PhD: the final six months

This month marks the start of the half year of my PhD that I have left before my submission deadline. Since it’s pretty much a hard deadline, I have to take this time seriously. This is where I scream and pull my hair out.

Actually, no! I’m not going to do that.

Instead I’m going to tell you about what I’ve been thinking about lately about the whole PhD thing and how I’m going to tackle the last bit of it! I don’t know if all will go according to plan, but it never does anyway! The important thing here is that I’ve kinda figured out how to deal with it and I haven’t been freaking out about it.

What the deally yo

My perspective on the PhD has changed quite a bit since the beginning of the year, and I think it’s going in the right direction. The urgency of the deadline forces you to stop “navel gazing,” as they say, and start doing things with a different mindset.

I’ve turned a corner in the last few weeks. I’ve stopped worrying as much, and starting taking more action. I’ve been pretty good about stopping myself when I start to worry and ask where the worry is coming from and what would actually ease it. I ask myself, what is it that is actually worrying me or bothering me and how can I fix it. I know there is much to be done, but worrying about that fact isn’t going to make it any easier.

I think a lot of PhD students worry about their progress, and I think this is our downfall. There aren’t clear ways to measure our progress, and so we end up trying to compare where we are with where others are. But PhDs are inherently unique. One person’s situation will be miles apart from the next person. There is no easy way to measure how you are doing and know if you should be speeding up or slowing down.

This kind of thinking inevitably leads to more worry and more self-doubt. In the end, you have to realize that and say to yourself, this is my PhD, I know it best, and I know what’s going on better than anybody.

The next half year

The time I have left will be mostly spent on analysis for my last data chapter, and writing it all up. I have the first 2 data chapters mostly written up (though the second one may need a little extra work). My first data chapter is currently under review at a journal…exciting! Even though it isn’t a great journal, I’d still be happy to get it out the door and published!

Through all of this, my main priority is still to get my health back in order and try to keep it there. A side aim is to do more traveling that I would regret not doing when all this is said and done.

Rough plans for finishing PhD:

Be awesome at my last data chapter
Get my first 2 data chapters published!
Explore next options and make some life plans

Health goals:

Continue no wheat
Do better at no garlic or onion

If you are interested in knowing more about my health goals, let me know. I haven’t talked about it here specifically, but I’ve been dealing with some gut issues for the past few years and I’m in the process of sorting it out.

Travel plans:

2 weeks in July and August – Singapore
I’m planning on going back to meet up with my advisor there and my lab group there. I’ve been a bit out of touch since I moved to London, so it’ll be nice to spend a little time with them.

September – Edinburgh
I’ll have 2 friends living in Edinburgh in September, so I must make it up to Scotland! Though I haven’t seen that part of the country yet, it should be a fun adventure.

October onwards
Not sure yet. I might stay in London, or move around before I hit up a conference in Australia. Hoping to finish a final draft of my dissertation by the start of November

December – Australia
There’s a big conference in Melbourne at the start of the month, and then I hope to visit friends around there and in Sydney. Maybe I’ll pop over to New Zealand while working on edits for my dissertation.

Onwards and upwards

The best part about finishing up soon is thinking about possibilities for what’s next. I’ve been keeping an eye out for opportunities that would interest me, such as postdoctoral fellowships and other jobs. (e.g. It’s still a small dream of mine to work at Wired magazine.)

I’m super excited about finally finishing PhD things, my future, whatever it holds in store for me!

PhD: the final 6 months

Photo: Patrick Tomasso; dan carlson