“I have bad days where I lose my confidence or am really unfocused and just tell myself that my paper will never be finished. Have you got any advice on what to do on those days?” Everybody ever who has written a PhD has been there. Those days where you doubt everything you have done, and everything you will ever do. Those days where it feels you should have done everything differently from the start, and now your work is too late to ‘save’. Those days where you know you will never finish your PhD on time, or even ever. [...]Read More
“How do you push yourself to start every day on time? I never seem to be able to start at my planned time, even if I plan to start only at 10 or 11.” Getting into a routine can seem like an elusive goal, that is until you manage to do so, and once it’s a routine, it’s a routine! The key to routines is that they take the decisionmaking out of it. You are not busy deciding whether you are going to start at 9, or, 10 or 11. Or whether to start at all. It is decision fatigue [...]Read More
“Is there any point in having a deadline? I have tried so many times, but failed to meet them, so I stopped. Then again, I feel like I miss having a deadline as it may motivate me to focus more.” The short answer: deadlines are useful until they are not. The main use of deadlines is to set an end point. It helps focus the mind, it gives you a shot of adrenalin in the run-up to the set date which helps us get stuff done. It also allows you to draw a line: academic work is never finished so [...]Read More
About one in three PhDs decide not to finish their PhD. These decisions aren’t taken lightly. And sometimes they aren’t taken at all, and you might keep plodding along even though you have come to the conclusion you’d rather not, because there is tremendous pressure to finish. Once you have started you have to ‘keep going’, or so it seems. Because now it is ‘too late’ to stop. Quitting means failure. You didn’t ‘make it’, and everyone will judge you for it… it won’t look good. I have a question for you: what if quitting your PhD could be an [...]Read More
What if you could sit down at your computer every morning, click open your documents, and have your work simply flow? Maybe academic work can’t be quite that effortless, but there are simple things you can do to increase the odds of focus and flow happening. First point to note is that focus doesn’t happen spontaneously. It requires the right conditions. Ironically, academic culture with its insistence on working long (and even longer if you can!) linear days does not foster these conditions. Working past the point of diminishing returns is how our energy dwindles and focus is lost, and [...]Read More
Academia has a terrible effort-reward balance. This matters. Research shows that we get super-stressed when effort and reward are out of balance. Day to day there are very few wins or encouragements, and feedback, as we know, centers on criticism. Useful, and necessary criticism (in the best case), but it doesn't exactly make you feel good. The rewards take an incredibly long time to manifest. We’re talking months or years before we have a new shiny publication… A friend of mine remarked: ‘and by that time you are so done with it you never want to lay eyes on the [...]Read More
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