In a previous post I describe how I realized that my previous working ways were wrong and what I did to change them. In this post I will describe how I observe and assess my actions and progress. I engage in this process after reading:
- academic papers such as “Becoming a Self-Regulated Writer: A Social Cognitive Perspective” by Barry J. Zimmermana and Rafael Risembergb
- academic blogs (such as The Thesis Whisperer by Dr Inger Mewburn and Get a Life, PhD by Tanya Golash-Boza);
- books on time management as Time Management from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern.
My self-reflection process entails three stages:
1. Setting a goal
2. Observing myself: what I do and how I do it
3. Assessing my progress
For those who are interested in challenging their selves, I present these stages below:
Stage 1: Setting a specific goal
1. What is your goal?
If you don’t have, then set one. Don’t be like a ship without destination that simply sails in the sea with no specific purpose. Studying, working, writing is not only about working hard; itis about working with a plan.
2. When is your deadline for accomplishing your goal?
Set a clear goal with a specific deadline. You can set your big annual goals and then break those goal(s) into monthly and weekly sub-goals. Set deadlines!!! (I learned the importance of that in the hard way).
Stage 2: Observe yourself; what you do and how you do it
3. Your goal (e.g. finish PhD; write a chapter; pass exams; get a bachelor/master degree) with which bigger goal of your life is connected?
I’ll give you an example of what do I mean connect your goal with a bigger goal of your life. In the past I used to say “I want to exercise daily or at least 3 times/week”. Last year after my goal-to-be-happy-plan (I’ll make a post for it later), I saw that my goal to be healthy requires exercising often (almost daily).
Since then, my way of thinking changed. Exercising daily is not the goal but the mean to accomplish my goal -i.e., to be healthy. Now when I feel lazy to go to the gym, I ask myself “isn’t being healthy a priority in your life? If yes, why don’t you go jogging for just 30 minutes? It only requires devoting 30’ from your time”.
4. How many hours do you work concentrated?
When I am saying “how many hours” I do not refer to how many hours you are in your office/library/house. I mean how many hours you are actually working focused. You can use the pomodoro technique to track both working time and the tasks you accomplish.
5. Do you have a to-list for your working day?
If no, try to implement the strategy of a daily to-do-list. It might look difficult or silly for some people (especially at the beginning) but trust me, it works!
6. At the end of the day, do you manage to cross everything from your list?
If not, maybe you should try to make a more realistic to-do-list. I’m still struggling to manage it!
7. Do you procrastinate? If yes, how often? In which cases?
8. How do you deal about procrastination?
There are strategies and tips for handling procrastination. Try to see what works for you. Don’t be passive; do not say “Well, I’m a procrastinator”.
Procrastination is not an inherent characteristic that you can not do anything about it. It’s a natural human reaction we all have. It is a way for avoiding stuff we do not enjoy (but yet we have to do).
Try to see why you procrastinate and experiment to see which strategies work for you. Each person has a different personality and needs different things.
9. When do you feel having more energy? In the morning/afternoon/other? When?
Tip: Do not just answer (“I’m not a morning person”). Try to figure out when you have more energy.
10. What motivates you?
I’m motivated when I check my goals every day before I start working; it helps me to start the day with a specific goal in mind. I also check my goals after lunch (around 13:00) because I’m tired and I need a motivation to stay focus and not start checking social media, news, etc.
Among the things that help me to feel good when working is:
- having plants in my office (green colour relaxes me)
- having a big cup of tea or coffee while working
- using colour pencils for highlighting papers or books I read.
I’m also motivated when I read blogs like The Thesis Whisperer.
I am also motivated when I am productive… Funny? When I am productive I feel good and that feeling motivates me to continue being productive.
11. Do you have a routine of closing your day?
Having a routine for closing your day is really helpful! I didn’t know about it until I tried it. Read the post of Cal Newport of his Schedule Shutdown routine and how that helped him to be more relaxed. http://calnewport.com/blog/2012/08/02/work-less-to-work-better-my-experiments-with-shutdown-routines/
12. How do you handle people that interrupt you while you work concentrated?
You can read the pages 13-14 of the pomodoro technique with tips how to handle external interruption.
13. How do you handle your internal interruptions, i.e. thoughts irrelevant from the task you are doing that make you stop working? E.g. check my mail/ call someone/ read about something/ buy grocery/ make another coffee.
You can read the pages 9-13 of the pomodoro technique with tips on how to handle internal interruptions.
14. Do you have a working diary?
Last two weeks I start using a working diary in which I write any feelings or thoughts I have about myself and my work during each day. It can include insecurities, boredom, procrastination, anxiety but also positive feelings like enthusiasm and realizations of what makes me happy, full of energy; what motivates me.
Stage 3: Assess your progress
15. Do you keep a file of how many hours do you work each day?
I recently made a file in MS Excel where I write how many hours I work each day. It is shocking when you see a graph with your productivity. It breaks up the illusion of “but I’m working hard! I’m all day in the office/library/house studying!”. The reality is what you see in your file.
16. At the end of each week, do you check which goals you have accomplished and see what’s left? Do you evaluate why you didn’t accomplish your goals?
At the end of the week I check my initial weekly goals and what I have accomplished. So far I managed to accomplish my initial weekly goals only 1 time. 😦 This means I have to make more realistic plans and be more effective.
17. How do you feel about changing and re-plan?
Don’t be afraid of changes. It is not a failure to do adjustments, changes and re-planning. Trust me, I know that re-planning is not easy, neither it brings nice feelings… Yet, facing and accepting the reality is necessary. Accept it and try to learn from it. Read more on my post on Re-planning your working schedule.
My tip is not to be afraid or hesitant to try new strategies and tips. Feel free to adjust those strategies in your needs. Each of us is different. There is no golden rule that applies to all.
What about you?
Do you follow a self-evaluation process? What do you do? How do you do it? If not, why?
Do you have any tips? Feel free to leave a comment below!