I feel like my posts here have become significantly more infrequent over the last year, compared to during the first year of my PhD. I went back and briefly counted, and it’s not as drastic a difference as I expected; I posted 12 blogs during my first year, and have done 8 so far this year. This just goes to show that how I feel something is going is not always the most accurate measure of reality.
I think learning how to separate my immediate perception of my progress from the reality of my progress is the most important lesson I’ve learnt in my PhD so far. I have spent a lot of the last 12 months being frustrated with ‘not moving fast enough’, ‘not doing well enough’, and generally struggling with the idea that I “should” be at least a stage further forward than I am. Every time I speak to another PhD student about their work they seem to express the same idea, which hints at the fact that this is something we are all dealing with!
I have also learnt this year that, to a certain extent, I can control what I think and how I feel about external events. This has mostly been something I’ve worked on in terms of receiving constructive (and not so constructive) feedback, but it applies in this context as well.
So in order to help me focus on the progress I *have* made this year, instead of the frustrations on the way, here is a list of major work-related things I am proud of in the last 12 months:
- Publishing my first lead author scientific paper
- This is easily my biggest work achievement of the year! This is the result of pretty much all the work I’ve done since starting my PhD, so it’s about 20 months of my life written up into 15 pages.
- Being involved in a successful proposal for time on the Hubble Space Telescope
- What I’m particularly pleased with in this is that I actually made suggestions and comments on the draft proposal which were more than correcting English and typos.
- Hosting Astrophysics Journal Club every fortnight since Nov 2014
- By doing this I am pretty much forced to read and present a paper to other people in the group at least once a month. I have certainly got less nervous (and I hope clearer) when summarising papers
- A decent chunk (maybe half) of my thesis introductory chapters are written
- This was done for my Upgrade last November and I have been adding to it slowly since then. I’m sure it will mostly be rewritten before I submit, but it feels good to open the thesis document and see actual words!
- I now have a ‘plan’ for the rest of my thesis
- I have been feeling steadily more worried that I haven’t been sure what my next project will be, or how to put more than one science chapter together. Today I met with my supervisor and we discussed a plan for my 2nd and 3rd science chapters. The whole “finishing a PhD” idea suddenly feels much more possible.
I am on holiday next week (yay!), and the summer months feel a bit strange at the office because people are away so much, so this feels a bit like the end of this academic year. Looking at the list above makes me feel proud of my 2nd year as a PhD student. I hope this time next year I’m not so wrapped up in ‘writing-up-stress’ that I forget to think back in the same way!