Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Housecleaning and the PhD

PhD programs can be exhausting. It is easy to forget that we're people, with things outside of academia that need to get done. Some of us have big lists, some small, but all of us have things that we need to make sure get done in order for us to be able to work. Sometimes these things are a welcome break from work, but most of the time they are just things that need to be done.

I dislike cooking. I hate housework. So these things tend to be viewed in my house as chores as in the second definition:

I find having set days helps- Friday is my day for grocery shopping and Saturday is for housecleaning, which usually is defined as just get rid of enough dog fur so people don't think I'm a wackadoodle hermit.

But as I vacuumed and did laundry today, I started to think about the housekeeping that is involved in writing a dissertation. Organizing and keeping track of a hundred different things is a vital part of being successful in your dissertation (or so I've read). So I thought I'd share here some of the things I've used.

As I've written before, I'm a visual person, so while my office may appear cluttered, it all has a place.
My desk is where I spend the majority of my time, and everything is organized so anything I might need is within easy reach.

I use a lot of technology to keep track of stuff (OneNote for class stuff, and comp reading, Google Docs for lists I can access anywhere, Dropbox for much the same) but when I'm thinking things out, I like hand written, easy to see items. So the other wall in my office looks like this:
As I am spending the summer comp reading, and have more than a touch of OCD, everything is color coded and organized. Each comp area has a shelf, and is color coded (notebook and paper). Methodology and Folklore is blue (top), Middle English/Medieval is pink (middle), and Early Modern is orange (bottom).

I have tried to limit myself to only buying books I know I will use consistently in my career.
Everything else comes from the library. And gets put on its own shelf- the "To Read" shelf. There's a clock on the shelf as Wednesday is my designated library day, so it all has to be finished by Wednesday when I got to get the next set of items on the list.
I've also bound quite a few early modern plays via the university copy center because those manuscripts are a bitch to read online eight hours a day.

Four years ago when I first decided to seriously pursue a PhD (and  three years before I actually did), I optimistically bought a notebook and labelled it "Thesis". I would jot notes in it, print out images and glue them in.
 This past year this "dissertation scrapbook" has gathered more items, including seminar papers that will eventually be part of the diss, and as I approach outlining and drafting the actual dissertation, it's helpful for me to write out approaches, revise thoughts, and reorganize chapters and ideas. I think it's going to be a helpful refocusing tool as I get buried in writing.

So that's my dissertation housekeeping- what's yours? What do you use to stay organized and sane?