H-14 countdown

Start working at around 9.30. Adamant to finish chapter 1, but in the end only able to finish revising at 17.50 PM. At least it is finally finished and then sent to supervisor.

On the other hand, today I also met with the supervisor. She has plans to be away beginning to mid April, and will need the portfolio draft before she leaves (around the next 9 days). Changing current plans of revising her corrections and starts with the portfolio straight away.


H-15 countdown

Currently racing for submission, and I thought I would put my road to completion here.

Today I am revising Chapter 1.

Work hours today: 9.30-12, 14.00-18.00, and then return home.

Currently at 21.47 I am still writing revising section 1.3.2, which is half of all sections (there are 6 sections in Chapter 1). The goal is to finish Chapter 1 today.


Sleep at around 23-ish and wake up again at 2 AM. Trying to revise Chapter 1, but can only managed to finish section 1.4 despite working until 6 AM. Gave up and then sleep for two hours.

The first habit I changed in 2018

….is not directly related with PhD, but has quite impact with my study nonetheless.

I stopped ironing.

I spent a week in my friend’s house in the end of last year. She is a really clean and orderly person, and it was really eye opening to see her doing it effortlessly around her house.

From my observation, she did not set too much time for cleaning, but she do it consistently throughout the day, and so does her husband (she is a mom of a toddler and a little baby). So early in the morning, she would prep the baby’s bottle, preparing some food for the day. She cleans up while doing it so there is not much litters or dirty dishes afterwards. She laundry at night, hang her clothes and fold them in the morning (side eye to my ever growing stack of unfolded clean clothes, waiting for me to iron them maybe once in two weeks). She tidy up the kitchen counter and the dining table after each dinner, clearing it until completely empty. My dining table is always half full, not only from plates but even also from kids toys, crafts!

I am so inspired I went home and directly unpack all of our dirty clothes and wash them. And I fold them all directly afterwards! I feel so proud of myself LOL.

I have tried to do my laundry almost every day and I can happily say that I do not have any stack of clothes again (not quite true: I do STILL have some stack of unfolded clean clothes before the holiday as it wrinkles and I can’t just fold them but I have to iron them, but no NEW clean clothes). It actually helps transform the house appearance (no stack of clothes lurking around the corner), in addition to less time finding clothes in the morning (for me and everyone), which leads to me going to the campus earlier! Whew.

Anyway I know maybe what I wrote is a straightforward thing to do for any sane adults, but this is a revelation for me. I do hope I can do it consistently.

My PhD books recommendations

Throughout four years of study, there are a lot of books on studying and authoring a PhD that I have read. Many of them are too complicated or too prescriptive. However, there are books that I have re-read over and over again during my PhD. I list them here in case it may help anyone.

Destination Dissertation: A Traveler’s Guide to a Done Dissertation by Sonja Foss and William Waters

What I like from this book is how it allows thesis to be seen as something that is very manageable project instead of a big, monstrous, unconquerable thing. It also quite systematic, defining things to do, hours they would take, and so on. It also provides some examples of writing, although it mostly comes from social sciences. Some might say that it is slightly too simplistic and miscalculate some of the time needed, but I would say that of course it all depends to every project and every person’s skill.

Air & Light & Time & Space: How Successful Academics Write by Helen Sword

This book is not specified for PhD students, but I thought it provides a thorough understanding on the different style and methods of writing. I really particularly like that it is not at all prescriptive, but acknowledging different habits and preferences but still highlights room for development. It divides writing habits into three aspects, behavioural, artisanal, and social; discussing challenges that comes within these aspects and in the end of every chapter includes some baby steps to overcome these challenges. I also generally really like Helen Sword’s other books, such as the Stylish Writers Diet, who discuss ways on creating an engaging text instead of usual dull and boring academic writings.

How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing by Paul J. Silva

Similar with Sword’s book, this book is also intended for academician. This book deals more with productivity challenges of writing. The author has no-nonsense approach to writing, generally really strict in advocating the importance of writing everyday and thought that it is impossible for academician to have a writer’s block. He provides an analogy that we are not creating something poetic or majestic, instead academic writing can be metaphorically said as painting a basement, where something should be done swiftly and efficiently. The book also argues (as I have discussed here earlier) that academic often do binge-writing instead of writing steadily and productively. I thought this book is really good to generally kick some butt for too-precious academics that procrastinate their writing.

Authoring a PhD: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Thesis or Dissertation by Patrick Dunleavy

This book is the standard text book about thesis writing. It is coherent but without necessarily being dictatorial. I like that there is a part on creating a macro structure (which benefit you when you just starting the writing process), but there is also a part of micro-structure that explore the nitty-gritty of the chapter writing. An important part for me is the part of writing and editing. The author highlights that each text will need at least five stages before it is ready (print, edit, revise, upgrade, and remodel). This can be nerve-wracking for some, but I find it calming as I know that this long process is actually necessary and that I am not only working in circle but just need to hang in there and keep moving.

Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success by Wendy Laura Belcher

This book is a guidebook for publishing a journal article, providing timesheet, and forms to guide the process of writing and polishing journal article from start to finish. It is a really great book to aid for early years academic that need to publish steadily. I do not necessarily use the timeframe, but for me the steps outlined for writing the publication is really important to be kept in mind.

Other than these books, I sometimes read some books that has been reviewed in the Thesis Whisperer. I found that Thesis Whisperer gave some really good book recommendations (I found Sword and Silva’s books from her site). She also factored in the affordability of each books she reviewed, to make it accessible for students, so it might be good to check this book. I also not really a fan of self-help books of success stories from former PhD students, as they often talk about their own success as it applies to everyone. I don’t really buy on the premise of ‘if I can do it, why can’t you?’ There are a lot of complexities in the PhD journey (Sword analyses a lot of scholars for the Air&Light book and the book is very much research driven and really, really objective). I find that reading a book from really good, productive, and experienced scholar benefit more and is generally much more useful, at least for me.

A Studying/Parenting/Life Manifesto

To know that for everything there is time. Keep it for things that matter.

To keep both eyes open, with both hands and two feet ready.

Don’t leave things get burned until you live only for putting fires off.

Know that some things (like a PhD) is an inferno. You cannot just tackle it, you need to strategise. Build dams, water channels instead of throwing a bucket of water to the raging fire.

To know that everyone is a human, who needed to be treated with kindness and respect.

Yet also remember to treat yourself with kindness and respect.

Practice thinking holistically. Why are we doing this? What are its benefit, long term? How to do it the appropriate way ?

Be the shepherd, not the sheep. Make decisions. Raise concerns. Don’t be the passenger of your own journey.


How to like your PhD again

The title might sound strange. After all, why would you hate your own PhD?

However, as time goes on and you are sort of stuck with your PhD you might grow to resent it. I felt that way in this year as I entered my fourth year of PhD.

Anyway, I read something on my twitter feed about people finding their success on things that they are most passionate about this morning. And it really makes my heart warm, and rethink again how I actually really like my PhD and grateful for it. Some reasons are:

-I get to work on it. Earlier this month my friend left UK to work on it on her home country. I felt that I am actually really blessed to get to do it.

-It is something I really passionate about and believe in. While some thesis might be really technical, as part of a social science field I believe my thesis has been triggered by real concern on better life quality of people. Despite the hard work, I actually really like my thesis. I am also grateful that I got a smart and kind yet tough supervisor that makes the process of finding and shaping ideas on the thesis as rewarding as it is.

-It creates opportunity for good quality education for my kids. They learn to be creative, finding their voice, and learn in a simple but meaningful ways.

-It trains me to be a better researcher, and people in general. I read, analyse, and write better than before I do my PhD. I don’t get easily turned down by  challenges, as not many things are more challenging than doing a PhD. I am also more patient now.

-I learn to be myself and do things based on what I am good at instead of trying to follow others. It is  a work in progress, but I know that it is there. Sometimes I think that it is not enough, and that I need to keep challenging myself.

In the end, I do hope that I get to finish it in good note. But if not, these past years were not wasted.

Bouncing back period in PhD

In the process of doing my PhD, I have always had that ‘bouncing back’ period. What is it?

‘Bouncing back’ period is the time it takes to get back to your writing again. This can be a couple of hours, a few days, to a week stretch (some might need even more time). Time required to bounce back usually emerge because of previous period of ‘binge-writing’, which is the term Paul de Silva (writer of How to Write a Lot–my favourite book) uses for writing extensively due to deadlines where writers just write and pour their brain out. Consequently, you need time to recover from it, and therefore postpone your next progress. De Silva recommends that we need to avoid binge-writing at all cost and should instead aim to write regularly and without stress.

My bouncing back period, however, is also driven by some logistical issues. I have used time after submission dates not only to get myself recovered, but also my family and my house. Therefore, after submission I would get back to my mountains of laundry, things to iron, cluttered house, empty fridge which occurred during my so-called absence due to binge-writing. Therefore I usually spend a day or two after submission to clean up my house and get it restocked again. However, due to this absence, I will need longer time to get back to my usual speed of writing.

Other than after submission bounce, for me there is also other type bouncing back time needed. This is usually after I received bad input (endless revision or rejections from conferences). I just couldn’t have the mental energy to face the writing again without thinking about the bad input, and often rethink in despair what I would have done wrong.

I am still ambivalent about bouncing back time. Despite the time being thrown away before one can get back to their writing, for me at least they bounce, and not stop. However, to make it  faster to recover and get back in writing, maybe plan of action may help. The key is to make the plan before the bouncing supposed to start. For example, before the submission date, you plan what you need to do shortly afterwards, and what are the goals of writing that you still need to tackle. Similarly,  for bouncing after rejection, you need to make a plan before the announcement date, what you will do about any possibilities of the result. If it is conferences, you could list other place where you can send it out. You could also review again your manuscript to see your mistakes, and therefore when you have revise you already see the manuscript and its flaws instead of only ‘hoping for the best’.




PhD vs home chores: a question no man will ever ask

A happy note: Last month I have finally finished a full draft and submit it to my supervisor, which has since returned it back with loads of revisions. I am grinding it now and hoping for official submission within this month.

On the other hand, it comes naturally that leading to submission point I find that there is no time to sufficiently do home chores. It is all good when there is a fixed point of submission such as during undergraduate and masters, where everything is finite and well accounted for. In my writing process, I felt that it often slides and extends more and more, it seems that it will never be finished.

Yet, in a home with kids, this leads to a problem with home chores. I would like to abandon everything and just do my work consecutively for a month like I did during my previous degrees, but I couldn’t do it now, and it is frustrating. First, there is kids to be fed and clothed rather properly (but my standard is pretty low on this-not aiming for perfection), and that the second, the deadline is not fixed, it can be a month, but it can be two months, which limit how far can you abandon your home chores.

I felt that although this is done by both parents, this mostly fall within the mental space of women within the households. At least most of my women friend with kids at the workplace also complained that they wanted to work more, read more, write more, but alas, they have to come home to either pick up kids, cook, nurse, or whatever it is they ought to be doing. I mean, you can not do laundry and fold for a couple of weeks, but you got to do it eventually. My office mate, a mom of two kids, went home early at 4 pm because she said she kept thinking of the pile of laundry that she needed to iron. On the other hand, all of our other male colleague would stay at their office until very late night, some even spend the night at office–and then returned home to sleep. Oh, the irony.

Despite all of this feminist rant, I want to do what is best and appropriate for my situation and working habit.  I looked at the internet that there are various tips for working mom. For cooking alone, these vary from doing night prep, waking up earlier, meal planning, making spices and food prep for weekly and so on. However, I thought that I couldn’t possibly consistently do a night prep as I am already tired at night and my motivation is quite low. I am a morning person, but I would prefer my morning time is used for working and not for cooking, for example. Meal planning, spice and food prepping sound good and I have done so in the past, but the idea of having to cook everyday is the one that makes me depressed.

Since last month I have fairly resorted to block cooking. I find that it is more manageable for me to cook a large batch of food for my family to eat in a week. I don’t have to cook everyday, which free my day for thinking about what to cook and free my evening (the time when I used to cook). I find comfort in knowing that my family have food, which make it easier if I want to do more work. And if my family does not want to eat the food, they could order takeout, which perhaps occur once in a week.

As an example, the photos above show menus for two different weeks. As an Indonesian, I mostly cook ayam ungkep (chicken that has been boiled with yellow spices and can be fried later, can also consist of eggs and tofu), some batches of ready to eat stir-fry food (in the left it is fish with chili and tofu and the left it is chicken with paprika), and I try to have at least one thing that is baby friendly (in the left it is perkedel–some kind of potato cakes, and in the right it is the kani roll–a kind of meatloaf, but made with chicken wrapped in a tofu skin and can be fried later). They are all stored in a chiller in my fridge (I am bad at managing freezer, so that why weekly cooking instead of monthly is better for me).

I usually cook vegetable soup every two days to accompany this food and to make my baby easier to eat with rice. Each batch can last my family of three adults and three kids five to seven days for lunch and dinner (although there are times when my husband wants to eat instant noodle, or I cooked something else for the baby). But the main point is, there is always food. If I don’t have clothes, I can always reuse (see, pretty low standards eh). But no food is sucks, and it really the ones that gets in the way in doing thesis (for me). At least food in the fridge makes a less depressed, happy mama!


A talk with my lecturer today

I have not completed any draft by today. All the written text is completed, but lists of drawings have managed to bogged me down.

I have whined in despair with my husband all this morning, up until the time I have to dragged myself to campus.

In the lift lobby I met an accomplished senior lecturer. She was my examiner during my confirmation exam.

She asked, “So you are close to submission?”

I told her my date (which is due in a week).  I then wallowed that I still have endless things to do.

She listened emphatically–grinning with all these familiar complains of a PhD student–before saying that I just need to keep working and keep my confidence.

It will feel endless, she said, but she adds, “You will see that in the end the satisfaction is also remarkable.”

I’ll keep that in mind.


Important things to be addressed in each chapter discussion/conclusion

I am currently writing the conclusion parts of my chapters. Some thesis does not necessarily need an elaborate chapter conclusion, but as my chapters consist of two main case studies I’d need to do one. I thought I’d note what are the important things that need to be concerned in the process of writing such part in my thesis below.

  1. Remind the reader about the main objective/intention of the chapter and also why it is important. For example, my current chapter is about reading the spatial connection that unfolds between home and the city from its maintenance process. Without this understanding of availability/unavailability of connection, often matter between spaces unable to move through and then displaced.
  2. Outline important findings in the chapter in relation to point 1. Findings must be emphasised based on the structural logic of the chapter. For example, the chapter starts by reviewing gap of territories in maintaining the river and its banks and the wider fabric of the city as a lived space. The chapter then proceeds by mapping how informal dwellers engaged within this gap through their maintenance process.
  3. Add a bridge linking to the next chapter. My next chapter is different case study that similarly discuss spatial connection through maintenance process, but in a different mode of spatial production. Highlight the difference in here, but also the significance why they also need to be seen as a whole. For instance, the first case study occur in a ‘permanent and done throughout the day’ mode of spatial production, while the second case study is more ‘temporary and cyclical’. This influence the spatial connection configuration produced that enrich the overall knowledge. I also need to emphasise that it is not about waste itself, but instead the process of how environment is contaminated and decreased its quality/ become unsightly (ensure that objective and methods are important instead of the research setting/data).
  4. Create limitations of such part of this research (but also its significance as a selling point). Limitations of my study might be on its methodology in researching cleaning process and waste disposal, as there is possibility that one’s might lie when they were being asked. I should have record them one by one, but time and space constraints hindered me to do so. Perhaps other methodology can concentrate on just limited number of people, or should have focused only on traces and not narrative?  (still not sure here).
  5. In relation to point 4, highlight things that are important and can potentially become future research to conclude in the overall thesis conclusion chapter. The above paragraphs has note different modes of methodology. Other point can be different type of data itself (not waste disposal, but perhaps electricity etc). This is important as the next case study rely on different type of data, although share the same methods of research with tweaked steps of analysis.
  6. Most important thing, persevere and ensure it is finished. Don’t decrease the speed because you think that it is going to end soon!