This time last week, I was planning a week of reading and very organised note-taking. It was mid-term which, for once, meant a short working week. I know what you’re thinking, that I spent the week doing nice things like visiting family, going out for lunch, and gardening. You’d be right; I did precisely that. I’m incredibly good at giving myself time off. When you’re doing a PhD though, time off isn’t actually time off.
Previously, the three-hour drive to visit my mum would have consisted of me singing along with my favourite bands and picnicking on junk food. These days, the same drive consists of listening intently to theoretical and inspirational podcasts and searching in the glove compartment for old packs of mints because I’ve been in too much of a hurry to stop for proper snacks.
A few years ago, I’d have sat in my mum’s house on a Friday night drinking cups of tea and watching television. Now, I’m likely to have a laptop with me. No Facebook for me, conference abstracts are what makes for a rockin’ Friday night these days.
In the past, I’d have been happy to have a sit-down meal with my mum before leaving for the drive home the night before going back to work. Now, I’m more inclined to take a pile of sandwiches back in the car with me, and that journey is likely to be a day earlier than usual so I can get back home to my books and my proper computer.
Nobody tells you when you’re about to embark on a part-time PhD on top of a full-time job, that it will probably take over your entire life. It becomes your overtime, your hobby, and your holiday. On good days it also becomes your lunch break. That’s all fine if you like studying, which thankfully I do. The problem, however, is the guilt. When you’re studying, you feel guilty that you’re not spending time with friends or family. When you’re spending time with friends or family, you feel guilty that you’re not studying. This time, I had completed my planned week’s worth of reading and note-taking by Wednesday on purpose – so that I could take time off, but it seems even that doesn’t ease the guilt. Instead of being pleased to have time off, I found extra things to do. It’s always on my mind. Where is the off-switch?!
Still, at least I’ve managed to complete the tasks I’d set for myself. My notes are taken, and I think they might be usable which is a first. This week, I’m going to attempt to use those notes to write up a section of my literature review. By this time next week, I’d like to have 1500 words written. Here goes…