Here is my own PhD version of the popular Glamour magazine feature, ‘Hey its ok to…’
So I’m now half way through my PhD and have had my fair share of meltdowns, crisis points, highs and lows, moments of Eureka, late night realisations of ‘oh c**p’ – you name it. I wrote this list based on what I wish someone had told me at the start and of the things which I try to remind myself of on the toughest days.
So here goes….
HEY, it’s ok to…..
…Start your daily to-do list with ‘make a cup of coffee and arrange a time for lunch’ so that you 100% know you can score at least something off the list that day.
…Move said lunch time closer and closer to 11am as the week progresses.
…Write that lab report in your pjs from the comfort of your own bed (you’ve got to milk this flexible, no one checking you’re in the office, ‘work from home’ option as much as you can!)
…Similarly – to use ‘I won’t have this student discount card much longer’ as your excuse for a weekly pub/Dominoes/Urban Outfitters/Amazon spree.
…To go ‘urgh, students’ around campus because you’re totally properly adulting and not a ‘real’ student.
….I mean, a ‘real’ student would go out on a weeknight for £1 vodkas and you can’t think of anything worse. Out at 10pm?! No thank you, that’s bed time.
…Find it hard to describe your research to family and friends and when they ask what you’ve been up to just say ‘lab work’ and not even attempt to explain why you’re still in uni to family neighbours/extended family/the guy who works in the grocery store in your home town.
…To change the title of your thesis 41,468 times throughout the course of your PhD.
…Spend an entire day just thinking over a blank page. (pst, guess what nobody tells you, this is the whole point of a PhD!)
…Spend your first year internally screaming “What am I even doing?!?” only to look back in second year and go “ohh, that’s what I was doing”.
…Totally mess up an experiment and scrap all of the results and pretend it didn’t happen. You’ve got time.
…Wonder if maybe you should have pursued that other career path, the monthly bonus and company car. But then remember you are doing something much more worthwhile to you.
…Close the books for a few days and enjoy the sunshine, go on a trip out of the city, visit friends or just lay about doing nothing. Don’t burn out.
…Say no to your supervisor (sometimes… ok, rarely…but still…)
…Ask for help. Ask everyone and anyone you can. Listen to any advice you are given. (Learn to filter that advice). No one ever got to where they were alone, even if they don’t like to admit it.
…Celebrate the minor achievements. Your 3D print worked first time? Yay, go you!
…And the major ones! (Preferably with beer)
…Remind yourself with a sense of perspective that yes you’re doing a PhD, but if you don’t get that statistically significant difference you’re sweating over, the world isn’t going to end.
…Feel modest and humble that you’ve made it to this stage! Even being at the level of a PhD is an achievement in itself, you literally get paid to learn about something you are passionate about.
…And lastly and importantly, to not be too hard on yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to change the world in one thesis. Enjoy the journey.