Workin’ It

Financial commitments mean that unfortunately my scholarship is not enough to live off. So I work 2 days per week (my supervisor accepted this reality when she took me on, though with some reservation). In the early months of my phd I managed to mostly not work on the weekend. What a luxury! Reality took hold about six-months in when I realised that a full-time phd is actually full-time! For at least the last few months coming up to confirmation it’s meant working and studying 7 days a week. It’s been a slog.

Now on the other side of confirmation, and a one-week blissful holiday in Queensland, I have the opportunity to reflect on my phd journey so far and prepare for the remaining 2 (or so) years. Having spent 15 odd years working full-time, 5-days a week with 2 days off, it’s been a shock to the system but, I suspect, a new regime I will need to get used to.

It’s given me a new and increased respect to those who have and raise children while doing a phd (or while employed in paid work for that matter). And it’s a sobering thought that many, many people around the world work multiple jobs and/or long hours purely to earn enough for food and shelter. I am doing this phd – and these extra hours – purely by choice.

But how do you sustain working 7 days a week without major burnout? Is it possible to produce outstanding work at both my job and my phd? Having the deadline of confirmation made the additional hours bearable and seem temporary (and a sweetener of a holiday at the end helped too). How can I engage with other activities at uni, when every department meeting or working group takes precious hours away from my core work? How do I ensure I meet other needs to ensure I stay healthy? (relationships, exercise to name a few, let alone others like keeping a relatively clean home). Then again, should I just quit my moaning? It is only a limited time and, really, 2 years is not a long time in the scheme of things.

I’m not sure what the answer is. Perhaps confirmation is a taste test – to give you an understanding of the work load required for thesis submission, enabling you to then make adjustments, changes moving forward in a realistic way. I think a major barrier to me was anxiety and imposter sydrome, not believing in myself, that I had the skills or talent to actually *do* a phd (I must admit that it was both relief and a little surprise that I realised I passed confirmation). I’m hoping that passing confirmation will diminish these thoughts and enable me to just Get On With It.

Perhaps I’ll continue to work it out as I go (and that’s ok too).


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