Limbo-Log #3: Where did the week go?

This time I’m trying a different format for my ‘limbo-log’ post as it has proven tricky sometimes to remember to make a note of what I’ve been up to in the day/time format.

I’ve also been using Toggl to track my time. I first used this during the first year of my PhD, out of interest to see how my time spent on different tasks related to one another, but it’s proven more interesting to track my current status of various different types of tasks. The following is from a one week period, and I’ll describe my categories as we go (and mention things I DIDN’T track).

MUSIC PRACTICE (7 hours, 7 minutes) – this was a pretty decent amount of practice for the week. I almost always track my time spent on violin practice as it can sometimes be a motivating factor. Having said that, when I’m not doing too well, it can also be disheartening! I didn’t include in this the time I spent playing the keyboard with my brother to teach him how to read bass clef.

TUTORING (5 hours, 50 minutes) – this is the time spent only in the actual sessions. As it’s summer this fluctuates a lot, and this week I taught 3 different postgraduate psychology students.

DOG WALKING (4 hours, 15 minutes) – I don’t get paid for this, but I walk someone else’s dog to give me a bit of motivation to get out of the house and do some exercise.

WORK APPLICATIONS (3 hours, 30 minutes) – I include the time spent looking for things I’d like to apply to, as well as actually writing applications. A large chunk of this week’s time was interview prep, as I had to put together a session plan and a ‘micro-teach’ to deliver as part of the interview [I spent many hours on this in total and didn’t get the job].

FAMILY (3 hours) – Most of the family were away but I went to have lunch at my grandparents’ house.

OTHER MUSIC (2 hours, 11 minutes) – looking up music theory stuff, doing practice aural exercises, reading about music history, etc. I also made a separate category for ‘attempts at composition’ but didn’t do any this week.

TUTORING-RELATED (at least 1 hour, 58 minutes) – this is where I include all of the admin-type tasks such as responding to messages, managing bookings, and of course preparing content/exercises if required for sessions. I imagine this to take a lot more time (and mental energy) than recorded, as firstly, I often don’t record the few minutes here and there for replying to single emails etc, and secondly, I’m often thinking about these things in between other tasks.

RESOURCE MAKING (1 hour, 50 minutes) – separately to the resources I make for my tutoring students, I’ve also been working on making general resources over summer both for commonly-requested topics and to sell on TES.

MUSIC PSYCHOLOGY (48 minutes) – at the moment this is mainly reading and self-teaching activities.

PHD-RELATED (16 minutes) – this is where I include things that stem from my PhD work, such as the publications I’m working on with my supervisors. This week was just a quick discussion with one supervisor about a small section of a paper that’s nearly ready to be sent off for review. Things I maybe could have included here would be the long time I spent ordering guest tickets and academic attire for my graduation ceremony.

And what I didn’t log…

Food (eating, making, etc) – I often don’t spend long planning or cooking and it might be good in future to be able to mentally categorise these activities as productive!

A lot of the weekend time which was spent with my partner.

TV / youtube time.

Miscellaneous reading time – both fiction and non-fiction (which I’m trying to increase).

Limbo-Log #2: My Mind is Melting

8.10 – Woke up and talked to a friend on the phone whilst getting ready. Already hot.

9am – Phoned about a council tax refund from the city I did my PhD in…they owe me £105 because somehow the final bill was paid twice. I was on hold for over 25 minutes. The hold music sucked, and was interspersed with messages telling me how quick and easy it is do use the website instead…and it’s not…I’ve tried several times in the last few weeks but the online form just doesn’t let you progress past a certain point. After all of that, the actual conversation lasted less than 2 minutes. Let’s hope that money reappears in my account sharpish.

10am – Was supposed to be a tutoring hour with a new student, but it automatically cancelled because the student didn’t confirm it online by 12 hours before the session…and I received no response to yesterday’s message asking them to either confirm or let me know if they’d changed their mind. So instead of making any money, I spent some money at the shop buying food, ate a pasta salad, and then looked over a half-written job application.

11am – Tutoring (an hour spent talking about ANOVAs)

12pm – Laid outside on the grass for about 5 minutes before being unable to stay out any longer, ate my remaining lunch, sent suggested booking slots to a student, sent an email about potential data collection for an individual differences research idea I have, and wrapped some presents for my girlfriend’s birthday.

1pm – Carried on with the job application I looked at earlier. This one is not ‘academic’ as such but is a remote-working science-writing type of job. I finished off the cover letter (I detest writing cover letters), but I’ve still got to prepare a writing sample in a specific style.

2pm – Tried to get confirmation of my graduation date; went for a short walk (and melted) and spoke to a neighbour.

3.30 – Made a few notes for my individual differences project idea and the writing sample for the job application, then spoke to my grandma on the phone.

5pm – Ate sandwiches and watched Young Sheldon.

6pm – Violin practice, interspersed with sitting down in front of a fan because it is too damn hot for any level of movement.

7.30 – Drawing a cartoon character for a friend.

8pm – Too hot to think. Just spilled water on my shirt and I wouldn’t be surprised if it all evaporates in the next 5 minutes. My plan was to get on with the writing sample once the temperature cooled off a bit…but I’m still struggling!

The Pros and Cons of Online Tutoring

(from the tutor’s perspective)

The pros…

  • Flexible schedule – you don’t have to work when you don’t want to, you can choose what times and days, and you can take your work anywhere with a decent internet connection
  • No travel time – allowing you to potentially fit in more sessions and earn more – it also means that you can offer shorter sessions that otherwise might not feel worth their while
  • Lovely students – often you’ll meet really engaged and interested students who are happy to have an easy way to access help and extend their studies
  • Easy CV – if you have profiles on online platforms, you can easily display your qualifications, experience, references/reviews, subjects offered, availability, to potential new clients without having to repeatedly give information
  • Schemes for students from disadvantaged backgrounds – some sites allow tutors to join schemes that offer regular work tutoring students who may not otherwise be able to afford one-to-one tuition
  • Summer slump – is still a thing but has a slightly smaller impact when you’re able to access a wider pool of students who are still studying
  • Safety/supervision – you don’t need to worry about letting someone know when you’re off to meet a new student, and parents don’t need to worry so much about chaperoning/ferrying their young
  • Extra bits and pieces – sometimes you can work with students for occasional sessions to support with a particular topic, and one-off tasks like proofreading, which seem to be more popular opportunities when working online
  • Peer support – if you can get involved in online tutor discussion forums, this can be an excellent resource

The cons…

  • Difficult schedule – sometimes, to earn enough money, you have to accept awkward sessions…to fit with your students’ availability, you can often end up with awkward gaps that are too small to fit anyone into (but add up to a lot over time!) or a piecemeal schedule with early starts AND late finishes on the same days…you also come across the occasional student who expects instant responses/bookings simply because it’s online
  • Technical issues – occasionally your sessions will get disrupted by things that are not your fault…and you may end up paying for that, especially if you are working through a site that doesn’t offer a partial refund option
  • No-shows and ‘ghosters’ – can also cost you time and money
  • Disinterested or rude students (usually the younger ones) – it can be difficult to capture a student’s attention if they are looking away from the computer, watching videos in another tab, or otherwise blatantly not listening to you
  • Questionable parents – from those who constantly try to insert themselves into your schedule without regard to the options you provide, to those who appear half-dressed in the background to your lesson…parents can be a source of anxiety – sometimes with the added pressure of feeling like you have to ‘prove your worth’ more than you would offline if they are not confident in the online method
  • Isolation – if you’re working from home, it can be an odd experience
  • Commission – if you work through an online tutoring website to get the advantage of recruiting students and using a professional online classroom, the price you charge can be a lot higher than what you actually take home…some sites reward tutors for example by lowering the percentage that they take from you from 25% to 20% once you complete a number of sessions…others take the biscuit (I’m talking 37%)