PhD coaching

I attended a PhD coaching workshop with Will Medd last week as another excuse to distract myself from writing my thesis on the one hand, but also to learn a bit more about techniques that are likely to help me in the long run, on the other hand. The day turned out to be highly motivating and inspiring and actually prompted me to do a lot more work in the next few days – hence the late post.

The day was structured to reflect on how we feel at different domains in our lives by looking at self-evaluations and consequently setting some actions and goals to work towards. So I wanted to share some of my work and thoughts from the day as they could potentially give ideas and motivation to fellow students.

I am a great fan of productivity strategies and being open about what works, hence the publication of the contents of my procrastination jar. However, I seem to quickly stop using these strategies once everything is back on track. So although I shamed myself once with social media and excuses of all sorts featuring on my procrastination list, I never got round to doing another list because I was avoiding procrastinating. If public accountability pushes me to achieve and work harder, I thought I’d share my actions from the coaching day here in hope that in the coming months someone is going to ask me: ‘Hey, how did this go?’. Here they are…

What are my satisfaction levels at different areas of life?

Fun and things other than the PhD are a bit scarce. I know that I am on the final run but there has to be something to keep me sane. My PhD seems to be doing ok, so I’ll let it be until it starts causing trouble.

Actions: I’m going to plan one fun activity each weekend. Could be as simple as doing some gardening or going to the cinema.

What are my values and what is important?

What's important?

What’s important?

This activity was fantastic! Again heavy presence of the PhD, worry and uncertainty – see the picture. Alongside with this I reflected on my values through series of visualisations – a powerful tool that could be used on many different occasions. I know this, because I tend to visualise myself succeeding when I’m nervous just to calm myself down. For instance, before presentations I always hop 15 minutes ahead in time when I am talking to my audience and the nervousness seems to disappear.

Actions: I will write and define my worries as they emerge and I will document my PhD experience – good and bad. As a result of all this extra writing, I will enjoy the last 3-4 months of the run.

Who are my inner critics?

They are called Worry and Black&White. They are keen to promote my extreme one-sided (often negative) thinking and worrying that I’ll never do anything right. They are vile but to an extent keep me going.

Action: I’ll explore what I gain from worrying and I will learn how to put on hold the inner critics when I don’t need them.

What other perspectives are there? 

It is true that there are many ways to look at something, but recently I’ve been so focused on writing that all I think, see and do is writing or related. In this situation my inner critics are particularly annoying and I get demotivated and deflated as a result. So part of the point is to find a different perspective to look at things, whether it is the bigger picture or a different frame of mind or a completely off-topic metaphor. This reminds me of my comparison of the PhD with baking. If only it was that easy… (this was the critic!)

Actions: To take a different perspective every now and again and try to focus on particularly positive ones.

Overall action (with a metaphor): The rest of my PhD is going to be like a walk in the park (excuse the pun). I chose this because of my love of parks – just staring at the paths, trees and leaves, going round in circles through different routes while being energised by the fresh air (another metaphor starts emerging in my head just now). My doctorate is coming to an end and as much as I will print of my thesis with relief and a big sigh, I’d like to enjoy the last months too. There is a saying that a goal should be like a guiding light… There was also something about the journey not the destination, well they’re both important but I choose the destination. Once that submission is done, I’ll never be a student again, not in the same way anyway…


PS- Ask me about my actions in a month or two!


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