What Climbing Mountains and Running Marathons Have to Do with PhD Research

by Anna Blanch on February 21, 2010

As I look to the week ahead I see that I have a mountain of work that I will need to scale one step at a time. Many steps will be required but conquering the mountain is achievable if I stop faffing about and apply myself diligently. It’s going to take some extra long days, probably in the realm of 10+ each day (excluding next sunday) in order to complete my list.

Today has been about worship and preparation. Church was particularly wonderful today.

I am viewing this little period of intense work as a little like a half-marathon. I’ve done this distance and more before, but i am a little out of practice, so i need to put some good plans in place to run up to my best! The preparation has been about reflecting on what I need to get done and how I am going to go about it, putting in place rest breaks and water stops, and planning my pacing. So that i finish this little hurdle race strong.

The rest breaks and water stops include things like making sure i have the fuel (food etc) on hand so that it will not be a concern that draws me away from the tasks at hand, scheduling exercise so that I don’t skip it thinking i’ll do it some other time. In conjunction with good sleep, food and exercise are the two things that help me get through high workload time periods. I am also planning to have next Sunday off from work, particularly because I need to be accountable this week and a reward is good, but also because I want to be committed to reserving Sundays for rest, reflection, and fellowship.

I have a pretty heady list of goals, and though I don’t usually go into this much detail, I thoughts I’d go all PhD Forum today and share my list of goals to be completed by March 2. I have earlier deadlines on some of these, and i have started work on all of them, but you don’t need to be bored to tears with the nitty-gritty – so here goes:

  • Write abstracts for 3 different conferences
  • Write application for Travel Grant and send to supervisors
  • Write 10,000-12,000 word chapter draft and send to supervisors
  • Edit 700 source classified bibliography
  • Edit Paper on Nesbit and Law for English Departmental Forum

I am choosing to put this list in front of myself. I could choose not to submit abstracts or the travel grant application but these things will significantly help my research so I am choosing to commit! I am challenging myself to this half-marathon, that it will make the ultra-marathon running that is the PhD more efficient and successful.

Getting this list done in the next 10 days will make a significant difference to my research for the rest of 2010. Other expected benefits include:

  • A no PhD-stress visit with family in Australia.
  • Providing opportunities to present my research in the Fall/Martinmas of 2010.
  • Jumping the hoops to be ABD in and move from the standard General Research Ordinance that all PhD’s start as to the full PhD candidate status.
  • A sustained period of reading and thinking about the project with a clear end-point and with rewards attached.

I have set my alarm for 6am (the time i usually get up in the Summer – but not in the Scottish winter). Tomorrow will be spent mostly in the library using some of the books that I have to return because they were recalled and are due tomorrow! I may keep you updated, but i make no promises – Goannatree might not get alot of time this week.

Tomorrow I have a treat. Hopefully you will be encouraged by it: a few more than 10 things We Wished We had known when we started Graduate school in Literature/Religion.

[Photo: Microsoft Images]

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