Whilst working in the NHS I was bogged down by admin. It often felt that for every therapy session with a patient that there was at least a bucket load of admin to do. And by a bucket load I mean around 45 minutes minimum depending on the day and the task. A set of notes, a report, a phone call, scoring tests, registering someone on a computer system or ticking them off on the system, activity statistics and reports, signage to put up, reporting to kitchen staff…… phew even writing it down feels like a chore. Once you start multiplying this by 4 or 6 it becomes unmanageable.
I had a dream (or a delusional vision perhaps) that once I started my PhD admin would become a thing of the past. Now I realise how unrealistic that was. I wish I could go back in time and ask my past self:
“Past Anna, seriously when in life do we not have admin?”
I have admin: for my kids (two sets as I have two kids), my house, my bills, my parents, my husband, myself. Doctors appointments, dentist appointments, electricians to chase, birthday presents to buy, school trips to pay for (online as it’s all fancy like that now). So obviously PhD and research would include admin.
Whilst working in the NHS I often felt purposeless. I was entering the same patient data into multiple systems for data collections and comparisons I never saw. It often didn’t feel that it made a difference. Yet I might get a black mark against my name from some higher power if I didn’t do this particular data entry. In comparison PhD related admin feels under my control- purposeful and useful. I collect information and make phone calls, I write letters and complete forms all for the purpose of furthering the research. I am the master of my own admin. I am thus much more motivated to complete the required tasks.
These are my tops tips for keeping on top of my admin:
- Keep a to do list
- Put EVERYTHING on your to do list from sending specific emails, submitting expenses, making phone calls to writing journal articles
- Tick things off on your to do list daily (or twice daily)
- Add things to your to do list daily (write a brand new one every week)
- Keep your to do list with your diary- to see how these things will fit around your daily activities
- Deal with your emails systematically at the start of every day. Don’t leave them till later. Do it first thing (set the time aside to do it).
- Make phone calls before lunch- don’t think about the call, just make it.
- Prioritise people who gate keep your study- NHS ethics, R&D, SLT collaborators.
- Prioritise work that affects the start of your study- the sooner you do it, the sooner the study opens.
- Check your Gannt chart and your PhD minutes actions regularly (make sure you have minutes and actions and store them safely)
- Be happy and polite and occasionally apologise.