Special Field Exam

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Special Field Exam

One week. One paper. One focus. As an athlete, I work on maintaining mental focus all the time for the duration of my races. But, for some reason, I have an uncanny inability to single-task when it comes to ANYTHING school or work related. Anybody who has sat in classes with me, or who knows me, can attest to this. It is perfectly normal for me to have 2 web browsers open, each with about 2-3 open windows and anywhere from 8-10 tabs in each. And then there’s the other programs running too. (This is why I use a mac.). This is the image of Anjali in class: I sit there in class, participating and engaging in dialogue, while answering emails, updating websites, grading papers, reading/writing other assignments while taking notes and occasionally been guilty of also watching Paralympic.tv coverage too. But, my grades reflect that this approach works for me, and to be honest, I come back to the fact that I have an inability to just go to class and do that one thing. Which brings me to my next point… what do you do in life when you are forced to focus on just one thing at an intense level for a specified duration? My general field exam was an example of this, and now my latest example, the special field exam.

Anyway, this second qualifying exam for PhD school is a synthesis of the literature and it involves diving right into the main variables and figuring out all the research that has been done on that topic, categorizing it all for themes, but more importantly, connecting it to the topic at hand and making it relevant. Piece of cake, right? Honestly, I think it sounds worse than it is. Time is not in my favor, but when is it ever? And, it’s more my own inability to just focus and get it done. So, after spending the first 4 days organizing, flipcharting, thinking, it was time to take matters into my own hands.

Go with what you know.

What do I know? I know sports. I know racing. I know how to focus in that context. Just like racing, I can’t focus for the duration of a marathon. I am a sprinter. So anytime I do a marathon, it’s 422 hundred-meter sprints. Anytime I do any distance over the 800m, my coach breaks it down for me into 100m increments. Even my 100m, we break down to 10m sections. But, that lesson tells me a lot about myself and how my brain works. It is easy to get overwhelmed by a monumental task at hand, such as a marathon, or a special field exam. So, how do you not let it? Break it down into manageable chunks, set a timer, and start the race. That has been my new-found approach. It seems to be working so far. This mentality has also helped me to manage the other (extremely welcomed) distractions. Despite what anybody may try, I am convinced that there is no such thing as “clearing your schedule” for the week. I tried, and still managed to have a couple meetings, a couple classes to teach, a few fires to put out. But, just like in racing, these are the things that are beyond your control --- like the weather, your competitors, the starter of a race. You just have to go with it.

Though, at day 4, I’m at the point in the race when all you want to do is just quit, throw in the towel and retire. But, I know that if I were to do that, it would go against everything I stand for. Dream. Drive. Do. This is where the Drive comes in, to find that inner drive and motivation to just make it happen.

Stay tuned for some other very exciting news that is starting to unfold on the coloring book front! For now, back to the “race” for me!

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