A no-failure perspective on #acwrimo

It’s November 1st, a day of many happenings. A day of Apple releasing a new iPad, of Starbucks starting their festive ‘red cup‘ drinks for the year, of shaved faces for Movember, and for Academic (and National Novel) Writing Month.

Twitter is atweeting with the hashtag #acwrimo. At this point, almost 550 academic writers have declared their goals on @mystudiouslife‘s accountability spreadsheet, and tweets are flying thick and fast about goals set and tasks completed.

The tweets are also coming through from people who haven’t achieved the tasks they set, who perceive this as failure.

But is it, really? What is #acwrimo if not a time to figure out what works best for you?

I propose an iterative approach to Academic Writing this November. In a previous series of posts, I talked about setting tasks, scheduling them, and reviewing your progress. In the posts, I suggest doing this weekly, but why not do this daily?

Here’s a quick recap:

1) In your initial task setting, make it very clear what your ‘measure for success’ is.

2) Make a backup, for the ‘least amount of work’ you’d need to get done to feel satisfied.

3) When you’re reviewing your tasks, make a record of what goals you achieved, and which you didn’t. And more importantly, try to think about WHY you achieved/didn’t achieve those goals. Is it because of interruptions? Did you underestimate how long something would take? Were you cold? Hungry?

4) Revise your tasks for the next day (or week, depending on how long a period til your next review) in light of those things.

Try it! And let me know how you get on in the comments section.


Is your PhD like Skyrim?

Last week, a good friend of mine commented that she hadn’t seen any blog posts from me in a while. It’s something that’s been in the back of my mind. What with a PhD and a part-time job, I’ve been very busy recently and this blog has suffered.

Since my last post, I’ve almost completed a major documentation-writing project at my part-time job, I’ve planned and conducted a pilot, written up that pilot, and planned a larger, proof-of-concept study. I’ve also written a guest post for PhD2Published, summarising my first PhD-as-video-game posts from my blog.

But I haven’t written here. I’ve been waiting for a large, interrupted period of time to really think about what I want to do next on this blog. This mystical period of time has not availed itself to me. Any large periods of time have been spent doing PhD work, cooking, or (let’s be honest) playing Skyrim.

Have you played Skyrim? It’s a roleplaying game, or RPG. I’m playing it on my laptop, via Steam, using an xbox 360 controller, although you can also play it on xbox 360. It is utterly addictive. In fact, it is a magnificent illustration of a motivating game that just makes you come back for more. It is almost exactly what I am trying to replicate in my PhD working methods (although there would be a great danger of becoming a workaholic…). I probably shouldn’t share how many hours I’ve spent playing this game in the past 2 months.

I’d like to devote a few blog posts to some similarities between academic work and Skyrim. At the moment, this idea is very much in the formative stages. Currently, I’m considering a post on dragons, how they can upset your gameplay, and how you can work them to your academic advantage; a post on skill training, and the challenges of deciding where to focus your time and energy; and a post on time, effort, and achievement, and on how one does not necessarily equal the other.

I’ll try to write these posts in a way that will be informative and engaging to people who have, and people who haven’t, played Skyrim. Is there anything in particular that you would like to see covered in these posts? Would you like to make your PhD more like Skyrim? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments section below.