Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Research Fellow in Ancient Science and Technology.
How much research time is built into my job:
I’m a postdoctoral research fellow, so theoretically 100%, but I’m also doing a small amount of teaching.
If the next REF were held tomorrow, I would:
Be returned, assuming the outputs I produced while in my previous position could be ported (I started my current job on 5th September).
I work on:
Broadly speaking, the history and archaeology of medicine. However, I’m at that annoying stage where I have multiple projects on the go (one drawing to a close, one about halfway through, and one just starting), so what I work on varies quite significantly from day to day.
Tools I use to plan my research:
Confession: I’ve never really planned my research. I focus on one thing at a time, as far as is possible, and see where that leads me. I can tell you how I got to where I am, but I can’t tell you where I’m going next.
I have an eighteen-month week-by-week diary that I use to keep track of my deadlines, trips, appointments etc. I also use this for my weekly To Do lists. I’ve tried using the electronic organisational tools that come with PCs, tablets, smartphones etc., but these don’t work for me. I need to write something down and look at a physical version of it in front of me to have any chance of remembering it.
With regard to my research, a pen and a piece of paper are indispensable. I start with mind-maps of my general thoughts, progress to bullet-points, and then write everything out by hand before typing it up. While I can add to pre-existing work and edit complete work on a computer, I can’t start work from scratch that way. I also use post-it notes to mark pages in books I’m reading, or take note of references, and I stick these either to my work or to my computer to remind me to incorporate the new information.
I have a whiteboard and a corkboard on my office wall. I use the whiteboard to keep track of all my projects and the corkboard to keep track of events that I may or may not want to attend, books I may or may not want to read etc.
My approach to planning/planning philosophy is:
Do whatever works for you for as long as it works for you. I’m interested in how other people plan and I love to get an insight into their process, but I won’t necessarily try and adopt that process in its entirety because I know it’s not for me. So at the moment, I’m attempting AcWriMo because I have several fast approaching deadlines and so far I’m managing to write 500 words per day, but I know from experience that I won’t be able to do that indefinitely, so once I run out of steam, I’ll move on to something else.
My routine is:
Under construction. Three house moves in six weeks, no internet access at home, starting a new job and getting to grips with a new institution, and a lot of upheaval in my personal life have meant that I haven’t been able to really settle down and establish one yet.
Generally, I tend to book-end my days with productive academic work; in the middle I deal with admin, teaching and whatever else needs to be done. I’m an early riser (5-6am most days without an alarm) and I have a lot of energy first thing in the morning, so I tend to do an hour or two of work while I drink my coffee and wake up. I aim to get into my office between 8.30 and 9.30 and tend to start the day dealing with emails, before moving on to whatever else is on my To Do list (at the moment: conference organisation, grant applications, teaching preparation, book reviews). I generally leave the office mid-afternoon, call in at the library on my way home, and once I get home settle down and work until dinner (6-7 pm). After dinner, I wind down.
I think I am organised/disorganised/other (please specify):
I think I’m an organised disorganised person. I’m very organised in the short term (I know exactly what I’m going to do each day from the moment I wake up in the morning), less organised in the long term (I tend to be reactive rather than proactive). I hate being taken by surprise with something new that needs to be done when I’ve already planned to do other things.
I would like to improve my…
Technological know-how. Not because I want to, but because I need to. There’s only so long you can justify formatting everything by hand when you know there are online resources that will do it for you in a fraction of the time.
My best piece of planning advice is:
Be prepared to be flexible. Also, tasks tend to expand to fill the time available, so be wary of spending too much time on one thing at the expense of everything else.