MST210 – Lack of routine has consequences

After the lack of focus I’d had studying for M208, I was adamant that with MST210 I’d get into a routine and stay on top of the work regardless of what else life through at me.  This worked pretty well in October and November.  I did the work during my commutes, approximately 3-4 hours a day, even if I had to sit on the floor of a train carriage or find a dusty corner of Paddington while waiting for a delayed train.  All was going well.  At the end of November I began the process of changing jobs and, because of the nature of my work, was put on garden leave for three months.  Suddenly I wasn’t confined on trains for about one seventh of every weekday.  This is where my whole routine broke down.

While having three months at home seems on the surface to be a fantastic opportunity to get ahead in my study, it just hasn’t worked out that way.  Because I’ve not been working, evenings and weekends are now all about my family so I haven’t even tried to do any study outside of normal working hours.  That should still leave plenty of time to do a part time degree and get a whoel host of other things done right?

The first problem I’ve come across is time.  I don’t need to get up at 5.30am any more.  Without the confinement of a train full of strangers, I can’t concentrate on any study until my daughter is at school and my husband is at work – the house just isn’t quiet enough1.  So by 9am, when I would normally have finished nearly 2 hours of study, I’ve not even started.  Furthermore, because the day has officially begun, there are all the same interruptions: phone calls, urgent emails and, because I’m at home, the door bell goes with everything from deliveries to door to door traders.

It’s pretty hard to study with these two climbing over me.

While ignoring my phone is a well practised art2 it’s still something that breaks concentration. Also, it’s hard to change habits and routine.  My daytime routine has been pretty constant for a decade regardless of place of work: a hot drink, check the team have everything they need and get progress updates, deal with emails3, another hot drink and then get on with my own to do list.  While I don’t have a team during my garden leave, the rest is a habit that’s hard to break.  Before I know it, I’m making a second coffee and it’s nearly 11am.  Then add two hyperactive kittens who think that my kidneys are appropriate anchor points for climbing4 and getting anything of substance done is difficult.  If I’m lucky I get one thing done a day, whether that’s a bit of my printer, some maths, some house renovations or even catching up on personal paperwork.  Before I know it, it’s time to head out and get my daughter.

Thankfully, there is a library where I live, so I could go there and ignore all the distractions.  As yet, I haven’t, and I know why.  It’s the same problem as when I was forcing myself to do the revision on the trains in the first place.  I’m just not in the habit of it.  There’s always something more urgent while I’m at home, so packing up and heading out is lower in priority.  I need to create a new routine until I’m back commuting again, as for now, my studies are suffering.  The TMAs due in December and January were done with minimal effort and it looks like TMA5 will be the same way.

I have a few weeks left and a lot of things I need to achieve, not least catching up on MST210.  I’m hoping that when I start my new job, the routine kicks in as if I’ve never had a break.  If not then it’s going to take some serious effort to get back on track.

  1. In contrast, a 6.30am train is packed with people who haven’t had enough coffee to even attempt to socialise.  Also, this is a London commuter train so even if we were all fully awake we probably wouldn’t speak to each other anyway, and sit in silent terror that the person next to us might start a conversation.  The train home is a different matter as most people are usually drinking…
  2. I never answer to numbers I don’t recognise.
  3. File, delete, respond and try to keep a zero inbox as much as possible
  4. To be fair, Greebo was just as bad at climbing over me and sitting on my books.

Published by


Dr Janet is a Molecular Biochemistry graduate from Oxford University with a doctorate in Computational Neuroscience from Sussex. I’m currently studying for a third degree in Mathematics with Open University. During the day, and sometimes out of hours, I work as a Chief Science Officer. You can read all about that on my LinkedIn page.