Some advice: always start with a catchy title. This is the first thing noticed by a reader, so it’s crucial to avoid your work being overlooked. It’s also the first thing you’ll see when looking at a list of articles published on your site, as I did before beginning this. To let you in on a little secret, there are many unpublished little titbits lurking in the annals of this place.
Writing is amazing, but like many other aspects of life it’s something I apply unrealistically high standards to. So, some articles I began and didn’t finish, others I finished and haven’t published. But, easy to notice is a running theme in a few: “things a PhD can teach you unrelated to your field of study”, “six months in: things I have learned” “12 months through, 24 to go: what I know so far” – and this isn’t even half on them. Apart from betraying the rule I preached at the start of this article, the trend suggests something interesting. Akin to the PhD itself, trying to summarise life lessons learned is a mammoth task.
But this is something the strange people that decide to continue on in academia do all too easily. Speaking to other PhD students, I find we often stumble into similar territory. That is, we have no issue in creating or accepting overwhelming tasks, be it outside of work, be it teaching, or even – science forbid! – actually carrying out research. I suppose, I’m trying to say there’s a real issue here when it comes to life management. Not only are we ill-equipped to manage our own time, but we are very poor at realising life exists outside the bubble of the ivory tower. Which is why it’s incredibly important to have outlets. To have other things besides your work (pause to allow academics gasping time). Now, I am likely to be lambasted by some already well-established academics — those too eager to hold sermon about how they did it all by themselves — but for the good of your health: do other things.
I am lucky. I have a fantastic network of close friends, a supportive supervisor and an incredibly understanding partner, but I still experience a burnout. A lot. I suppose everyone will. There is only so long you can hold your nose to the grindstone before your brain’s put through the mill as well. Next time it’s approaching ten at night and you’re still sat in the lab, working away furiously, just take a step back. Remember that the work you’re doing is only one (admittedly/hopefully incredibly interesting) facet of who you are as a person. Revel in the other aspects of you, too. Sometimes, taking a step back is what lets us appreciate the things we’re doing that little bit more.