Philippa’s blog – 12 November 2013

On Expectations

I’m essentially chained to my laptop at the moment, working really hard on trying to finish writing my PhD. Or should I say, finish writing a complete and polished draft. That won’t be the end but it will at least be a leap in the right direction. Through this process I’ve realised how disabling expectations can be. For months, my to-do list contained the instruction: write PhD. This instruction wasn’t very helpful and certainly never got crossed off.

When I sit down at my desk on some mornings, the weight of this ‘complete and polished draft’ weighs heavily on my mind. I’m now over 17,500 words in but that leaves about 42,500 still to do. Given that those 17,500 weren’t exactly a walk in the park, this can be an incredibly depressing prospect. Likewise, when the outlook is a full day of work, followed by more of the same until this magical ‘complete and polished first draft’ eventually emerges, I don’t always feel very positive.

So, I try to adopt an approach that I believe they also advocate in Alcoholics Anonymous: one day at a time. If I look too far ahead I can feel like I’m drowning. And panicking silently really isn’t very productive. Focussing on the day ahead enables me to adopt a more realistic and achievable expectation. Instead of ‘write PhD’, I’m trying to write down something much smaller and more specific. So today the to-do list said ‘finish analysis Chapter 2′. I wasn’t exactly brimming with delight this morning, but I sat down and focussed and cracked on and now its done. Which still leaves analysis Chapters 3 and 4 to do, so I’d better get back to it.


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