Warning - negativity incoming (but I'll try to end it on a positive note)
Warning - negativity incoming (but I’ll try to end it on a positive note).
Remember me? It’s been awhile. Needless to say the past two months have been a struggle. Imposter syndrome, anxiety, feeling down, lack of motivation, decreased productivity… you name it and I’ve probably experienced it over the past two months. I think it all stems from when I got back from skiing in early February. I reeeeally struggled to get back into a routine. I spend a week in the beautiful French Alps and the cold Edinburgh weather and dark office just wasn’t doing it for me. So I tried to mix up my routine by changing my set-up and I ventured out of the office, laptop in hand, to explore a few libraries and cafes in Edinburgh (and drank far too many over-priced flat whites). It worked! For awhile at least… I’ve found myself being busy doing nothing. Emails, networking, reading, life admin all seemed to take priority over my PhD. It’s not that I don’t understand why… I do. The past few months I’ve been trying to dive deeper into the theoretical framework of my research and it’s tough. Grappling with the ideas of Ricoeur, Goffman and Foucault and trying to funnel that in to inform my method inquiry then link that to my methodology… it’s heavy stuff! I’ve needed a lot of brain space to try to understand and digest it.
Then, between the UCU strikes and the Beast from the East (x2), I was in a productivity rut! My trip to visit my best friend, Kiera, in London at the start of this month was cancelled due to the weather and I reeeally needed that time off to take a mental break (on the bright side, Edinburgh did look beautiful in the snow).
Although I supported the strikes, I am not currently in any teaching role so I felt between wanting to support the strikes and not cross the picket line but also I had work to do! Then I got into the rabbit hole of thinking that working in academia post-PhD can be unfair, unpredictable, demanding and competitive… Is this really a career I wanted to pursue?! Why am I doing a PhD? What opportunity will it give me after? Am I good enough to do it? Why didn’t I just move to Australia after my degree and live a carefree life by the beach?!! You can see how easy it is for me to get off-track…
Amidst all of this, I honestly forgot about the existence of my blog until a friend in Vietnam reached out to me last week and asked for a PhD update (here it is Christa, sorry it’s so grim. Stick with me. It gets better). Upon remembering, I realised that I haven’t been hitting my goals of two posts per month and #365papers had gone out the window. It’s as if I was just facing constant failure and the more I opened myself up to, the more barriers I came across.
Last week rolled around and I had a supervision meeting that I felt under prepared for, a Three Minute Thesis presentation, a workshop to host, training to attend, meetings, a journal submission to edit, a book launch event and child minding in the evenings. Needless to say I was dreading it. The anxiety was sky high but (and here’s where we turn things around) I kept by head down, powered through and had the most productive week in months! I ended the week on a high and felt like I FINALLY got my mojo back! So I wanted to share a few tips on how I got out of my rut and how I’m going to attempt to maintain the productivity.
- It’s okay to say no! When I started my PhD I threw myself into every opportunity. Over the past few months I’ve realised that these other commitments I’ve made were time consuming and I had spread myself too thin. I’m now trying to put more thought into what I agree to participate in and learn that my PhD should come first.
- Use your digital calendar to it’s full potential. I’m a Virgo. I LOVE to plan. Making lists is my idea of heaven. But now, I try to plan out my day on my online calendar and I never agree to anything without consulting it. Is it obsessive? Yes, but it takes the pressure of remembering commitments/to do lists out of my mind. If I put the effort into planning my diary then I just consult it daily and it tells me what I have to do.
- Keep a journal. This is something I’m new to and I’ll have to keep you posted on how it’s going. I’ve always thought that keeping a diary is another thing for me to add to my daily to do list and that I would feel like a failure if I didn’t write neatly in it every night. I’ve attempted to break free of that self-inflicted restriction by allowing myself my journal in a format that is messy, unroutined and unapologetically unpoetic. I just use it whenever I feel stressed to word-vomit everything that’s in my brain on to paper…and it really helps to clear my mind! I do try to write positive thoughts in.
- Stop wasting so much time on emails! I haven’t really conquered this one yet. It’s just something I know I need to get better at. I’ve taken the push notification off emails on my phone and I’m trying to implement a routine of only checking them 2-3 times a day. Any suggestions on how I can achieve this would be much appreciated.
- Achieve a better work/life balance. Again, still working on it. This one deserves a whole blog post on it’s own. What helps me is having weekend/future trips plans to look forward to (which I why I just re-booked my trip to London for May and booked flights to Amsterdam in September :D).
I feel like I could write for days (probably because it’s been so long since my last post and there’s a lot to fill you guys in on…sorry!) but I’ll leave it here for now. I hope this post wasn’t too negative but I think it’s important to share that doing a PhD isn’t all positive and productive. Sometimes you feel like sh*t and you just have to accept it and try to change things around. Full steam ahead to a positive and productive April!
P.S. I have a few posts up my sleeve so I should be posting content more regularly but if you ever feel like I need a nudge, don’t be afraid to message me!
Katie Gambier-Ross ( @kgambierross) is a PhD Student at Edinburgh Centre for Research on the Experience of Dementia (ECRED), School of Health in Social Science, University of Edinburgh. This story was published on March 27, 2018, on Katie's blog, Katie's PhD (available here) and has been republished here with her permission.