I did nothing this Easter.
Not for work. Not for the PhD. Just family and friends.
This is the point of my post. You do need some time to do “notwork”and “notthesis” Yes I know those are made up words but I think they capture a something of how your brain starts reorganising things and labelling things once you commence a thesis (thesis vs notthesis) and since the latter is everything that is well not your thesis it is easy to feel constantly guilty and stressed. Particularly if thesis is progressing slower than a glacier in a strong gale.
Throw in work as well then you have even more to fret about and feel guilty about. While working you feel guilty for not doing your thesis. Do thesis stuff and you worry you are slacking off on the work front. This is doubly so if you have one of those thinking type jobs that don’t have clear boundaries or limits. Academia is classic that way. There is always another committee, always more teaching materials to be done, always another email that needs attention, always another meeting scheduled to go to always more more more.
I’d also say family too – but this isn’t a mummy blog! Although realistically – given most of us doing PhDs and Masters are older and more likely to have family (and female apparently!) then most of us have some sort of family to juggle and feel guilty about.
So how do you cope with all the guilt and competing demands? If I find out I’ll let you know… in the meantime I am currently trying allocating specific times to certain tasks. And allocating specific tasks to certain times. Is there a difference you ask? Well yes – at least in my head. In my mind – the first is where I say at 11AM today I will do TEACHING RELATED work until 2PM. This is usually done in the context of a day which has other times scheduled in (say teaching a class commences at 2PM) with reference to the whole of the week.
The second is where I say I will READ this article starting at 11 AM and will just read it and write from it until it is finished or another time is scheduled.
This may be a subtle distinction but the first generally orders days and the week giving me an overall balance of work and thesis. The second ensures specific tasks are done on time (such as an abstract for a conference, or exams for the exams unit are submitted on time).
The other thing I do is deliberately set aside time for other things that are neither work nor thesis (also importantly not family either – I run on my own with my music – it is bliss).
But none of this works if you let the guilt gnaw away at you. Now I am not you. I don’t know how your mind works. I do know how my mind works – delayed gratification at some stage needs to covert to gratification or there will be hell to pay – usually manifesting as procrastination. Obviously with the triple unending obligation fest of family, thesis and work (alright the thesis WILL end – so I am told but not for years yet) I need to find smaller achievable “chunks” to feel gratified about. Or at least rewarded for achieving – such as a “real coffee” at the end of an article read, or a Friday night watching trashy telly when work has been truly draining. These things I must remind myself are valuable to keeping sane, maintaining my family, my health and my friends. All of which are GOOD THINGS.
Finally my favourite ever saying “this too shall pass!”.