Though I have been calling myself The Stay-at-Home Sociologist jokingly with my spouse and friends for some time, I actually am not quite as "stay-at-home" as I have been the last three years as I am embarking on completion of my PhD. This fall I am taking my oral exams. Orals are exams one takes as a component of a PhD program. I completed the first stage, coursework, before moving from New York to Florida. I took my written exams on classical sociological theory (e.g., Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Simmel) and contemporary sociological theory (e.g., Geertz, Butler, Foucault, Bourdieu) when I was eight months pregnant with my third child. Once I complete my oral exams, I'll then be what people call ABD (very unofficial term meaning "all but dissertation"). After that, I will be able to move on to dissertation research, planning and writing. I began my orals prep in earnest a couple of weeks ago, and I actually quite enjoy it. The opportunity to revisit the theories and ideas first explored in masters and PhD coursework feels exciting again, I'm sure in part because I did take some time away from it over the last few years. My areas of study (chosen by me and are, of course, my areas of interest that will be my areas of expertise when all of this over) are gender/sexuality, religion, and culture.
My husband is an academic as well, in a tenure-track position at a liberal arts college. He has no official teaching commitments in the summer, but always does work toward his research and writing agenda. That said, he has worked very hard to hit a few of his benchmark tenure requirements early so he could be available to care for the kids this summer while I study. We also have grandparents visiting for a few weeks, which is immensely helpful with the childcare.
My goal is to spend a minimum of four hours per day working. Some days I will have much more time (seven or eight hours). My exam date is scheduled for mid-October. My first week of preparation was spent finalizing the texts with which I need to know by working closely via email and text with the three professors who are my examiners. I searched online for ways in which to organize oneself in work, as I have a limited amount of time and can't afford to waste any of it. I came across an article from Fast Company by a Google work advisor who suggests doing a chart to Design your Time.
There are a couple of key takeaways from the article. One is to create a design of your time (as opposed to "managing" it as if it is something that could spin out of control). The other is to say no to things that fall outside of your design. The article suggests dividing your work into four categories. All work must fall into those four categories. Here is mine:
You'll notice I have a second chart of quadrants that further divides my Study/Research time up as well. So far, this model is working really well for me. When I begin each day, I assess how much time I have that day and then conduct my tasks accordingly. Every task/project is moved forward each day. The hardest part is saying no to things outside of the quadrant. I feel so much more in control of my time and efforts with a plan to reference. Though I am in intensive orals prep this summer, I can also see this working for my teaching load for the fall and for taking care of the family and household. I plan to make designs for those arenas as well.
My 5% blog time is almost up, so I need to get started on the next task for the day. Happy working!