I think it’s about a month since my last post – reflective of the amount of work I’ve done on the PhD recently. Today is the first day I’ve even attempted to do any work for a while, but I’m trying not to beat myself up about it. I have loads of work to do and, had I not stopped for a break a few weeks ago, I guess I’d have been in a better position now. Or, maybe not.
At the time of my last post, I was heading off to conferences to present my poster and listen to others presenting their work. Spending a full week at various conferences takes its toll. For me, hearing so many inspiring and interesting people talk about subjects that can influence both my work and my studies is, on the one hand, a great experience. On the other hand, however, it can be exhausting. Listening intently, making notes, and thinking about if and how the discussions are relevant and can be used in your own work can be a little overwhelming. So many ideas, so little time.
Of all the comments made at the conferences, one, in particular, struck me as important. In his presentation, a keynote speaker exclaimed: “it turns out students are humans – who knew?” Now, I’m a teacher, and I was technically aware of the fact that I teach humans rather than aliens, but I may have forgotten at times that I’m also human. The reason this comment resonated with me so much? Well, as someone trying to work full time and study part time, I tend to have an ‘all or nothing’ approach. I have weeks where I work and study until I drop, and other weeks where I drift through life without touching my studies. I don’t suppose I’ll ever change, but when someone reminds you that you’re human, it’s easier to accept that there will be times when you simply need a break. Making sure your break is just that, a break rather than a breakdown, makes it easier to accept that time out is a positive step.
I know I’m not the only student in this boat. Just a few weeks ago, at yet another conference, I spoke to a fellow part-time student who explained her experiences as similar to my own. She would have times at which she would have almost all-nighters (I, admittedly, have never done that – I need my sleep more than most people!), followed by weeks when she would do no studying whatsoever. I think we both felt somewhat reassured by one another’s approaches to part-time study.
I have found myself telling people that I’ve pressed pause for a while. I think that’s ok, and that’s exactly what it’s been – a pause, not a stop. I’ve paused, taken a break, and now I’m ready to get cracking with it all again. To be fair, I don’t have much choice in this – I have self-inflicted deadlines looming, and I’m determined that this PhD will not take the extra two years that I have in reserve. Those years are for emergencies only, and I don’t plan on having any emergencies…
Hopefully back on track, my plan for the week is to re-read the part of the literature review that I wrote some time ago to refresh my memory, read all of the articles for the next part of the review, and take notes on those articles. No writing this week – that’s next week.
So, on my first day back to studying, I’ve already managed to complete three tasks that I’d been putting off for no apparent reason. I’ve submitted my (overdue) annual progress review report, submitted an (overdue) expenses claim, and written an (overdue) blog post. Well, I am only human after all.