Post-PhD Reflections: Part One

I’ve been rereading some of my blog posts from several years ago and reflecting on the distance travelled. I assume that the PhD process has changed me, but it can be hard to see how. A kind colleague said to me this week that she was ‘in awe’ of how I did it, especially with two small children. Completing a PhD within 3 and half years (two years full-time with 18 months part-time) may look impressive, but it never felt like I was uber-achieving or particularly self-disciplined. I can attribute this to a few things:

  • I received a studentship from Glasgow Caledonian University which covered my fees and gave me a modest stipend which meant I could leave my job and focus entirely on my PhD. This gave me the space to think, which was invaluable.
  • I had a partner who worked part-time and could take on the extra parenting over and above the normal school pick-ups, so that I could disappear to the library in evenings and weekends when I needed the time.
  • I knew part of my topic really well and that was the practical side of how lecturers work with technology for teaching. I knew already their concerns and aspirations, and also I knew how to talk to a variety of them about what they did.
  • I discovered I had a passion for writing. This was a revelation and turned sitting down to write as something to be looked forward to rather than dreaded. Drawing together the rich and challenging ideas from other peoples’ work and creating my own became an immersive process. I got lost in this when I sat down to write.
  • My topic kept giving. It was rich and drew on a number of areas with a history of thoughtful literature. During those 3 and a half years, there were new developments in theory which really challenged my thinking and position. It was this that meant my corrections took over 2 months to complete even though they were minor.
  • I had monthly supervisions. I was always working towards producing something, however imperfect and unfinished. The monthly conversations were helpful in keeping me on track and challenging my thinking, but it was the regularity of them which really helped. I learned the ‘that’ll have to do’ way to appraise my work. Sometimes things just had to be done quickly, rather than exceptionally well. This carried me through writing too as I learned that it was possible for to write something relatively quickly that I was willing to let other people read.

Reading about my procrastination before I started in 2013 is rather poignant to me now. I never did stop procrastinating, it just got incorporated into my work day. And posts like this helped me feel less guilty.

There were times when things had to give. For example in January 2016 I decided to stop watching television in the evenings, which meant that effectively I was spending almost no time alone with my partner. The good meals he was providing were supplemented by not-so-healthy boredom-reward snacks in long evenings and drowsy afternoons. I travelled from Edinburgh to Glasgow once a month for supervisions but other than that I had a short walk up the road to one of the University of Edinburgh’s libraries. Child-ferrying duties were done by bike but I couldn’t incorporate regular cycling into my commute as I did previously. So exercise took a back seat until I started using a couch-to-5k app in January 2016. (After a very stern self-talk over the new year of 2016 where I reviewed what I had done and what was left to do, I made some resolutions which, rather amazingly, paid off.) Running, that is running very slowly, has been a revelation. It has helped me sort out my thoughts, get blood to my brain and feel like I have actually achieved at least something with my day.

I’m still re-adjusting to civilian life. A contract with the University of Edinburgh hashelped me integrate back into the 9-5 and keep me up to date with the coalface where teaching and learning meets technology. I’ve tried watching TV again, but that’s not going so well, partly due to different tastes and partly to a changed habit. A kind friend sent me the book in the photo below as I complained I hadn’t read a book in a linear fashion for a number of years.

So far I’ve got to page 108 (out of 446).

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman

One thought on “Post-PhD Reflections: Part One

  1. Pingback: Post-PhD Reflections: Part Two – The Hours and Minutes | Meta Meta

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