaxation? Does it matter, so long as it is beneficial?
Quick thought: on the importance of short breaks
Do I need to say it? Take breaks. Stand up, stretch your legs, stop whatever it is that you’re doing and give yourself permission to get a cup of tea. Or coffee if that’s your preference. Water is good too.
When you stand up and step away from the screen that connects you with the rest of the world, leave a note for yourself – what were you just doing? It’ll help when you sit back down.
On the way to get your drink, think. See what comes in to your mind when you relax a little. If you have colleagues who are up and about as well then say hi. Smile at them. They might smile too. You might just make someone’s day. As a work-from-home type I smile to myself anyway. I sing as I walk down the stairs to the kitchen sometimes (warning: not recommended if you work in an office).I think “What If…?” thoughts and dream dreams.
When I finally get back to my desk and my computer with my cuppa I’ve had more thoughts: more thoughts on what I was doing, more thoughts on what I could be doing, more thoughts on what I want to be doing.
Go on. Have a cuppa.