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Taking small steps to make a big change

Taking small steps to make a big change

After all of my recent travels, spending this week in one place, at home, has been the most incredibly indulgent feeling. I have loved every minute of it, knowing that I can finally relax and focus on my work, my home, and my cat. This weekend, I have had the house completely to myself, and as much as I miss my housemate, it was nice to just do nothing but binge on films, sort through my things, drink wine, and eat chocolate. I don’t remember the last time I appreciated my own space this much. I genuinely feel like I’ve been on holiday, especially as the sun has made an appearance several times in the last few days! 

Staying in one place doesn’t mean that I haven’t had a lot of work to do. This week, I spent most of my time working on my 6-month progress report; both for my doctorate centre (STREAM) and my university. Because PhD students don’t have formal assignments, or exams, before our viva voce, we have to produce progress reports, which are records of all of the skill development activities we have carried out to improve ourselves and the quality of our research. It also helps the university to keep track of our progress with the project, spot any weaknesses, and develop appropriate training needs to work on these. Skill development can include things like doing poster presentations, attending conferences, presenting at conferences, going to relevant workshops, etc. Now, I remember mentioning on several occasions that I feel like I haven’t achieved anything; that I’m slacking, and so on. I have also quoted several people who have told me that feeling like this is normal, and in reality, it isn’t true. It was only when I was putting together my progress report that I started to (kind of) believe them. I realised that since mid-October I have:

  • Completed 17 PhD workshops/courses
  • Attended two Transferable Skills & Engineering Leadership (TSEL) weeks hosted by STREAM
  • Attended 7 conferences/symposiums/seminars
  • Hosted/attended and contributed to at least 8 meetings, with many more scheduled into my calendar in the near future
  • Successfully completed 3 modules at my university, relevant to my PhD
  • Registered as a STEM ambassador and have already completed one request

No wonder I’ve been so busy… 

I live by several quotes, but one of my top ones is, “Do small/easy things now, before they become too hard.” This week reminded me that I was right to live by it. We sometimes overlook the importance of taking small steps in order to make a big change. Trust yourself, and don’t stop moving forward.

Apart from reflecting on my progress in the present, I also have to think about it in the future. And so, this week, I organised a future meeting with Scottish Water so that I can meet the team and discuss our next steps with the project. I have also been sent over a mass of data from another water company that I need to start analysing. This means that I now need to focus not only on my literature review but on brushing up my statistical knowledge as well, which fills me with dread. I have another week before my hectic travelling life resumes, so I have time to value being in one place that little while longer. I do, however, have a lot going on next week, so no room to slack.

Finally, I am trying to get back in touch with my Russian roots, which is proving harder than I thought. But it’s Russian Orthodox Easter today, and so, “Христос воскресе” (hristos voskrese) and “Со светлой пасхой” (so svetloi pashoi = happy easter)!

Anastasia Doronina is a PhD researcher in Water Engineering. This story was published on April 8, 2018, on Anastasia’s blog, The Diary of a PhD Student (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.

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