It is so wonderful to have a tangible, creative visual representation of the research (literature review) I have conducted to date. I am very aware that my drawing skills aren’t fantastic, however having access to a network of fantastically talented artists at the Hereford College of Arts, I would be silly not to make use of this amazing resource. Andrew Charles Graham – Illustrator came to my aid in the visual representation of the research to date.
Creating a poster has forced me to think about my research in a different way. A skill I suppose that I use on a daily basis in my teaching when explaining something to students in as many different ways a possible to ensure that everyone understands. Also very aware of how important the storytelling is – especially with the interdisciplinary nature of my research area that links psychology, dance and business – to ensure that my thought process is fully understood by those who have a background in one area, but not from another.
One year into my self-funded part-time PhD, which I am completing alongside my close to full-time lecturing and course leading job and being a single mum, I ask myself how am I feeling about it all now?
I can honestly say that I am enjoying the journey tremendously. I am excited about the prospects that are developing and am more than ever aware of doors that are being created as a result of the work I am putting in to my continuous development. Doors I hadn’t even considered before commencing on this path. I knew it would lead me somewhere, but where exactly is only starting to take shape in my mind as part of the process.
My first years has been an incredibly positive experience and I believe this is down to a few things:
I have the most fantastic supervision team (Dr. Rebecca Jones, Dr. Holly Andrews and Professor Jan Francis-Smyth), as well as expert advice from Dr.Carol-Lynne Moore ; all with whom I am in regular contact. So far I haven’t experienced the common ‘I feel alone’ that I hear so many PhD students refer to. My supervisors are right there at the other end of an email and having a busy job and being a single mum means that I don’t really have the time to reflect on whether or not I feel lonely in my studies. I cherish the times when I get a chance to get on with it.
I spent lots of time planning and preparing Gantt Charts and it did the job of keeping me on track throughout my first year. (Also I like structure very much, so in a way this whole planning thing and creating structure made me quite happy)
I set myself challenging, but realistic deadlines and shared these deadlines with my supervision team to give me the sense of needing to be accountable.
Switching between topic areas during my reading phases. The beauty of my research project is that it combines a range of different topics that stretch from movement studies to psychology to well-being to management studies to history to new technologies, which means it is easy to switch topic without feeling that I am wasting time reading something that is not relevant.
Having supportive family, friends, work colleagues and employer.
Allowing myself to think creatively and outside the box, even if the ideas are totally bonkers. I have allowed myself to make connections in all sorts of different ways with the things I am learning and reading across disciplines, allowing myself creative thought without judgment and once the thought is there then start considering these.
Allowing myself to have downtime and not putting pressure on myself when my brain is stuck – I simply left things as they were and came back to it when the motivation and flow was back.
Recognizing when the work flow and motivation is there and pushing myself to get lots done during those times, often spending many hours working in one go.
Implementing what I learn. For example implementing well-being research findings into my day-to-day life. This has included daily meditations, daily yoga, daily exercise that gets my heart rate into the ‘Cardio’ zone, walking, getting up from a seated position when working at the computer at least once an hour, although it should be every 20 minutes.
The Universities library (and by that I mean the physical as well as the online library), as well as the communication from the Research school has been incredibly positive.
So having identified the above points I hope to continue feeling equally positive and fulfilled at the end of the next 12 months of study.
Over the last few weeks I have been working on my literature review, which has involved over 80 hours of reading, thinking and making sense of all that I have read in writing.
A side effect of working on my literature has been to question how what I am reading relates to how I do things. Much of the reading has been around well-being. I am now more aware of what the research says and ways to improve well-being. I am actively trying to implement some of my findings directly into my daily life. The biggest change so far has been around walking.
Research suggests that walking at least 10000 steps a day is good for you. Further research highlights the positive effect the use of Fitbits had on a company. My daughter and I now both own one and in the past 14 days our step count has doubled…in my case tripled from the steps we walked prior to having a fitbit. It helps that my 12 year old daughter and I have a competition going on between us, which results into us walking (or in her case) running from one place to another without necessarily needing to, simply to overtake the others step count. So far we have experienced lots of fun with the fitbit and I feel that my energy levels have improved. This is making me want to be more active….which can only be good for my well-being. It is as if I have reconnected with my body, after months of not connecting. I am more than ever aware that in order to connect one has to move and change the rhythm and pace.
The other thing that the fitbit has done is to encourage me to set myself goals, and with the quanta time data that it feeds back to me on a daily basis I am able to track my progress. I am now training for the three peaks challenge…which I also feel is a great metaphor for life. If I am able to climb the three highest mountains in the UK in 24 hours, I do think I can do anything that I put my mind to…mentally or physically or both!
More findings will be explored, I am sure, as my research continues….
I am slowly being able to structure all the thoughts going around in my head from all my reading over the past few weeks. It has been quite a journey, or rather a full rhythmic gymnastics workout for my brain cells . There is enough material to write my first draft Literature Review over the next week.