I have been thinking about this blog in the past few days. I started this blog to create for myself space to reflect on my PhD journey with the hope that this blog may lead to some interesting conversations and networks. At this point I haven’t had much activity to really say how this has gone save that I feel like it is not going as well as I would like. I am torn between leaving this space as a no obligation space where I will write as and when I get the “inspiration” while on the other hand I feel like I should have some structure like a set schedule that I update the blog every week or every month. Having no structure sounds like a good thing but it can actually mean that I never ever get round to writing anything or to ever getting the “inspiration”.
So I have decided to strike a compromise between the structure and unstructured. I will aim at having a weekly post reflecting on my week’s activities and readings. However this may not always be possible so at a minimum I should have a monthly post. One of the rewards of my twitter hangouts is meeting @Tomi_Ola who asked me to guest blog at Phd Life Blog . To set us off this year here is a post I wrote for the Phd life blog.
As each New Year begins I am fascinated by all the hype we get into, a new year a fresh start! Is it really a fresh start? We are not younger instead we are older and hopefully wiser! The saying goes time lost is never regained. I lost a considerable amount of time in 2012 and sadly I will not get it back. I figure the best I can do is learn as much as I can from the experience. So here goes a post about my not so great 2012 which I hope will take me into a better 2013!
2012 was a difficult year at a personal level and this greatly affected me and spilled over into my academic work. I lost someone very close to me and did not cope with it very well. Unfortunately at the time I did not realise how much my emotions were affecting my work. I expected myself to get on with the program and this was a big mistake. I did not perform to my expectation and began to doubt my ability to complete my PhD. I am told the self-doubt and wanting to quit season, is a “rite of passage” for many PhD candidates and that’s comforting. Rite of passage it may be but I learnt a few vital lessons that I think are worth taking with me into 2013 and sharing with you here. My self-doubt season was brought on by emotional fatigue and failure to take care of myself.
Taking good care of yourself emotionally, spiritually and physically is vital. In the same way that you can miss a scheduled car service and still be able to drive around. There is some damage happening to the engine though it may not be evident right away. If we pass up on taking care of ourselves we may continue to work but may soon crush. Like I said I encountered difficulties at a personal level, I know now not to do it but I continued to expect results and make demands on myself. I had deadlines and plans, the perfectionist in me wanted to get it right at all cost. Unfortunately I was not able to perform the way I expected myself to and this set me back a couple of months. It is most likely that if I had taken time out to deal with issues it would have taken a shorter time.
The PhD will probably be the longest project I have undertaken since my first degree, which was four years long. The longest I was on the same job is two years and that’s about as long as my attention span lasts on one thing. This could prove to be emotionally draining, when there is no end in sight and yet work still need to be done. It is important to have milestones along the way to celebrate and not wait the three to five years it will take me to complete the degree to celebrate. There is so much to the PhD more than the thesis and title. The networks we build over the years are something worth celebrating. In 2012 I have good reason to celebrate the twitter links I made, it has been worth the effort I put into it.
Lastly my biggest challenge in 2012 was the failure to reflect on what was happening and the flexibility to make the required changes. Goals and deadlines are important signposts that can help us to measure our progress however they may equally be the hurdles that bog us down. After our plans have been outlined and the clock is ticking, life has many uncertainties and has a habit of throwing curve balls at us. The best way to succeed in the midst of all the uncertainty lies in the ability to reflect and make the necessary changes.
Here is to a 2013 that is better than 2012! More reflecting and flexibility to change if needed!