What have I been up to? – October review

October was my first full month of being a PhD student! I obviously haven’t figured everything out (cue the dreaded “what’s your PhD about?” question) but I feel like I’m starting to get a hang of it. Read on for what I’ve learnt in the process, and please share what October meant to you in the comments!

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The feeling of being in control is down to creating habits (my morning routine for instance) and organising my day with Todoist. I know I bring it up a lot – I’m not paid to promote it, ha – but Todoist really is how I organise my whole life. I would be quite lost without it! I’m recording my work in a research log, which is simply a table in a Word document. I type in the date and what I did research-wise that day. It helps me to feel like every little bit adds up and that I’m making progress.

I had a meeting with my supervisors around the middle of the month. I’m now involved in writing my first “real” literature review and I’m actually enjoying it. I’m using what I learnt from reading The Productive Researcher to make it as pain-free as possible.

I’ve been harnessing the potential of the Pomodoro technique to power through my PhD reading. A big productivity breakthrough at the end of the month was to stop taking “digital” breaks. This might seem obvious, but when I used to watch a video or scroll through Pinterest during my study breaks, it was quite difficult to not get distracted and keep clicking through the Internet. So now I make a hot drink and do something “IRL” during my breaks, like starting a load of laundry or doing some colouring in!

Sunday stroll. #abingdon #flowers #wellies #alongthethames #freshair

A post shared by Jessica Goodenough (@jlgoodenough) on

The Boyfriend and I spent a lovely weekend on his parents narrowboat as a late celebration of our two-year anniversary. We switched our phones off, he taught me to play backgammon, I had the first mulled wine of the season, we played cards in a pub, we ate fishless-finger sandwiches and went on a walk by the Battle of Bosworth Field… Bliss!

After that weekend “off”, I’ve been working three Saturdays in a row. My part-time job as a research assistant now mainly involves attending Tree Warden forums and giving presentations about Treezilla. This month I’ve been quite spoilt with the venues for the afternoon tree walks: Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham, the Winkworth Arboretum and Dartington Hall’s gardens.

What I’ve been listening to

Alan Jackson has a new song… And it sounds a lot like his older stuff, in a good way:


Popping down to the Brazil, Luan Santana also has a new song out:


I haven’t been listening to much music this month, so if you have any recommendations for me to add to my playlist, please share them in the comments!

What I read

I’ve made up for not listening to much music by increasing the rate I get through books. I flew through the inspiring Magnolia Story and two Sherlock Holmes stories: The Hound of the Baskervilles and A Study in Scarlet. I love that classics are available for free on Kindle!

I also loved The Productive Researcher – it came out this month and has great advice that applies to non-researchers too, for instance about aligning your goals to your values to make them more motivating! I reviewed Conquering Cultural Stress as I had identified at the end of September that I needed a little boost to my healthy habits.

I’m going to create a “resources” page on this website to list my book and podcast recommendations. I want to donate half of my affiliate revenue to a charity that works around literacy of underprivileged children. Do you have any charity recommendations? If so, please share them in the comments below.

Goal for the month

I went down to one goal for October as I felt like I was being pulled in too many directions when I had three.

  • Send new research proposal to supervisors for feedback – done 12/10/17

Wins & accomplishments

  • Focusing on literature review and enjoying it
  • Successful Tree Warden events in lovely settings
  • Doing more reading than I used to

Possible improvements

  • Putting exercise first – not postponing it in favour of work
  • Getting ready for the next day and for bed when my first reminder rings
  • Not consuming digital information (articles, social media) until I have produced blog posts

Some of the things I’m grateful for

Every day (or almost) I write down three things I am grateful for ahead of doing my “morning pages”. Here are some examples, try it out for yourself. No matter what life throws at you, there’s always at least three things to be grateful for!

  • Re-reading Conquering Cultural Stress
  • The beautiful landscapes we pass in the train
  • Working from home – cozy under my blanket
  • Going to the boat today
  • Reading and enjoying The Magnolia Story
  • Making yummy porridge for breakfast
  • All the great resources I’ve found (Smart Twenties blog, podcasts)
  • Playing Rollercoaster Tycoon: relaxing
  • Seeing successful placemaking at Cannon Hill Park
  • All the fruit and veg we have in the flat
  • Having received the first installment of my scholarship
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Rob dropping me off this morning
  • Receiving my “inbox” and The Productive Researcher – an impetus to get organised
  • Transport going well so far
  • Spending time with family: lunch with Granny and Jeff, walk with Rob and Skype with parents
  • The variety of events in Abingdon
  • Deciding not to consume information (blog posts, podcasts, social media) until I’ve produced my share for the week
  • Being healthy enough to cycle and walk as much as I want
  • The crisp, cold weather
  • All the books I have to read – currently How to tame your PhD and A Discovery of Witches

Some of the things I’m proud of

I’ve started listing things I’m proud of, as well as the things I’m grateful for, to give myself a bit more pep. We’re often so caught up with “what next” that we forget to pause and give ourselves a little pat on the back.

  • Going on a run when I didn’t feel like it most of the day
  • Getting myself out of bed to make coffee for the both of us
  • Recognising quite a few tree species
  • Finishing another book
  • Reading one of the seminal texts on urban agriculture
  • Sending documents to supervisors ahead of meeting
  • Having organised my finances with online banking and tracked it on my money spreadsheet
  • Being proactive and preparing my supervisory meeting
  • Sorting my paperwork into my physical inbox and starting to deal with it
  • Encouraging myself to go for a walk
  • Having started my literature review
  • Getting myself to bed at a reasonable time
  • Not using the Internet as a distraction and thus getting through my reading and concept-mapping
  • The event in Devon going well: positive responses from Tree Wardens
  • Writing Halloween party invitations for the neighbours

Action points

  1. Try the Pomodoro technique – without using the Internet as a distraction during the breaks – and tell me about your productivity wins in the comments;
  2. Join the Goodreads challenge and decide how many books you’ll read by the end of the year;
  3. Try listing three things you’re proud of everyday and see if you’re accomplishing more than you realised!

What have you been up to this past month? Any lessons learnt, or fun Halloween business? Please share in the comments below!

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