Imagine writing your PhD, without the struggle

Without the struggle to start writing and keep writing, without the struggle of fear and self-doubt, without the struggle of feeling overwhelmed and feeling behind.

Without the struggle of forever doubting your work is ‘good enough’.

What if being focused on your PhD when you want to work on it, and not being worried about it outside of ‘work hours’ would be a possibility?

What if PhD guilt were a thing of the past?

I believe only one struggle should be at the heart of the PhD: the intellectual one. There is an inherent tension in doing research, an inherent striving and coming up against edges. Yet as I know from my own experience, the intellectual struggle often isn’t the struggle that causes us headaches. It is the rest of it.

In this six-week course I will help you deal with ‘the rest of it’ – from creating a work routine that is as effective as it is sustainable, to improving focus, to getting out of overwhelm and fear, to communicating effectively with your supervisor, to staying motivated.

HappyPhD Online Course Welcome

The tools and strategies I teach – the method, if you like – I have learned the hard way. I had to finish my PhD in difficult circumstances, and as a result was forced to work far more efficiently than I did before. It was a process of trial and error: finding out what worked and what didn’t. During the six weeks of the course you’ll go on a similar journey, with my guidance, and you will find your own answers. As a result, you’ll be more in control of your PhD and you will have a deeper understanding of what you need to thrive and be well. It’s what I love about the course: you will learn to be formidably effective, while being fiercely and unapologetically gentle with yourself. There is no contradiction, there does not have to be! That is what the course will show you.

The course materials are structured to provide a system for you to work with. Each week builds on the previous one.

The foundation is one of understanding how academia works, and why academic work can become such a struggle, even when we’re capable (even though you may be doubting that at the minute.) You will realise it’s not just you: the structural features of academia are such that they are likely to produce feelings of stress, discouragement and failure, at some point or continuously when you are writing a PhD. With that understanding, it is possible to tackle these issues, which is exactly what the rest of the course is designed to do.

The first two weeks of the course are dedicated to creating a personal self-care routine, which will set you up to do your best academic work. Starting a meditation practice is at the heart of this routine, as is making sure you are getting enough exercise. This won’t take a lot of time, and it won’t take a level of discipline you don’t possess. True, it will require some dedicated effort, especially in the beginning, but I will guide you through it day-by-day, until it has become a routine you don’t even have to think about. I am truly passionate about self-care, and believe every academic should have a self-care routine in place. Your ability to focus and your academic performance will improve, while your worries will become less persistent. If you would do only this, and nothing else, your PhD experience will improve. And that’s just the beginning.

The rest of the weeks focus on four core themes: productivity, writing, supervision and motivation. There will be course materials – video and written materials, covering these topics from different angles. The course is aimed at improving the whole of your PhD experience, including creating a work routine that works for you, dealing with difficult supervisors, dealing with thesis anxiety, overcoming procrastination and getting your chapters/ papers written.

To give you an idea of how this might work, this is how the course is set up:

Week 1. Stress in Academia
Why is writing a PhD so stressful? Why do promising PhD students often underperform?
The effort-reward imbalance in academia and its effects on performance and wellbeing.
Overcommitment, competitiveness and perfectionism: how they might work against you.
What stress is and what it does to you: identify your stress cycle.
My story: how I finished my PhD in a couple of hours a day in difficult times.
Week 2. Take care of your brain routine
Why every academic should exercise and meditate.
Create the right physiological conditions for doing academic work.
Exercise is for the brain, not the body.
Learn to meditate: meditation 101.
Learn to control your mind and get ‘out of your head’ at the end of the day.
Week 3. Productivity: Make your workday work for you
Create a work routine that works for you: how to create ‘waves’ in your day.
Boost focus, creativity and productivity.
Learn to ‘allow your PhD to write itself’ (well almost).
Learn to distinguish when to work hard and when enough is enough.
Learn how to use relaxation strategically.
Week 4. Writing: Writing a PhD can be easy
Create a writing habit that will carry your PhD to completion.
Build momentum by forgetting about expectations.
Think big/ think small: use my two-step writing strategy to get that chapter/ paper written.
Overcome procrastination and writer’s block.
Learn to not let overwhelm and perfectionism get in between you and your writing.
Week 5. Supervision: Run your PhD like a business
Why supervision is often less-than-satisfactory, and how to shift the odds in your favour.
Manage your supervisor & manage yourself.
Learn to ‘own your work’, clarify your needs and get them met.
Learn to handle criticism and not let it drain your energy.
Learn how to handle difficult thoughts and feelings about your supervisor.
Week 6. Motivation. Write a Happy PhD!
Manage thesis anxiety and get rid of the feeling of being 'behind'.
Learn to let go of 'never there, never good enough' - thinking and self-sabotaging habits.
Shift from extrinsic to intrinsic motivation.
Identify your personal goals in academia and propel yourself towards them.
Learn how to write a PhD (almost) effortlessly.

In the course, I will tell you about the mistakes I made when I was writing my PhD (embarrassing stories included!) I am open about how I messed up at times, so you can avoid doing the same! I also draw heavily on the stories people have shared with me about their own PhD experience with the same intention.

Oh, and in case this is important to you: the course is scientifically solid. I do give academic references where appropriate.

HappyPhD email

You will get:

  • Access to the HappyPhD website and course materials
  • Access to the HappyPhD Meditation Playlist: 4 audio meditations (15 – 30 minutes in length) for your self-care routine
  • Daily emails that will help you implement the course tools. I will guide you through the course step by step. Pep talk and encouragement are included!

 

 

 

HappyPhD Online Course FAQ

 

How much does it cost?

The HappyPhD Course comes in three versions. The basic course with coaching (recommended) includes two one-hour one-on-one coaching calls and costs €250,- (VAT included). If you’d like more coaching, consider the intensive course. It includes weekly coaching calls and costs €750,- (VAT included). If you are not interested in personal coaching and email support, you can sign up for the self-study version of the course, which costs €100,- (VAT included).

Do ask your university whether they would consider paying for the course. Most universities have funds to cover training programmes for their PhD students.

What’s the time commitment for the course?

It will take about twenty minutes to half an hour five days a week to get the most out of the course, a bit more if you include the self-care routine.

Who is the HappyPhD Course for?

The HappyPhD Course is for you if you’re writing a PhD and looking to improve your performance and PhD experience. It doesn’t matter what your topic or field is, and it doesn’t matter whether you are in your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th (or 5th or 6th or 7th) year. The course teaches general tools and skills, applicable at any stage of writing a PhD. It doesn’t matter either whether you are stuck, or whether your research is going smoothly. In the former situation you obviously have more of an incentive to take the course, but in either situation taking the course will improve your PhD life.

Who is the HappyPhD Course not for?

The course is not for you if you are primarily looking for academic guidance: the course doesn’t cover topics such as finding a research puzzle, choosing a methodology etc. It’s a general skills course, not one that covers academic skills.

When does the HappyPhD Course start?

It starts whenever you want it to. Once you sign up for the course, and your payment has been received, you will immediately get access to the HappyPhD Course website. You will also receive an activation link. Click on the link, and the first email of the course will be waiting for you in your inbox within the hour.

Do I keep access to the materials after the six weeks of the course are over?

Yes. You keep access. There is no end date.

I am really busy/ overwhelmed right now. Is this the right time for me to take the course?

It’s never a bad time to start, as the course will help tame the overwhelm. If you want to fit all the materials into the six ‘official’ weeks of the course you will need to be able to carve out half an hour or so 5 days a week. Alternatively, you can take the course at a slower pace – take as long as you like! – as there is no end date to your access to the course materials.

Where / how do the coaching calls take place?

The coaching calls take place via Skype. The first email of the course contains the HappyPhD Questionnaire. Once I have received your answers via email, I will contact you to set up appointments for the coaching calls. Naturally, everything you discuss with me during the coaching calls will remain confidential.

I would like coaching, but I am not keen on Skype. Could we do coaching sessions via email?

Yes, that is possible. Contact me if you’d prefer this option. I am pretty flexible in my approach.

What does your email support entail?

I can answer any questions that come up for you during the course via email. If you need feedback on assignments, advice or support – email me. That’s what I’m here for. The basic and self-study versions of the course do not include email support.

Will the HappyPhD Course work for me?

The course is partly a tool-set, partly a journey of discovery. The tools work, if you apply them. Unlike scholarly work, the course isn’t about reading about and understanding concepts at an intellectual level. It’s equally important to reflect and see how the concepts and tools presented could work for you. I walk you through this with daily emails, assignments and a bit of encouragement. If you follow along, it will pay off. It’s an exciting process. You can read testimonials here.

I’m not a ‘spiritual’ person and I’m not into meditation. Is this course for me?

Don’t let the terminology put you off. Meditation is simply a conscious decision to chill out. It is a skill, not a belief and it’s only as ‘spiritual’ as you want it to be. The positive effects of meditation on cognitive skills and on stress reduction have been abundantly backed up by hard science. I will go into this during the course. If you cannot stomach the term ‘meditation’ see it as a brain exercise. (And I won’t make you chant ohm – I promise.)

If you don’t want to practice the meditations you could substitute another form of relaxation & reflection. One of the aims of the course is to develop a personal self-care routine. It has to work for you. The aim is to make this practice your own, not that you use any particular technique. That said, I do suggest you give the daily meditations a try, even if it’s just for six weeks. Meditation isn’t just for hippies.

If I change my mind about taking the course after I sign up, can I get a refund?

No, I’m sorry. I have a no refund policy. Please be aware that by signing up for the course, you give up your right to the seven days reflection period normally in effect for courses bought via the internet. Sorry for this somewhat convoluted legal disclaimer, but I am legally obligated to give you this information.

Please do contact me before signing up for the course if you have any questions: it’s important to me that the HappyPhD course is the right investment for you.

Are you a psychotherapist? How do you know what you’re doing?

I am not a psychotherapist. I do not have any ‘official’ credentials (well, apart from my MA, MSc and PhD, but they’re all in political science or public administration). I do know what I am talking about, partly because I wrote my PhD the hard way to start with, was forced to do things differently, and finished it in a couple of hours a day using the tools of the course; partly because I have been studying the fields of stress-management, personal performance, meditation and productivity for years. I have high standards and have poured my heart and soul into the course. I hope it will benefit you tremendously.

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