A song of procrastination and ire – week 36 as a PhD student

Game of Thrones clips are filling my procrastination periods this week; I do not know why. The interesting thing about procrastination is that it, for me at least, is spontaneous. If I could predict when and why I would procrastinate, it would be easier to avoid.

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This week has been a relatively good week as it was more balanced than usual. By balanced, I mean that the writing to lab work ratio was much more favourable. I have previously discovered that the best week for me involves writing and practical work; if I do too much of one or the other, I get bored and disinterested quite quickly. Two days of writing with three days of practical work seem to be the sweet spot at the moment.

I have noticed that my writing has improved; mostly it has improved in the fundamentals, grammar, punctuation etcetera. What I am finding hard, is the scientific storytelling aspect, linking ideas and guiding the reader through my thought process.

I think there are three main reasons as to why this is. Firstly, a lack of experience, I imagine once I have published my first paper it will get much easier. Secondly, I do not have a model of how I should write, this is related to experience, but also it is related to understanding your subject intimately and converting your thoughts into prose. The final thing is something I just mentioned, knowing what you want to write in the first place, I certainly do not know exactly what I want to write; I have a rough idea.

I have spent a lot of this week doing admin related activities, I am trying to organise some samples to be delivered, and it just so happens that all the people that can make this happen are away, so I am on a bit of a wild goose chase. Oh well, you can only do what you can do; I’m not too bothered about it, there is always next week.

I have a weekend of work ahead of me, there are a few hundred samples I need to analyse, and I need to learn how to use my camera! Furthermore, I would like to get some writing done; I need to keep pushing with my reports before the anxiety of not having completed it catches up with me.

I also ‘need’ to go to the gym and watch the rugby! Next week, I am going to harvest the 9000 plants we planted two weeks ago. I am much less enthusiastic about it this time around as I have already experienced it once. I did it last year in Rome, in the 40°C heat. The lunchtime meal in Rome was perfect, but it was not worth a second day of harvest.

In England, the food is much more standard, and we are much less pretentious about it. It is fuel. This may sound strange, but I would much rather be in the English countryside where the weather is mild than the outskirts of Rome, where it is far too hot to work! We shall see if I still have this opinion after the harvest.

You reap what you sow- week 34 as a PhD student

Writing this is a welcome distraction from the monotonous grind of PhD life this week. I have even resurrected an old time-destroying habit that is competitive gaming to distract myself.

It is not that is bad or soul-destroying work, but if you do anything for a long enough period, it becomes boring. I have been harvesting and processing rocket for what feels like three months. I would really like a week of no lab work to concentrate on a few others things I need to get done.

I need to make some ground on my paper and learn a few data analysis techniques. You know how it is; you get home from a day a work and all you have the strength to do is the easy items on your to-do list.

I think the lack of energy for any substantial activity after a day in the lab is the cause of why I have relapsed and started to play video games again. They help to distract from the constant murmurings in my mind about variables I should measure and experiments I should re-run.

The forces of distraction are pulling me towards them as the minimum level of energy required to avoid them is not available. This weekend I am going to allow distractions!

This week brings with it a marker that I have had staked out for a few months; the marker is a three-month countdown timer to my transfer viva. This is essentially the only barrier between me and the next few years of continuation as a PhD student. Therefore, it is quite an important thing for me. To complete the process, I have to complete a report similar to that of a masters thesis and then have a viva, which is a grilling from two academics on your work. Of course, it won’t be anywhere as hard as the final viva, but to someone in my position, it feels as important.

The reality is that it is scarce for anyone to fail, and one should not worry too much, but in a more physical reality, it feels as if it is fifty-fifty: pass or fail.

Coming up next week is a day where I have to leave at 5:30 AM. This is something that would sound like hell, but I am looking forward to the change of pace. We are going to plant 9000 plants for a field trial; I have not been involved in the planting stage before, only the harvesting stage. It is going to hard, gruelling work, but I like to try everything once, and it will be a nice break from my day-to-day activities.

I hope next week will bring about the end of all the long days in the lab for a few weeks, so I can do some planning and get on track. Mostly, I hope I can make a decent start on my 1st-year report as this would help relieve some of the anxiety I have towards it. I woke up thinking about it during the week; this is one of my sure signs that I am not quite altogether mentally.

Welcome home procrastination – Week 34 as a PhD student.

Writing this is a welcome distraction from the monotonous grind of PhD life this week. I have even resurrected an old time-destroying habit that is competitive gaming to distract myself.

It is not that is bad or soul-destroying work, but if you do anything for a long enough period, it becomes boring. I have been harvesting and processing rocket for what feels like three months. I would really like a week of no lab work to concentrate on a few others things I need to get done.

I need to make some ground on my paper and learn a few data analysis techniques. You know how it is; you get home from a day a work and all you have the strength to do is the easy items on your to-do list.

I think the lack of energy for any substantial activity after a day in the lab is the cause of why I have relapsed and started to play video games again. They help to distract from the constant murmurings in my mind about variables I should measure and experiments I should re-run.

The forces of distraction are pulling me towards them as the minimum level of energy required to avoid them is not available. This weekend I am going to allow distractions!

This week brings with it a marker that I have had staked out for a few months; the marker is a three-month countdown timer to my transfer viva. This is essentially the only barrier between me and the next few years of continuation as a PhD student. Therefore, it is quite an important thing for me.

To complete the process, I have to complete a report similar to that of a masters thesis and then have a viva, which is a grilling from two academics on your work. Of course, it won’t be anywhere as hard as the final viva, but to someone in my position, it feels as important. The reality is that it is scarce for anyone to fail, and one should not worry too much, but in a more physical reality, it feels as if it is fifty-fifty: pass or fail.

Coming up next week is a day where I have to leave at 5:30 AM. This is something that would sound like hell, but I am looking forward to the change of pace.

We are going to plant 9000 plants for a field trial; I have not been involved in the planting stage before, only the harvesting stage. It is going to hard, gruelling work, but I like to try everything once, and it will be a nice break from my day-to-day activities.

I hope next week will bring about the end of all the long days in the lab for a few weeks, so I can do some planning and get on track.

Mostly, I hope I can make a decent start on my 1st-year report as this would help relieve some of the anxiety I have towards it. I woke up thinking about it during the week; this is one of my sure signs that I am not quite altogether mentally.

Progress and Procrastination – week eight as a PhD student

In contrast to last week, I have managed to start writing this on Friday, Will I finish it? No courses this week, the only time I left the house was to attend the school’s weekly Wednesday seminar. The weekly seminar series is compulsory; students and academics have to give talks at least once a year. First years like me normally have until the summer before they have to do a turn. However, it still gives me fear, knowing I am going to get an email telling me when I have to perform. Anyway, that was the only time I actually went to the place where I work, which is one of the perks of doing a PhD. This week I have felt much less productive, I have been busy but it didn’t feel like I was getting much done. One of those weeks I guess. Also, our washing machine broke and we had our bathroom window break so that it was stuck open, not ideal. I am very distracted whilst writing this, as I am watching DrDisRespect at the same time.

I did not finish this on Friday night… It is now Saturday morning, today I have to un-plumb the washing machine so the new one can be installed, go to the gym, record the data from my experiment and re-evaluate what my short-term goals are for my experiments. I have a lab meeting coming up next week, where I will at the very least have to explain what I am up to. This isn’t really something you can wing and you generally get challenged each time on certain aspects of your thinking. But this Is one way in which one learns. I have a love-hate relationship with It, on one hand, I can’t live without challenge, on the other hand, I don’t enjoy being questioned in front of the group, who does? So I will still be working today but not at as much as I would on a weekday; I do try and keep a 9-5 schedule. I am very cautious of burning out, a phenomenon I encountered every exam period as, I am sure, every student has at some point. To be fair I fully understand the confusing literature on lettuce discolouration from the results of my experiments this week, so that is a big personal win. At least there Is a sign of progress. Although pink and brown are the obvious colours the eye is drawn to, they are not the most significant change. That most changed award goes to yellow, which increases subtly over shelf-life but no-one seems to care about it!

This week I got a personal best solve on the Rubix cube, one minute and twenty seconds. I am getting close to the sub one minute zone, pro’s only. We are going to start watching season two of stranger things this evening which is exciting, we binged-watched the first season last weekend. I think I will leave it here for this week; I am going to try and make this the best piece of writing I have done, in a grammatical sense, so far.

According to Grammarly, there are 19 advanced issues. Can you spot them?