Category Archives: Doin’ my doctorate

What do I do now?

I’ve reached the point where I need to make a tough decision about my doctorate. I’m three years in, finishing December next year. I don’t have three years of work behind me. I have three years of wasting time and worrying, punctuated by brief periods of working on it. I think the fact that I’ve been sick for almost two months isn’t helping things. However, my entire life has taught me that I am very good under pressure and always come good at the end. I am confident that I’ll finish it, but I don’t know if I want to.

Update: I should point out, I’m not stressed at all by the doctorate or the work. I’m very “yeah, whatevs” about the whole thing. It would probably help if I was more stressed.

Pros
I get to be called Doctor.
I love my topic (how young adults get their political news).
I wanted to do a doctorate because I’ve never had a job that challenged me and figured this would. It does, and not always in the way I expected.
I’m very good with external deadlines, so as it gets closer, I’ll feel more excited and my work rate will increase.

Cons
I am sick of having no money.
I am sick of worrying about having no money.
I am sick of relying on ManFriend financially.
Days slip by and I have nothing to show for it.
I spend too much time by myself and I’m sick of my own company.
I don’t feel at all connected to my university.
I don’t want to be an academic.

So, what do I do now? Do I walk away, or keep at it?

So, I’m having one of those weeks

I’m having one of those weeks in which it’s impossible to concentrate on anything for more than a minute.

It’s not that I’m daydreaming, it’s just that my mind keeps going blank… and then I realise that it’s been blank for a while, and there’s nothing but freakin’ tumbleweeds in there.

It’s taken me all day to write this stupid post and it’s only four sentences so far. Because I keep forgetting that I’m writing it.

Of course, in hindsight I realise that I should have turned off the computer and gone to the gym/read a book/gone to an art gallery/met someone for coffee/baked a delicious treat. But that would require me to have noticed that I wasn’t doing anything, which brings me back to the problem.

So, it’s time to bring in the Big Guns: you guys. How do you deal with this? How do you say, ‘ok brain, let’s go do something else’ when you don’t even notice that you’re not doing anything?

Tomatoes – not just great on pizza

It’s time to be brutally honest. Things have been pretty bad in PhDland for a while. (“Fddland” is how I say it in my head, which makes it sound a little bit Kiwi and a little bit Nordic.) When I started this post I hadn’t read more than a couple of journal articles or written anything for weeks. Weeks and weeks. Probably months and months if I could bring myself to look in my diary at the last time I’d crossed anything out.

This is something I have struggled with for a while. I wrote about it in November, and January and February, and from the comments, it’s something many of you struggle with too. When people tell me that I must be smart to be doing a PhD, I reply with, “no, you don’t have to be smart, you just need to be ok with spending a lot of time by yourself for at least three years”.

In my experience – being halfway through, and fucking hell, that’s a scary thought – doing a doctorate means you cook a lot, do loads and loads of washing, read things unrelated to your topic, and play a lot of solitaire and freecell on the computer. Sure, you do some work, but it’s never as much as you imagined you’d need to do. And there’s always the feeling that you’ll get it done in time, because you always do. Or maybe that’s just me? After all, three tertiary qualifications, years as a journalist and years as a freelancer have shown me that I can always pull decent-to-very-good work out of my arse when it’s needed.

When I started this doctorate, I expected to feel like I was a one-conversation pony who bored my friends, reasonably stressed, and overwhelmed by how much work I had to do. But what I wasn’t expecting to feel was guilt. Guilt at being able to spend whole days doing very little. Guilt at knowing that friends have done PhDs while looking after very small children. Guilt at knowing that friends have done PhDs while working full-time. Guilt at knowing that ManFriend is bringing home most of the bacon. Guilt at being in this incredibly privileged position and wasting it. And it seems that nothing I’ve tried so far has been able to get me to work for any meaningful length of time. For someone who loves reading and learning and thinking and has signed up for a doctorate, this is not a good place to be. People tell you that you’ll learn a lot about yourself doing a doctorate. What they don’t tell you is that you won’t like what you find.

A couple of weeks ago, I read two blog posts on the same topic: Jen Dziura’s Productivity Tips for People With Short Attention Spans, and The Thesis Whisperer’s Another way to write 1000 words a day?, about the Pomodoro Technique. I took this to be a giant neon flashing sign that hit me in the face like a wet fish and caused me to mix my metaphors.

It sounds a bit fancy-pants, but the Pomodoro Technique is using a timer to work for 25 minutes and then take a five minute break. Then you do it again. It’s ridiculously simple. So I downloaded a timer. You can put it anywhere on your screen and it looks like this:

The pomodoro timer

The timer that is restoring my sanity

Before I clicked the start button for the first time, well, let’s just say apprehensive was an understatement. Like Virginia Valian (1113KB pdf) who felt overwhelmed by the thought of spending five minutes on her thesis, 25 minutes seemed like a really long time. I knew I’d keep looking at the timer in the vain hope that I could will my punishment to be over.

I took a deep breath, clicked start, and looked down at my journal article. Then I looked back up at the timer and was shocked to discover that I only had three minutes and 20 seconds to go.

Sure, not all of my breaks are just five minutes, but seeing the timer there, waiting for me to reset it, makes me focus back on my doctorate in a way that no amount of telling myself “today I am going to get lots done” ever could.

Sometimes I even go over the 25 minutes because I’m engrossed in what I’m reading or writing. I didn’t expect that. According to the book you can download (500KB pdf), you’re not supposed to do this, but frankly, being on a roll happens so rarely that I’m unwilling to stop it.

Strangely, that simple little timer is more compelling than leechblock and freedom. Perhaps because the doctorate seems so big and looming. Whereas leechblock and freedom say “ok, the internet is blocked, now do some work”, all the little timer says is “hey, you only have to do 25 minutes, you can manage that”.

Last week I pomodoro-ed. This week I’ve pomodoro-ed. Today I’ve done two so far. Wish me luck. Or come around and kick my arse because that might work as well.

Cold turkey week four – the end

Wow, that was a pretty quick 30 days huh?

As I wrote last week, not wasting time is a pretty amorphous aim, and apparently it’s easier to add a habit or change a habit if it’s something concrete.

When I started this 30 day challenge, I wrote:

No pfaffing around on the internet, no spider solitaire, no seven-tabs-open-I’ll-read-it-later. If I click on a link I have to read it all and then close the tab. And I’ve downloaded freedom so I can block my internet access.

Well, I used freedom once but found that blocking everything just meant I ended up with a list of studies to look up later. On Lauren B’s suggestion I tried leechblock, so I could choose what to block (twitter and email, I’m looking at you) and still have access to the uni library. That was much better because I could look up a study when I came across it and quickly decide if it was a keeper.

But this is about more than just my doctorate – it’s also about doing the things that are always on my list but never get crossed off. So, when I write in my diary (the 2011 type, not the Dear Diary type) things like “go for a walk” and “call the builder” and “call Wendy”, I’m putting a time next to them and at that time I will do those things.

Yeah, I didn’t end up any better at this. But I did get to tell you a story last week about my Dad, which probably gave him a smile before he and Mum went off to Tajikistan.

But I have been better – more focussed – about my research. I’ve been reading, and writing, and thinking.

And I’ve also been free.

At ManFriend’s Masters graduation yesterday (yes, we are now a Master Master household), Alex Malley, the CEO of CPA Australia, gave a speech about how you shouldn’t be afraid to fail. When you’re scared of failure, it’s easy to forget that it isn’t going to kill you. He also said you shouldn’t be afraid to quit a job if it goes against what you believe in. I was nodding so hard I almost pulled a muscle in my neck. I had been working two days a week in a newsroom whose entire approach to news I fundamentally disagreed with, and for someone I had absolutely no respect for. I kept telling myself that it paid the bills, but it was making me feel sick with myself for doing it. I felt dirty, and not in the good way. That’s disappointing. So I quit. And it feels so good. And that person I didn’t respect? They’ve been reading my blog every day to see if I write about them. Talk about pathetic.

Anyway, removing that – I feel like saying “impacted bowel” – has made me feel a lot lighter. And this lightness has allowed me to give more of my thinking time over to my doctorate. So while quitting that job wasn’t directly related to this 30 day challenge, it has been a part of it. I haven’t become Super Productive Person (that would have to be a nerd superhero), but I am more productive than I was 30 days ago. And since it apparently takes 66 days to create a habit, I’m halfway there. (But don’t worry, I won’t keep blogging about it.) The hardest part of the challenge has been to keep the idea of it in my attention. Maybe I should have used some post-it notes?

I want to finish with a bit of shameless self-promotion. I’m a finalist in the 2011 Best Australian Blogs competition, in the commentary category. I’m up against four great blogs so it’s very flattering that I’m in that league. I’ve also been nominated for the People’s Choice award. Hint hint. The blogs are listed alphabetically and I’m under T, which is where I should be. (I have this argument with friends all the time. When alphabetising cds, The Cramps should be filed under T because The is a significant word in their band name. If they didn’t think The was an important part of their name, they’d just be Cramps.)

So, how did everyone else go? With the challenge, not with alphabetising their cds.

Cold turkey week three

For those who haven’t been playing along at home, this cold turkey stuff is about my 30 day challenge. I want to be using my time more productively and so made myself accountable to you.

Like any new habit, the first week goes really well because you’re focussed on it. The second week isn’t as good, but still ok. Week three is a bit blah. That might also have something to do with spending the first part of this week as a snot factory, oh woe is me-ing on the couch amid my midden of used tissues.

As I type this, I have 12 tabs open. Twelve! So much for productively reading and then closing each tab as I find something. Apparently it takes 66 days to form a habit, so I shouldn’t be expecting years of multi-tabs to be fixed in just 21 days. I think I like Lifehack‘s version better – they reckon a habit will stick after 30 days. I guess it depends on the habit you’re trying to create. Adding something specific, like going for a walk every morning, or eating a piece of fruit with lunch, is a lot easier than a vague idea about being more productive. Which is not to chicken out, but to acknowledge that it’s a pretty difficult task I’ve set myself.

I don’t have a lot of childhood memories featuring my Dad – he worked a lot, but every Friday was Lolly Night when he’d come home with a huge bag of sugar for us and we’d meticulously divvy it up so everyone got exactly the same number of lollies – but he always seemed to do things as he thought of them. When he opened a bill, he’d write a cheque straight away, put it in an envelope and into his briefcase. Well, that’s my memory of it. He might have been writing love letters to my Mum or a list of swear words to randomly send to someone. I don’t even know where all our current bills are, let alone when they’re due. Some are probably on the coffee table under brochures for appliances, half a block of Lindt sea salt chocolate and a picture of a toilet I like. The others are maybe in the pile of stuff on one of the chairs. Maybe. For the last seven or so years I’ve been paid monthly, and each month I just pay the same amount on each bill that I paid the month before. It usually works out ok. I’m not a very good grown up. (I do, however, have a gold-lined cape and rollerskates and hula hoops and a shitload of plastic accessories, so I’m a pretty good adult-sized kid.)

Clearly I’m also easily distracted. So, week three, much harder to keep up the productivity, but still better than I was before I started this challenge. How is everyone else going?

Cold turkey week two

How is it Friday already?

(If you’re new here, this is the second week of my 30 day challenge to use my time productively. I’ve wrangled some of you lovely readers into playing as well. It’s not too late to join in now for a mini-challenge on whatever topic you want.)

It’s been a busy brain week. The highlight was on Wednesday when I finally quit my job – I’ll write more about that next week. But it meant spending a lot of time thinking about options, and more time than was necessary thinking about clever yet cutting remarks. I love those conversations in your head where you always win, or the person you don’t like loses their temper while you stay cool as a freakin’ cucumber.

I’ve spent less time in front of the computer this week. When I start to pfaff around on the internet, I get up and walk away and do something else, like read a chapter of a book, or put on a load of washing, or go for a walk. Purposeful. So that’s a good thing.

It doesn’t feel like I’ve been as productive this week as I was last week, but you’re always on your best behaviour in the first week of a 30 day challenge.

So, K, Mimbles, Pirra, Teresa, Melski, Zoie, Philippe, how are you going?

Oh, and I’m after some tasty inspiration. I went to Flemington this morning and got a little excited by the apples. Anyone got a great recipe for a picnic-friendly apple pie or tart? I’ve got Royal Galas and Granny Smiths coming out the wazoo.

Cold turkey week one

So, last week I set myself the challenge of not wasting time for 30 days. It’s about attacking my ongoing motivation problems around my doctorate – although I understand it’s fairly normal for second-year researchers to feel like this.

The challenge isn’t about being productive for every waking moment – I’m not a robot, for fuck’s sake – but about being aware of what I’m doing with my time and, if I’m going to pfaff around, to ask myself if that’s really what I want to be doing.

On the first day I kept checking and re-checking to see if any of you were going to join me. I read somewhere that one of the main things to do before issuing a blog challenge is to make sure you have sufficient readers so you’re not left hanging by yourself. So I fretted a little about that. There are so many of you who never say a word here and I’m curious about you – do you come here because you agree with what I write, or because you think I’m an idiot and this blog just confirms it?

Anyway, I’m not the only one in this challenge. Pirra is giving up sugar and mimbles is going to get up at 6am every day. K is supposed to be giving up alcohol for 30 days – with a few free passes – but we were in the pub last night until midnight and there was boob-squeezing…

It’s been an interesting week. I wasted a bit of time on Friday playing freecell from 5.57pm until 6.09pm. On Wednesday I sat and watched twitter for about an hour, but I had some things on my mind.

It’s been interesting and hard. Part of being accountable is about getting things done, but part of getting things done is about having legitimate reasons for not doing my uni work. Like updating my address details with my health fund so it’s not just another boring little job on my ‘to do’ list. And hunting for a big red plastic apple-shaped container that fits under the bathroom sink because there are no cupboards and you really need to put bathroomy things somewhere. But I’ve done more uni work this week than I have in the previous two months, so clearly it’s working.

So, mimbles, Pirra, K, how are you going? And for anyone else, why not join in for a mini-challenge?

Cold turkey

Two things collided this week to set up this post. The first was K saying on Tuesday that she’s not going to drink alcohol for a month (and now that I’ve said it here, she has to stick to it, right?). The second was reading Moderation, Addiction and When to Say When, over at Be More with Less (I really like the tagline: life on purpose).

Apparently it’s Lent. I don’t actually know what that means – and I refuse to google it – because I am blissfully ignorant of most religious stuff. I managed to spend all of my religious classes with my hands over my ears chanting “lalalalalalalalalalalalalala”. Two years at a boarding school where we had a weekly assembly with churchy stuff in it, a mid-week morning chapel service, chapel on Sundays and grace before meals, and I know jack shit about whatever religion it was. (As an aside, why on earth is the MSM reporting George Pell’s opinion on climate change as though his view on the topic is equal to that of a climate scientist? The man has an imaginary friend in the sky, for fuck’s sake.)

The reason I’m writing about how little I know about Lent is that I don’t want you to think I’m giving something up for Lent. This isn’t about Lent – whatever Lent is. This is about it being April in a few days.

In her Moderation post, Courtney Carver poses this statement from Inside-Out Simplicity:

I could never give up ________________ for the next 30 days!

I was going to say alcohol. But first I had to check my diary to see if there was anything on that I wanted to drink at. Which probably means I should give it up, but where’s the fun in that? Besides, I’ve got something more important in mind.

For the next 30 days I will give up wasting time.

This is a continuing theme on this blog as I struggle through my second year of my PhD, being robbed by the time thief and alternating between feeling like I’m not doing enough and not actually doing anything. And judging by your comments, a lot of you are struggling with similar feelings.

So, here goes: From today, March 24, until April 22, I won’t waste time.

No pfaffing around on the internet, no spider solitaire, no seven-tabs-open-I’ll-read-it-later. If I click on a link I have to read it all and then close the tab. And I’ve downloaded freedom so I can block my internet access. But this is about more than just my doctorate – it’s also about doing the things that are always on my list but never get crossed off. So, when I write in my diary (the 2011 type, not the Dear Diary type) things like “go for a walk” and “call the builder” and “call Wendy”, I’m putting a time next to them and at that time I will do those things.

Now, I guess we need a bit of structure to this. Tomorrow is Friday, so each Friday between now and April 22, I’ll share with you how I’m going and – hopefully – you’ll share how you are going with whatever challenge you’ve set yourself. I’ve put a 30 widget on the right and a 30 tab up the top, so you can find it easily. You can join in from today, or you can do a mini-version. We will be accountable to each other.

So, 30 days. Are you in?

Come on, don’t be shy. What better way to do this than as a group? It can be anything. Maybe you want to cook breakfast every day for a month. Or go for a walk after dinner. Or read two chapters of a book every day. Anything, it’s up to you.

Kicking the time thief’s arse

Where has this year gone? I took a break from mid-December because my eye had been twitching for months and I was having “do I really want to do my doctorate/am I good enough to do my doctorate” thoughts. My friend Dr Lorana pointed out that I just needed a break and of course she was right. We went to NZ, and when we got back we had about 10 days to pack up the house and move everything into storage. I did most of the packing during the day so ManFriend didn’t have to come home from work and worry about it.

We stayed with friends for a few weeks until we were able to move into our new place. I took it upon myself to unpack everything as well, as part of my strategy to make ManFriend’s life as easy as possible since he’s the one bringing home the bacon (the tasty tasty Schultz bacon). My part-time salary is so pitiful that it basically just keeps us in cider. It’s odd that two strong feminists like us have moved into traditional gender roles, but since he’s supporting me financially while I do this doctorate, I support him domestically so it feels fair. (Even though, bless him, he insists I don’t have to.)

We’ve been here for about three weeks. I have a great space for my desk, a big, light-filled room without a mould problem – so it’s the complete opposite of my last study space – but it took a few weeks to get around to getting a desk chair. We still don’t have the internet connected even though they said it would happen last week “at the very latest”. Once that happens, the plan is to download Nvivo, Scrivener and Zotero and spend some time playing around with them, because Word and Endnote suck balls and arse.

Do you see what this is? It’s an enormous excuse. I have been avoiding my doctorate like it’s nobody’s business, and I don’t know why.

In Psychology Today, Hara Estroff Marano writes:

Procrastinators actively look for distractions, particularly ones that don’t take a lot of commitment on their part. Checking email is almost perfect for this purpose. They distract themselves as a way of regulating their emotions such as fear of failure.

Ouch.

Marano spoke to Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, who identified three basic types of procrastinators:

Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush;

• Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability;

• Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

Double ouch.

I think I’ve got fear of failure and fear of success. Succeeding might mean I get a job that is interesting and challenging and requires me to put in some effort, and I’ve never had to do that before and thatkindafreaksmeout. And I would definitely rather people think I lack effort than ability, even though being thought of as lazy is not very flattering.

Looking up procrastination on the internet – and really, what better way to procrastinate? – I found some info from the Academic Skills Centre at California Polytechnic State University:

Procrastination is only remotely related to time management, (procrastinators often know exactly what they should be doing, even if they cannot do it), which is why very detailed schedules usually are no help.

I have been trying this very detailed schedule approach for ages and guess what? It doesn’t work for me. I love lists, but I don’t respect the work list.

The procrastinator is often remarkably optimistic about his ability to complete a task on a tight deadline… Lulled by a false sense of security, time passes. At some point, he crosses over an imaginary starting time and suddenly realises, “Oh no! – I am not in control! There isn’t enough time!” At this point, considerable effort is directed towards completing the task, and work progresses. This sudden spurt of energy is the source of the erroneous feeling that “I only work well under pressure”…

Barely completed in time, the paper may actually earn a fairly good grade; whereupon the student experiences mixed feelings: pride of accomplishment (sort of), scorn for the professor who cannot recognise substandard work, and guilt for getting an undeserved grade. But the net result is reinforcement: the procrastinator is rewarded positively for his poor behaviour. As a result, the counterproductive behaviour is repeated over and over again.

Apart from all the he’s, and the panicky exclamation marks – I am remarkably calm under pressure. In my performance review, under the bit about being able to cope in a “stressful and hostile environment” (yes, it actually says hostile), I wrote “I laugh in the face of stress” – that’s me right there.

But I’ve got a bigger problem than just leaving assignments until the last minute: I’ve got a whole freakin’ doctorate staring at my lazy arse. (Although I’m not quite sure what that sentence means.)

According to Ahern and Manathunga (2004), the warning signs of a stalled student include “taking too much time with other work, particularly teaching; over-reading or collecting more and more” information (p. 238). This is the pile I feel I need to read before I can start my interviews (it’s only this neat for photographic purposes):

my desk

There are 92 journal articles and five reports. It doesn’t include the four books on the other side of the desk. Collecting more and more information? Naaahhhh.

Last semester I allowed my teaching to take up way too much time. I loved doing it, so it wasn’t just pure self-sabotage, but between teaching and part-time work and the rest of my life, there wasn’t much time left for uni.

Problem is, all the books and articles I’ve found on How To Kick Your Own Arse Into Finishing Your Doctorate are about how to finish writing the damn thing. But for me, the writing’s the easy part. I need the How To Kick Your Own Arse Into Starting Your Doctorate guide.

Kearns et al (2008) compiled a list of the self-handicapping behaviours commonly displayed by PhD students: over-committing, busyness, perfectionism, procrastination, disorganisation, not putting in effort, and choosing performance-debilitating circumstances. And Greenberg (1985) found that people are “more likely to self-handicap when the task involved is very important to them,” (Kearns et al, 2008, p. 79).

Yes, I’m aware that the time spent doing the research for this post is time I could be doing my doctorate, but let’s be honest here: I wouldn’t be spending that time on my doctorate anyway. So I’m taking a different approach for the next month, one that focuses on getting unstuck. And hopefully writing about it here makes me accountable.

References:
Ahearn K., and Manathunga C. (2004), ‘Clutch-starting stalled research students’, Innovative Higher Education, vol. 28, pp. 237-254.

Kearns H., Gardiner M., and Marshall K. (2008), ‘Innovations in PhD completion: the hardy shall succeed (and be happy!), Higher Education Research & Development, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 77-89.

Marano H. E. (2003), ‘Procrastination: Ten things to know’, Psychology Today, available online: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/procrastination-ten-things-know

My diamond shoes are too tight

I’ve never had to work hard at anything. I know that sounds like my head is so far up my arse I couldn’t smell a fart in a car, but it means I don’t know how to work hard at something. My school reports all said ‘top of the class without putting in any effort'; I cruised through my psych degree barely-and-rarely sober; my masters didn’t challenge me because most of my subjects were taught at an undergrad level (even though I was paying masters course fees, and yes, UTS, I’m still pissed off about that). The trapeze course was challenging, but that’s because it was physically hard and I’m a lazy cow. And I’ve never had a job that’s required my brain to do anything other than keep me breathing (gonna get in trouble at work for that one).

Which is how I ended up at this point: in my mid thirties, doing a doctorate and not knowing how to work hard. Not knowing how to work, let alone work my arse off. Not knowing how to push my brain because I’ve always been able to wing it and still do well. I’m not an over-achiever, I’m a lazy-achiever. Actually, that’s bullshit: I’m an under-achiever.

As you can imagine, being Lazy McLazypants and doing a research doctorate don’t go too well together. I’ve blamed the internet but the problem was there before this blog, before twitter, before email and ohmygodlookatthisshinyshiny. I don’t need the internet to distract me because I am one big distraction machine. I’ve fallen way behind in my reading and it’s hard to talk in any detail about what I’m researching because I haven’t thought enough about it – which is lucky, because after two sentences, people’s eyes glaze over anyway.

But this year, things are going to be different. We’re moving to a new place where the study is bright and sunny, and I am going to surprise myself with how much work I get done.

Then I found this article (via The Thesis Whisperer) and nodded so hard my head almost fell off: Learning to work, by Virginia Valian:

“The problem is a luxury. It can only surface if one has been relatively well-educated and if the work in question intrinsically allows for self-development and self-fulfillment,” (p. 163).

And there’s my privilege right there. Talk about #firstworldproblem. Oh waaaaah, I couldn’t be bothered doing my fulfilling and intellectually stimulating work. As K would say, my diamond shoes are too tight.

“I had had a work problem all my life, but I didn’t know it until college. The symptoms in college were straightforward. I never studied, I seldom went to class; yet I defined myself as a future psychologist and had no questions about the desirability of doing meaningful intellectual work for the rest of my life… I drew a blank whenever I considered my future… I wrote my papers only at the last minute, and I never once worked an intellectual problem through to its conclusion. I did enough to get by,” (p. 164).

Valian wrote this in 1977 but she is writing about me. And, I suspect, some of you.

“It occurred to me that mental work is like sex in certain respects, although at first it seemed a bizarre comparison. The most important aspect of the analogy was the idea that work was natural. I had always thought of work as something I had to make myself do, something I didn’t intrinsically enjoy. The analogy suggested that I was getting in my own way, that I was preventing myself from enjoying myself. It wasn’t that I had to learn somehow to force myself to work, but rather to remove the roadblocks in the way of enjoyment,” (p. 165).

Unlike Valian, I’m not daunted by the work – I just can’t seem to make myself do the work. A guy I knew at uni used to say that the hardest part of going for a run every day is putting on your shoes. I can’t put on my shoes.

Because if I’m honest, I don’t want to get stuck into my doctorate because if I start it then I’m closer to finishing it. And then what? What if I discover that I’m not as good as I like to think I am? What if, even after I become Dr News with Nipples, I still don’t know what I want to do with my life? Those are the two things that freak me out the most. I’ve never known what I want to do for a career. I’ve approached each job as ‘sure, I’ll do this for a while and then fall into something else’. It means I avoid making decisions or thinking Big Grown-up Thoughts.

“The fourth rule was to ignore thoughts about the end product and how the end product would be received. I could too easily find myself inhabiting a fantasy world in which my thesis led to fame and renown. Not only was this eventuality extremely unlikely, but it led me further away from, rather than closer to, my goal of discovering the pleasures of the process of work. I wanted to work not because of the supposed effect of my work on others, but for the gratifications, to me, of working. My fantasies made the reality of my barely begun thesis look so shabby I didn’t want to have anything to do with it,” (p. 168).

Yep, she’s talking about me. This is just spooky.

“Before my work program, that is, before I was able to work, I didn’t know how I spent my days, except that I never seemed to have enough time or energy to do things I wanted to do. By the end of a day, I would have accomplished nothing, have no idea where the time had gone, and then be very depressed. I felt so guilty about not working that I couldn’t do anything else either, because I should have been spending that time working. But since I couldn’t work when I “should”, I often spent the allotted time doing nothing, literally nothing,” (p. 176).

So, all I need to do now is convince myself that I really enjoy working. How hard can it be?