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The best laid plans of mice and mums ...

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Sunday, 10 Dec 2017, 22:03

In my previous blogpost, I proudly set out what I called my 'project life balance plan'. Naturally, this attracted the attentions of the Gods and Goddesses, who promptly threw the divine equivalent of poo at it mixed

Poo emoji

  • I had planned for two loads of marking, I managed to acquire a third load.
  • I noted the workshop I had to attend, but forgot about the five loads of laundry I would have to rush through in order to ensure that my child had enough shirts and PE kit for school the following week, as I would not be there over the weekend to do this.
  • One of our cats went AWOL sad, and turned up at 5.30 am the day before I left for Glasgow approve (After I had spent hours sticking up posters round the neighbourhood - of course.)
  • The workshop didn't quite go as I had thought it would mixed, in fact it took me about a week to recover from it and figure out how to write up the notes dead
  • And there was a family emergency which led to me having to spend the afternoon driving to a nearby city, then back in the middle of rush hour - narrowly missing a three car pile-up off the motorway and screeching into my personal parking space with just 10 minutes to go before the first of the two tutorials I had to teach that night was due to start dead dead

In fact, this part of my plan originally looked like this:

Gannt plan showing tasks

And now it looks more like this:

Gannt plan as above but with extra tasks and large brown splotches on it

mixed Yes - time for working through the second block of materials and preparing TMA02 (which we are supposed to share in draft form with our fellow students) has been severely truncated.

At this time of year, I keep a sharp eye out and circulate my students gently enquiring if they might be a little more behind in their studies than they would ideally like to be? They usually say: "Yes, but there is the Christmas break coming ..."

I know that in spite of their good intentions, they are very unlikely to switch off Mariah Carey or It's a Wonderful Life, and log in to their study calendar. I suggest we do a session identifying what they could skim and what they really need to concentrate on, then they can have a break - and start the New Year all set up and ready to go.

I'm not sure I can skim any of my own study materials mixed I get the impression most of it involves going online and sharing my ideas with my fellow students. Plus, in my own TMA01, I didn't properly define one of the key terms tongueout (stop laughing DD103 students! big grin), and now I'm going to have to scrap my intended project and write a whole new one.

Poo emoji 

So-o-o, I am at that crunch point which many of my own students are at: Withdraw, Defer, Stagger on? thoughtful

I'm not going to give up on this thing. I enjoy it too much! I might have to defer, if any more divine poo hits my plans. I will give it a good go first, though wink

Poo emoji at the end of a rainbow

First thing to do, is sign onto the Study Calendar and check out how far behind I actually am mixed I put this off for a while, but eventually I get my courage up with one of the mince pies a student brought to yesterday's tutorial. (Yes, that is how messy it is round here - sometimes it's a choice between studying and tidying.)

Computer open at StudentHome with cup of coffee and mince pie

Phew! that's not so bad. I do have to tidy round now, so the kiddo and I can put up our Christmas decorations some time before Easter. But if I can get a couple of hours in tomorrow morning and some time on my 'day off', I might get back on board in time smile

(If I struggle, I'll have a good chat with Student Support before making any final decisions.)

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light skinned mixed heritage woman writing letters.

Plan to Succeed

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Edited by Anita Pilgrim, Thursday, 26 Oct 2017, 06:09

As an experienced researcher with decades of project management under my belt, I plan my work without even thinking about it. I often get by without even writing my plan down, but for a course of study, you are far better off making a proper written plan.

Open University modules are already carefully planned, with assignments designed to gear you up in gradually accumulating skills areas so that by the end, you have been gently taken on a journey to higher academic abilities. To some extent, you can rely on the plan laid out in the module. However - 'real' life has a bad habit of poking its nose in and making a fine mess out of the module's carefully laid out plan.

The module I'm currently studying has a brilliant way to help me: writing a plan is part of the first assignment. There is a link to this short, free course from OU Business Studies about project planning, in which we are shown Gannt plans. If you have got time to spare, this course is well worth working through. If you are short of time already, you could just sketch out a plan for yourself on a piece of paper or in a spreadsheet as I've done here.

This is my Gannt plan for my studies.

Excel spreadsheet laid out as a Gannt plan

(The free course provides a Gannt plan in a pdf, but my pdf reader will require an expensive upgrade before it will allow me to edit pdfs, so I decided to draw up my Gannt plan as an Excel spreadsheet.)

Well, that all looks great! Ah, but, what about 'real' life? I have gone back over my plan to put in points showing where I might have peaks of work or want to take extra time off to cover a school holiday.

Another Excel spreadsheet laid out as a Gannt plan

I can see that just before TMA01, I have got two loads of marking due in. I am down to give a workshop right afterwards too, for which I will have to do some preparatory work. Looking at this Gannt plan, I can consider doing my workshop preparations now so they are out of the way, and putting in some early work on my own TMA01 (such as writing the plan bit of it!), then I will have time to do my marking and check my TMA before putting it in. If I am coming up to the dates for marking and still have a lot of work to do on my TMA, I can ask for an extension in good time.

I am actually going to work on a more sophisticated plan in the OU's software application Compendium. I was hoping to just run that off and show it here in this blogpost. When I started, however, I discovered that it will take me a little while to re-learn how Compendium works. (I used it previously on the e(LATE)D course I studied, but have mis-remembered it as being very easy!) I have therefore had to adjust my Gannt plan to show that project planning will take longer than I had first supposed. (I want to use Compendium because it's designed for planning teaching projects. I think it will be useful to me later on, so it'll be worth putting in the time to learn how to use it properly.)

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