Am I making progress?

In my last post I started to think about how I measure my progress in the PhD and promised you a post of my musing on this. I also recently read this piece  on How to write a PhD in a hundred steps (or more) about what we imagine our PhD to be and how this influences or affects our progress. I really liked this post because it spoke of what I hold to be true for all aspects of my life, the importance of how or what we think influences our lives. It is a biblical principle Proverbs 23v7 says “As a man thinks in his heart so is he”. Somehow I had not been applying that principle to my PhD life in a sense. I was not paying attention to how I think about the PhD process. How am I thinking about the progress or lack thereof I am making. What is the internal conversation I have with myself about my work and research.

At this point in my PhD I have been driven to measure productivity by the number of chapters I have drafted. I am at the point where I want to finish and move onto to the next adventure. So having some form of a draft of the thesis has been a really a big thing in my head. Unfortunately at this particular point thinking this way leaves me at 0% productive because I do not have a completed draft chapter albeit I have outlines, and I have papers that will form part of the chapters.

Am I using the wrong measure of productivity and thereby hampering my motivation. We know it is easier to find motivation when we feel like we are making progress no matter how small. In this blog spot I would like to think through the different ways I could think about and measure my productivity in this journey. Recently while chatting to a friend who is about to submit her thesis for examination I mentioned how envious I was of her progress and that she was submitting her work. She responded in the kindest way, by pointing out that I had made a lot of progress because in the time she was writing her thesis I was making a human being. While I do not see how I can count my giving birth as an accomplishment in the PhD she got me thinking about what is it we count as milestones and how does this help us progress or maybe it hinders our progress.

Think for a moment of all the work that goes into having a completed thesis ready for submission to examiners. The PhD takes three years for a reason, you need to come up with a research proposal and ethics protocol that will be accepted. You need to impress a select group of people and make them believe you can do this shit! This allows you to move onto to the actual research whichever form it takes, whether you conduct fieldwork, experiments, whatever you need to do to generate the data. Once you have the data you have the work of making it readable for me this took the form of transcribing which was followed by analysis and translation, and finally drawing out the different themes and writing the different chapters that make up the thesis. I have unfortunately found myself obsessing over the production of the chapters and forgetting the long road I have walked to get to this point. Having been able to do all the scaffolding work that gets me to this point and acknowledging its importance would give me better self esteem and the motivation to realise that I CAN do this. Let the writing continue and may the odds ever be in my favour.


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One Response to Am I making progress?

  1. Pingback: Half the battle is knowing who your enemy is!  | Candid PhD Talk

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