Another approaching deadline!
Well it’s going to be down to the wire this week. It’s good to know we’re keeping the theme, if you’ve been following along for awhile you already know it’s always down to the wire. This week is particularly challenging because I have competing interests for the time I have. There’s only 24 hours in a day, so there’s only so much work that can get done. I would prefer to not do it at the last minute, but here we are… again.
If there’s one thing that’s been consistent around here it’s that I’m in a rush to finish something. I’ve been doing some behind the scenes cleaning up of the blog, reorganizing things, adding categories, things like that. I really got a chance to see over the past two years just how much stuff gets done at the last minute! It’s been an interesting realization that the way I’ve handled my work and workflow has changed over time. Somethings have gotten easier, other things never will, but still I’ve made progress.
The thing about doing your PhD that no one tells you is that it’s all homework. There isn’t a structure, you don’t work 9-5, clock out, and go home. You’re given a certain amount of work, a deadline, and the rest is up to you. The only expectation is that you hit the deadline or you have a damn good reason for missing it. Even then, this assumes the work in question isn’t what you’re doing for your degree, which means year(s) of working, planning, and ideally hitting milestones along the way.
I learned that lesson best when I transitioned from my BS to MS. The first term of my Masters degree I basically worked all day every day because I was trying to finish a project that I was given and even though that project was the end goal of my Masters, it didn’t occur to me to take a break until the end of the first term when I looked back and realized I had zero time to myself. I’ve luckily found better work habits since. I’ve learned to create small milestones for myself for everything from the big projects to shorter term projects. This keeps me on track, but also let’s me know if I’m falling behind.
This term, as you know if you’ve followed the journey, I’m taking my final course and it’s a statistics class. Our second major project is due Friday and I’ve only got ~50% of it done, maybe not even that really. It’s going to be close and there’s still a lot to do and figure out. Mostly it’s just me trying to use R. We were given a dataset and our task is to recreate some plots that came from a paper. It’s been a start and stop process, mostly a stop and google process! I’ve set some goals to finish the project and yesterday my first milestone was to get the main portion of the plot made. There are two I need to make, but right now I’m ~95% done with the first. Today I plan on finishing it, but I have competing projects so shockingly it’s not my main focus at the moment.
Today my main focus is to create some figures with the data I have for my main-PI. Every week for the past month I’ve been giving little updates on my progress during our lab meetings and at the end of every lab meeting he’s given me a list of things to do for the next meeting. Since the meetings are on Wednesdays and the second portion of my project is due on Friday, I’ve been stuck trying to figure out how to juggle the two projects. My plan is to make the plots my main-PI has requested (or at least most of them). That way I can go back to focusing on my project for class.
It wouldn’t be a huge deal if it weren’t for the fact that my class project is worth 40% of the grade in the class. I have already done the first of three parts to the project, but I can’t miss any of it without a serious hit to my grade. I’m not even sure how I did on the first project because they haven’t been graded, so I’m just a touch stressed out with all I need to get done between now and then.
However, I’ve set up a few milestones between now and then to help me make sure I keep on track. I’m like 98% sure it will work out, despite the high stress situation, but I could be over estimating my ability. Looking back on a lot of my old posts, this isn’t something new and I think that’s just grad school in a nutshell. There’s always some earth shattering, career ending deadline you’re on the brink of missing. If you ask me, it’s that stress and constant pressure that leads to burnout and dropout.
In short, there’s no easy way to get a PhD. It shouldn’t be this stressful, but it is and unfortunately if you want to get the degree you have to go through the horrible and inaccessible system. We built it, but we can take it apart to make something new and better too. If we can make it through at least.