Originally posted 20th May 2014
I’m fairly certain that anyone reading this who has experienced the wonders of a PhD will laugh and shake their head in fond exasperation at their memories of the exuberance they had in the first year of the doctoral programme – the very same exuberance that stops me from getting more than 5-6 hours of sleep a night. I’m fairly sure they’d stress its transient nature, and how it pops in and out of your life as it pleases. ‘How adorable, they’re still so optimistic,’ I can hear them saying.
So, with gentle prodding and much, much digging of heels into the sand, I ended up opting out of doing my poster presentation. Now, as far as the next couple of months is concerned I only have to give a presentation, submit my first article to the editors, complete my RDC2 and prepare for my mini-VIVA. By the end of the Summer (I’m ignoring July completely and hoping for August) complete another chapter, and start the research for a couple of others – this is before the next semester starts in October and I begin the joys of teaching. I also need to find time to take on another 2 MRes electives to get my PGD.
This, apparently, is a very effective way to get lost in the first year of your PhD. I feel as if I haven’t actually touched research or any structural components of my thesis in a while. I have hassled numerous archivists and the people who give your permission to records, stressing the utmost importance of my requests, only to have given the archivists radio silence now that the permissions have come through.
So in short, it’s an entirely different form of procrastination. How do we avoid it – well we kind of can’t. Presentations, conferences, publishing, publishing and publishing are critical elements in your PhD. At least for folk like me, who are using it as training for what I see as my future career.
I think a more appropriate skill would be learning how to manage this form of procrastination. Because as it turns out, it’s really, really easy to ignore your research.
The way I’ve handled it personally, has been to work double time. No early afternoons, or lazy days ‘working’ from home. I’ve been in early and left later and none of this nonsense about taking an hour for lunch. Although weirdly, I’ve also had to learn to admit defeat with the added workload. I have seen me in the past few weeks waste an hour staring at the same sentence or puzzling over the same wording in the RDC2 form. If it’s not working, move on to something else. I was astounded at how quickly I got things done once I got the hang of it. Honestly – here I am finished all my targets with two weeks to go. Redrafted and everything.
I have also realised the supreme importance of a wall planner. Need to get me one of those.
I went to a seminar on academic publishing, and what struck me was the rigmarole. It was structured, you had ticky boxes to check, and so on. Well I’ve just written an article for a non-academic publication and made the mistake of thinking it would be pretty easy. Took me two months and more drafts than I’ve ever done of anything to get it finished.
Problem 1: The language. Because it is a non-academic publication, I couldn’t runaway with all the fancy language of the day. You have to make your paper accessible, and not just to fellow academics. So although we want to sound very clever and all that, you wouldn’t really be doing yourself any favours. You probably wouldn’t even get read – if published in the first place. Because, well, in that case say hello to your readers…
That’s actually what led me to drop doing a poster in the first place. I had an idea to do this jazzy, electronic number only to find out it absolutely had to be on paper. That in mind you might want to make doubly sure of the medium you’re supposed to be working on. If the room of your presentation doesn’t support projection etc, guess what your poster/presentation isn’t going to be?