Ok, so the title of this blog post sounds a bit dramatic doesn’t it. But then again, it kind of is a big thing, that thing being writing up your PhD. I’m a few months back into the swing of PhD life after my brief foray into Parliament, and time is well and truly ticking to get my PhD written up and complete!
Doing a PhD is a funny old thing. Some days you love it and other days you really, really don’t. It’s something that I don’t regret, but I wouldn’t necessarily do it again. That’s hard to explain, but if you’ve done/are doing a PhD you’ll probably know what I mean. Coming to the end of my PhD with around 3 months to go is terrifying, exciting, nerve wracking, stressful, exhausting, fun (sometimes?). It brings all sorts of extra emotional baggage that I hadn’t anticipated, and I think I’ve gone a bit scatterbrain if I’m honest. I’ve found doing a PhD difficult, but this stage of the PhD is a ~whole new level~. I’m so close to the finish line I can literally hear the popping champagne bottles, but at the same time it feels like I have at least 10 Mt Everest’s to climb, and figure out how to climb them at that.
Being at this stage also feels strange as I can’t help but constantly think back about my experience. I guess that’s inevitable when things start to come to an end, but I’m often finding myself reflecting, reminiscing, and wondering ‘what if’. What if I had figured things out earlier, maybe I wouldn’t be finding it such a struggle now? Or maybe if I had done a bit less of the fun stuff (e.g. conferences, training events, placements) then maybe I would have published already. Or what if this isn’t enough, what happens if it’s not what the examiners expect? As you can tell, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and then some… Can anyone else relate?! I particularly relate to this tweet too (thanks Lewis!), as being at this stage has made me realise just how far I’ve come as a researcher, but also that I would probably change how I did things if I could go back in time to do my project again…
— Lewis Bartlett (@BeesAndBaking) March 26, 2018
Feeling all these mixed emotions and thoughts has meant that some days, or weeks, I haven’t been or felt very productive as it all feels a bit overwhelming with what is left to do. But to avoid this blog post becoming a torrent of my ramblings, I thought I’d make a list of things that, essentially, are helping me get this shit done. Anyone reading this who has other ideas for productivity/ motivation/ or just some sage words of advise for someone nearing the end of their PhD, then let me know. I am ALL ears!
- The Pomodoro Technique has saved my life. Essentially you work for 25 minute slots then have a 3–5 min break. After 4 slots, you get a 30 min break. My friend (thanks Emily!) got me on this and at first I was super sceptical, but now I swear by it. Some days I can get by just fine with no timer, but other days when I can’t be bothered or have seemingly too many tasks to do, I find breaking my day up into tiny chunks helps me get the job done. Other days I’ll just do a few slots in the morning to get me into the swing of things. Plus it stops me procrastinating on Twitter…
- Lists, lists, lists. By that I mean to-do lists with tiny tasks that are easily ticked off. I’m also trying to get into the habit now of writing a list of things at the end of the day that I actually achieved. Sounds lame, but at this stage anything that makes me feel motivated or like I’ve been productive is a win!
- Making lists of easy stuff and harder stuff. Maybe not a great tactic, but I’ve started to try write lists of all the extra little bits that need doing, such as making tables, plots or referencing. That way on days when I feel really stuck or simply can’t be bothered, I can do some less demanding tasks but still feel productive.
- Working in other places. I find myself going a bit nuts being at one desk for an extended period of time at the moment, so I’ve been working from home, at friends houses and in other offices. A change of scene makes such a difference and really seems to help with writing block too, for the moment at least.
- Setting aside two hours a day for writing. A supervisor told me this and I’ve found it really helpful. Obviously at some point all my time will be writing, but as I’m still trying to get some analyses done, doing this makes sure I still get words on paper. Any words are better than none, so rather than waiting to write once I have everything, it’s way better just to get stuck in now.
- Lots of breaks. Coffee, tea, a walk round the campus, standing around with someone on their fag break. Small breaks help give me something to work towards and help break up monotonous tasks.
- Accepting this is a really shitty time. Sounds weird, but accepting that this is going to be a hard slog which will require some crying, wine drinking, shouting at computers, moaning to friends and whatever else, has helped me not feel so bad about the fact that I am finding it hard to write up. There is light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to plough on!
Ever so slowly it feels like the work is getting done (I think), but oh boy is there still SO MUCH to do, in such a short amount of time. Ahhh. Shout out to my friends who have put up with my moaning/crying/emotional outbursts so far. It’s comforting to know that some of my friends are also at the same stage and ~emotional level~ as me, but still I can’t help but relate to this 10000%.
Who knows when my next blog post will be – maybe once I’ve finished?! Wish me luck…