All the small things

If the PhD is teaching me anything, it’s teaching me just how important the little things are.  Little things like enjoying the sun when it shines (I live in Scotland – it’s quite rare), make everything a little bit more bearable.

Last week, I said I was going to focus on some little things.  I planned to:

  • get a new alarm clock to help me wake up more ‘naturally’
  • start walking before work
  • eat lunch every day

I’ve managed two of those things. 

My new alarm clock is fun, with its daylight setting activated 30 minutes before birds begin to chirp at me.  I ate lunch (proper food, like sandwiches and fruit!) all week, admittedly once was at 3pm and once was at 4pm, but if it comes before my evening meal, then I’m counting it as lunch.  The getting up early to walk started off well, with a two mile walk on the first day…unfortunately, I felt the onset of shin splints, so I knocked that idea on the head!

The shin splints could have been down to two things, as far as I’m aware – the shoes I was wearing (my old trail trainers from at least five years ago), or a severe lack of exercise over the past few months.  So, I bought new trainers.  However, I know it was probably more about the recent lack of exercise, so I have decided to get back to my running.  Proper, regular exercise. None of this walking 20 miles one day and then taking a year off, which is what I have become too good at doing.  I’m not planning to sign up for any marathons; I’m just going to try and get my fitness levels back up to what they used to be, where running a 10k seems like an enjoyable way to spend an hour, rather than something that induces a panic attack.

None of this might seem particularly PhD related, but I’m of the mind that when we are healthy and rested, we are more inclined to produce better work.  Feeling much better this week than last, I have managed to get some work done.  The difference has been that I realised I wasn’t in the right frame of mind for working on the literature review.  I don’t currently have enough long stretches of time available to do that, with work piling up as my students near the end of term.  Instead, I’ve focused on the little things that needed to be finished; things I’ve been planning to finish for quite some time. 

So, I eventually completed my poster for the conferences (I ended up being accepted for three entirely different types of conference, so had to have a slight rethink to make sure the poster covered what each conference was looking for).  I also made a leaflet to go with the poster for one of the conferences, as the conference organisers were concerned that the methodology mentioned on my poster is likely to be met with some bewilderment.  Finally, I made some business cards to hand out to anyone that is interested in my poster. 

None of these activities has been too taxing, none has been too time-consuming, but they were productive, and hopefully, they’ll pay off.  It’s easy to think that if you’re not working on your actual thesis that you’re not really working on your PhD, but these little things could make all the difference later on.  I could spend all day working on my literature review and never go to any conferences, but when you know there are people at these events that are interested in the same subject or methodology as you, it would be foolish not to spend a little time focusing on preparation for those events. 

I know I’m not going to get vast amounts of my literature review done over the next few weeks – I’ve resigned myself to that fact on account of a hectic schedule at work.  I am, however, going to keep chipping away at it.  If I can read and take notes on one article each day for the rest of the week, I’ll be pleased.  I won’t be finished, but I’ll be one step closer.

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