Back to the grind – week 53

PhD Life

My daily routine has been skewed for the negative.

For a few nights in a row I have been going to bed a couple of hours later, and consequently trying to catch up on sleep the next day. I have disrupted my morning routine by sleeping through it. This, for me, is something that hasn’t happened since my teenage years. Way back then, it had a drastic effect on my academic performance; that is the excuse I give for my relatively poor grades.

So, this weekend I endeavour to reset my sleep schedule. I will be in bed by ten-thirty, even if I have to lie there contemplating the universe all night. On a positive note, it is not stress or worry that is keeping me up all night, it is due to socialising.

That is the primary goal of the weekend. The rest of my tasks are:

• Two gym sessions
• Look up conferences I want to attend
• Prep some work that I need to be reviewed by one of my supervisors
• Write a blog post

There are lots of other tasks that I would ideally like to complete, but they are all secondary and on a mental check-list that has been growing exponentially since 2014.

This week was of no particular importance for my studies; it was not an extraordinary week; thus, I only need ordinary evidence. Therefore, my telling this to you will have to suffice.

Most of my week was spent in the lab, and I snuck off to write whenever I had finished my experiments and had energy left. I have, a very easy to arrive at estimation, that I will not finish my literature review this month. I have the same old problem, not knowing exactly what I want to say, so I tend to get sidetracked a lot. Out of all the writing I have done over the last year this had been by far the hardest thing to do.

Going from a broad outline of a concept to getting specific words on a page is a particular challenge for me. If anyone has any suggestions on how I can improve in this regard, please comment below!

I have had another revelation this week, and I think it stems from my maturation. I have noticed that I am much more interested in nature. Specifically, I want to know the name of all different types of trees, and whenever I see an interesting fungus, I am straight to google to find out all about it.

See this beautiful mushroom I found on campus.

Magpie Ink-cap mushroom, found in Harris garden, The University of Reading
Magpie Inkcap


As a child and younger adult, trees were evaluated on their ability to be climbed, or a shelter from the elements. Recently though I have been enamoured with them and can’t find enough information. I can’t be sure as to why I have developed this fascination, but I assume this is part of the ageing process. The previously mundane is now genuinely exciting. Not for the adrenaline rush, it could provide, but for the information that co-exists with it.

Is this normal?

Author: Louis

Spend less than you earn, Invest the surplus, avoid debt. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants

33 thoughts on “Back to the grind – week 53”

  1. I try using a flow chart. Start with very generic or basic and then use arrows to break it down more specifically. You can also continue to break ideas down more and more and use arrows if one can connect to another. There are more ideas but my medicine head is plugged up. I hope this atleast helps.

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  2. I’ve been listening to some podcasts by Elizabeth Gilbert lately “Magic Lessons”. She addresses some of the “roadblocks” that get in our way of creating. I highly recommend you check those out.

    Your fascination with nature and sleeping in lately might be a “maturing” thing but may also be a way for you to avoid your work or a way to refocus and renew your mind. You’ll have to decide if it’s a distraction, procrastination or a rejuvenation. Good luck!

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  3. You have probably heard the longest journey is from the brain to the heart. I like to think of this idea as the eventual merging of our physical self with our non-physical self. Words may flow easier when we write from the heart and edit with ease afterwards from our brain. Both are our friends. BTW your photo of the Magpie Mushroom is stunning. Your commitment inspires me. Thank you.

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  4. I think the older we get the more we understand that nature is where it’s at. The busy world around us has nothing on the earth in its most natural state. 🤷🏻‍♀️

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  5. If you read me at all you’ll know that I break all the rules. At my age one is allowed to—but for you, young person, I say coin your own cliches and avoid those of others. (Myself? I have nothing to lose so indulge with mad rapturous abandonment and Devil take the hindmost.)

    And I love popping the balloons of the pompous—a liberty you can’t afford until you score that degree …

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      1. As an uneducated old Dog I claim innocence. I just make my own rules up as I go along; which in New Zealand here seems to be what the ‘education’ system does too. But so long as the message actually gets though, who really can complain?
        Times change …

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  6. I’m a story-teller, so using such an approach might help you. Pretend you must explain the material to a younger student who is just starting out, or to a friend who is absolutely clueless in your chosen field. Try putting the cookies on a lower shelf and see if it doesn’t help you with the specific words you seek. I have no idea if this will help, but I wanted to try!

    I am also a nature photographer, and all types of fungi were one of my favorite subjects. Lovely photo!! Nature has a calming effect on me, and perhaps may serve as a counter-balance to your academic pursuits.

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  7. There is an art to drinking coffee, and it enhances the experience, and decreases dependence also. Drinking coffee to wake up is actually the worst thing you can possibly do, unless you want to be addicted. I hear you saying: “What do you mean? Whatever other reason is there?” The effects you were looking for, alertness, enhanced cognitive functioning, etc. are better realized by not drinking coffee when you first get up, especially if you need an alarm to wake up. If you get out of bed feeling groggy and like you need more time in bed, you’re not awake yet. If you brew coffee, set it going. Take a shower, brush your teeth, get dressed – do whatever you need to do, especially if it wakes you up more fully. Then get your coffee. You will experience higher alertness and brain functioning, actually getting the full benefit of the coffee this way. You’ll enjoy the flavor more, and not feel like you need another cup half an hour later. There is a published paper on this, from a research study. I cited it somewhere once; I’ll have to find it and send it along. At any rate, I experienced this myself randomly after retirement, when I didn’t have to get up at any specific time. But, sometimes I had to get up way earlier than usual, and dumped coffee down my throat, which I was using to help myself wake up so I could drive a long distance. Didn’t work as well, and I had to take a thermos with me, and ended up jittery. In actual practice, when I don’t have to rush, I make myself an “Americano” ; two shots of espresso with hot water to fill a 10oz mug. Espressing coffee yields a brew with less bitterness, and also a bit less caffeine. I feel fine most days, unless I find myself somewhere where there is no espresso machine, and I drink too much brewed coffee – when I do that, I am jittery all day, and have trouble getting to sleep at night. — Just my two bytes worth of elder wisdom.

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    1. I too have the ‘Americano’, Interesting perspective on timing of the coffee. It does make sense that drinking it after you are some what awake would have an additive effect! I will have to bear that in mind going forward.

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  8. Yes, absolutely normal. I also went through a phase where every plant must be googled! Now, mostly, I just soak in nature like a sponge and try to take as much of that feeling of wellbeing with me as possible.

    Also, your beautiful Magpie Inkcap looks very much like a fairy mushroom to me. It brought back all kinds of fun images from my childhood. I’m enjoying thinking about fairies again!

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            1. I’ve always been fascinated by that. I’d read that the center of the organism is actually the middle of the fairy ring, and the mushrooms grow up around the outside. Is that similar to what the lecturer said?

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              1. Also, to clarify, I was having fun imagining fairies living in the Inkcap. I don’t actually think they look anything like the Scotch Bonnet.

                I was inspired to write something about it that will hopefully become a children’s book, but I’m still struggling with the beginning and ending. You don’t happen to know a rhyme for “intricate”, do you? 😉

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              2. I think he said it was unclear, but that it might be that it grows outwards as nutrients are depleted, so it moves to more fertile lands. I have also heard that the fungus has a memory of when a tree used to exist in that position and it grows around it, but that seems a bit more farfetched.

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                1. I guess the second could be true if there was some sort of chemical residue in the soil or a root network still intact, but you’re right, that does seem unnecessarily complicated.

                  Syndicate made me laugh out loud! It makes me think of gangsters. O_o Someone needs to write a noir mystery novel about fairies! In fedoras and trench coats!!

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