I’ve started recruiting for my first (of two) major study (whoohoo!) – a series of participatory workshops to design a psychosocial screening app for young people to use in general practice: with young people, GPs, practice staff, and – if necessary – parents.

And I feel good! (and today, I’m refusing to put a qualifier on this!)

I’m conscious that I often (mostly!) use this blog to write about my anxieties and frustrations of PhD life – that’s not such a bad thing. It’s not intended to have a wide audience and it’s very much more about getting into the habit of writing, increasing my critical writing and ‘writing as thinking’.

Perhaps I feel good because I am doing something that I have done before – running participatory workshops. Granted, previously I’ve always been part of a collaborative team and in a professional context. But still! Perhaps it’s also because I get out of the isolated vortex of literature and get some good hard data that will be useful and relevant in the real world. And have some fun seeing people co-create solutions to problems that can have a significant impact on their work and/or health.Young and Well CRC_Toolkit_1

One of the great things about with participatory design is that it puts explores technology use within its context, which opens up new issues for how it will be used in situ. At the core of the workshops are exploring the following:

  • How can the app help young people feel more engaged in, and aware of, their health and healthcare?
  • How can the app be designed to empower young people in their consultations with their GP? (not just the app itself but where and how they use it)
  • What are the barriers and facilitators for the app to be integrated (normalised) into routine practice for GPs and practice staff?

I have been fortunate that ethics was very straight forward. The biggest learning has been about the process for recruiting GPs and practice staff-you know, people need to plan and fit this into their busy lives (whodathunkit?!). And that despite the awesomeness of participatory workshops, this isn’t necessarily going to be appealing to practice staff (I have been told by other general practice researchers and GPs)– they simply don’t have time or inclination to travel from work into the CBD in their own time. So I’m thinking about how I streamline some activities for quick and dirty outreach.

I think my tight timeline will take a hit and will have major implications for developing the app and the next study – a case study, which by definition needs time to implement and whose design still needs attention (taking me into third year, by when I am told ‘data collection and analysis must be done!’).

But for now – I’m enjoying the excitement of organising the workshop activities and ensuring I explore and capture key insights and outputs.



I’ve lost my hunger. Literally.

It’s a weird sensation and not one I’m very familiar with. I’m not nauseous as such; I simply have no appetite and no interest in eating. Admittedly I have always had a complicated relationship with food. However, the issue has always been trying to contain and curb my hunger into submission, rather than dealing with its absence.

At first part of me was thinking ‘This is GREAT! – I don’t have to cook or buy food. I’ll save money! No dishes to clean! Plus I might even lose a little weight’. Of course, the rational part of me realises it’s not a healthy or sustainable situation.

Maybe it’s my body re-calibrating after the excesses of the Christmas period. Probably more immediate physical causes are having a migraine and my period. The fact that I was was feeling bewilderingly overwhelmed last week may well have also contributed, not to mention I have a (self-imposed!) mid-year review with my supervisors next week.

As someone who has been in therapy a long time, I can’t help but wonder if my loss of appetite is symbolic of something more profound. At the risk of going all Louise Hay on you, is my lack of appetite representative of in my various dissatisfactions and disempowerment at work/study/personal life – to what extent are these caused by external constraints; i.e. locus of control (this is probably a thesis paper in itself)? And if so, how can I enact real change if I don’t have clear goals – change that I haven’t been able to fully realise previously?

I spent quite a bit of time yesterday reading through the Thesis Whisperer’s Valley of Shit blog post and comments; It was reassuring to read how just common loss of perspective and confidence is for PhD students. It certainly prompted me to reassess my own current experience, reflect on my motivation to continue to do my PhD. Am I haunted by self-doubt and inexperience? Yes? Am I still excited and interested by the topic? Yes, yes I am!

Thankfully I’m feeling a bit better; I’m able to eat at least one or two small meals a day. And overall, I’m actually feel more energised and hopeful.

Welcome back

Like many others, today is my first day back to study after holidays and like many I was not feeling that excited about (ok, kinda dreading) it. I’m easing my way in – working from home in my pyjamas – though the gardener’s leaf blower has just started outside ending any remnant of holiday tranquility!

I had considered working on my phd right through Christmas – well apart from, say Christmas and Boxing Days, however ended up taking half of Christmas Eve off until today. And I’m glad I did. Yes, there were moments when my thoughts flicked briefly to it, but overall I think I needed to have some dedicated time away from it. I’ve always found it much easier to fully immerse in holiday at this time of year – with much of the population on holiday, taking time off feels very much socially acceptable.

I stayed at home, but I did things like clean the kitchen drawers, clear out my wardrobe and do some gardening. Oh I also managed to rewatch a good chunk of the most excellent Battlestar Galactica, went horse-riding, ate an impressive amount of stone fruit, read a trashy novel, listen to the cricket and rode my bike quite a lot. That said, I think the major benefit was just to relax-mentally and physically.

The reason I was dreading returning to study is the amount of work I have to do, particularly in the first few months of the year. And the fact I already feel woefully behind and worried I won’t be able to get through it all.

First up, I need to finish one paper (thankfully mostly done), while I have a large chunk of secondary data analysis to do and then write into a paper. At almost the same time I have 2 major studies to prepare, conduct and analyse. I’m trying to stay focused, break it down into small, daily tasks in order not to feel overwhelmed. Also reading Patter’s most recent blog was oddly comforting, perhaps in the knowledge that I am not alone in facing a mountain of work!

Wishing everyone a productive start to the year!