I am at that stage of my PhD where I have gone too far to turn back, and I’m now just starting to fully appreciate how much work I still have left to do.
I haven’t done nearly enough reading. I haven’t done nearly enough writing. And I haven’t done nearly enough thinking. And I’m FREAKING OUT!!!!!!
It is at times like these that I would normally take a bit of time off from study, to relax, to recharge and to re-focus. I also want to take some time off to make sure my family are OK, to spend some unpressured time with my children and be available when my parents/in-laws, and their various health issues, needed me. I also had funny notions of enjoying this time. I had planned to extend my thesis time by taking a leave of absence, here and there, which would take the pressure off when I needed it.
The problem is that I can’t take any time off now, because the practicalities of life won’t let me at the moment. Real world financial responsibilities – employment, mortgages, bills, and stuff like that – means that I can’t afford to stop my scholarship (and a LOA means a pause in scholarship money), which means I can’t stop the clock ticking on the time I have left to finish this thing. And to make me a little more pressured, I have to pick up a few extra shifts at my day job as well to earn some extra money.
I’m sure that, in the big scheme of things that can go wrong, my current situation is not too bad and that there are others in much worse predicaments. And, now that I have given this some thought, this might end up being a really good thing for me.
Now, that my choices are limited, there is a clear path I need to follow. The extra time is a luxury that I do not really need. It is just a further form of procrastination. I need to knuckle down and push on through, so I have made yet another plan (remember that a thesis is a dynamic venture and it’s alright to change your plan, within reason).
The thing with this new plan is that I don’t have to work more, I just have to work smarter. I have less time in my week to dedicate to my thesis so I need to start using it more productively.
Before today, I was reluctant to let go of the idea that I need to know everything about anything to do with my thesis. This would mean I would need to become and expert in every aspect of creative writing theory, of behavioural biology, neuroscience, linguistics, evolutionary theory and cognitive science, all in just three years. I have to keep reminding myself that, even though I am expected to be an expert on my thesis topic by the end of this thing, my thesis is just one part of a much bigger picture and I do not need to know every single thing about the entire picture before I can write about it and contribute to the discussion.
I have gained a lot more insight on the bigger picture issues of my thesis than I had a year ago. I now know, when reading articles, how theories relate to each other and what theories to question and how to question them. These are all important things. So, I will approach the rest of the thesis as a ‘one foot in front of the other’ ‘don’t stray from the path’ kind of thing. I have a plan and, if I stick to it and don’t get distracted by other interesting side dishes, I should get there in the end.
Life goes on and my expectations for my PhD just have to adapt.
After all, it is only a PhD.