Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Confidence

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts. Today we finish my annual round-up with my favourite posts from 2019 on the subject of confidence. After considering expectations, examiners, practical prep and all of the other topics that come to mind about the viva, confidence is the missing piece of the puzzle. It’s a very personal topic for me too, as I can see the difference it’s made to me since finishing my PhD.

Confidence helps put nerves and doubts into perspective, and helps candidates to see the talent that has lead them to the viva. Let me know what others posts have helped this year. Subscribe to the blog to get a new post by email every day in 2020!

Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Short Posts

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts over a few days. In today’s round-up I want to share some of my favourite short posts. Sometimes an idea doesn’t take much to explain!

  • Requirements – all you need for your PhD.
  • Everything! – what you can’t have done!
  • Questions & Answers – a couple of thoughts about where your viva comes from.
  • A Better List Than Typos – something to focus on rather than spelling mistakes.
  • Labels – reflecting on the words that you choose to use to describe yourself, your examiners and the viva.
  • Final – putting the importance of the viva in perspective.

Drop me a line if you have other favourite short posts from 2019! Tomorrow, in the final post for this year we come to one of the most important topics for the viva: confidence.

Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Long Posts

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts over a few days. I try to keep my daily posts as brief as possible, but sometimes it takes more than a hundred words to get to where I’m going. Today, I’m sharing some of my favourite long posts from the last year, covering a range of topics!

These are a few of my favourite longer posts. Read any more that you like? Let me know, and check out tomorrow’s post where I go in the opposite direction and share some of my favourite short posts from this year!

Best of Viva Survivors 2019: Viva Prep

Each year I finish my blogging by sharing some of my favourite posts over a few days. We’ll start my annual round-up with my favourite posts from 2019 on the subject of viva prep. Every PhD candidate will need to do something after submission to help themselves get ready. The posts below offer a range of different activities and encouragements to help with busy weeks waiting for the viva.

Spotted any other posts this year that you thought really helped with viva preparation? Let me know, and check back over the coming days for most Best of 2019 blog posts!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from Viva Survivors!

However you’ll celebrate over the next few weeks, or if you won’t be, I wish you all the very best. Take a break, spend time with friends and family, if your viva is in January then maybe you need to do something over the next few weeks – but there is time. Take time for yourself.

The blog won’t be updating for the next five days, but starting on Saturday 28th December there will be a series of four daily “best of” posts from this year. It’s become a little tradition of mine to round out each year with some of the posts I’m most proud of.

Very best wishes from me to you, and thanks to everyone who’s read the blog, shared a post, bought an ebook or tweeted about one of my resources in 2019.

All the best,

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors on Twitter!)

It’s a Wonderful Viva

A few days ago I was inspired by A Christmas Carol. Today my mind turns to It’s a Wonderful Life, which is my favourite Christmas movie. I could write a lot about how this movie makes me feel, what I adore about it, why it makes me cry every time I watch it, but let me pull out a key moment and why it’s worth remembering for your viva.

Towards the end, the protagonist, George, who thinks his life has gotten so terrible that it would be better if he had never been born, is given the chance to see what that world would be like. He is shown a town which is cruel, where people are mean, where no-one knows him and where some of the people he knows are fundamentally different – all because he wasn’t there as part of their lives.

As his angel (second-class!) guide Clarence tells him, “You see, George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?

Now, I don’t imagine many PhD candidates consider stopping just before their viva, or truly wish they had never started. However stressed or worried, whatever fears are conjured, whatever doubts they may have about their ability, they probably don’t wish for it not to be taking place, or for them not to be PhD candidates.

Still, remember: by doing your PhD you have made a difference. You have made something that wasn’t there before. You have become better than you were. You know more and can do more. And along the way you will have helped others, directly and indirectly.

By doing your PhD you have made a difference. Remember that and it might make a difference for how you feel about your viva.

2019 In Stats

In 2019 I have…

  • …published 360 posts on this blog!
  • …delivered my Viva Survivor session a total of 51 times…
    • …which is the most I’ve ever done in a year!
  • …helped 888 PhD candidates at my session, which is more than I did in 2018!
  • …started work on three new ebook projects that will see completion by Easter 2020!

(in case you couldn’t tell by all the exclamation marks, I’m feeling pretty excited!)

My personal highlights of the year include delivering Viva Survivor at a wildlife park – where I fed a lion! Shortly after that I passed the 200 session mark for my Viva Survivor delivery – and then I passed 225 sessions several months later! I’ve now delivered Viva Survivor to over 4000 postgraduate researchers around the UK.

Statistics are numbers, more of this, less of that, totals and highlights and averages. Statistics help mark the journey though.

“I delivered 51 Viva Survivor sessions this year” – the number helps me remember how I got where I am. Confidence isn’t a statistic, but statistics help frame the story.

What are your statistics for 2019?

  • How many times have you had a success?
  • How many days did you show up to get your work done?
  • How many talks have you given – even if you felt nervous?
  • How many words/pages/chapters have you written?
  • How many times did you get something wrong – and what did you learn?
  • And what can you measure to show that you’re doing well?

Your stats help tell a story you can tell others – after first telling a good story to¬†you. Your story can persuade others you’ve done something good, convince them you can do what you can do and that you know what you know.

Start with the stats of your story.

A Good Viva

It could be yours.

You can’t buy one and guarantee the quality. You can’t plot out what you would like the most from it and then ensure those criteria are matched. You won’t know it for sure until you’re in there.

But all the same, it could be yours.

You can do the work that gets you to submission – building talent, knowledge and confidence as you go.

You could discuss potential examiners with your supervisor – and find out more about them after submission.

You can learn about the regulations and expectations for vivas – and decide how you can best meet them.

You can spend a little time in preparation for your viva – not by fretting, but by focussing on what needs to be done.

You can go to the viva not knowing what is going to happen, but knowing that you are ready. You can be nervous, but you can be confident.

It could be long, it could be short, it could be tiring, it could be exhilirating, it could be hard – and it can be good.

Marley’s Post

I love A Christmas Carol. I’ve read the book, seen stage plays, cartoons, films and other adaptations. The story, in every form I’ve met it, always resonates. It’s only by visits from the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future that Ebeneezer Scrooge is able to see the value of Christmas and see what he needs to change in himself. He needs to see Christmas Past and Present to see what he is missing (and what others are missing) and to see a Future which shows what might happen if he does not change.

You won’t be visited by three spirits or ghosts before your viva! Still, however you feel about the viva – Scrooge-like or not! – it’s worth considering the Past, Present and Future to be ready for it.

  • The Past. What have you done that has got you this far? And what have your friends told you about their vivas to set your mind at rest?
  • The Present. What do the regulations tell you about what to expect? What might you need to do in the coming weeks and months leading up to your viva?
  • The Future. What are the potential likely outcomes for your viva and what do they mean? And what will you do to get ready for it?

Consider, and learn the lessons of the Past, the Present and the Future for your viva!

Top Of The Hill

When you make the long trek up the hill of your research, and reach the summit of completion, you’re more or less ready for your viva.

To stretch the analogy a little further:

  • Explore the route that you took. Was it the best route? How did you fare on your climb?
  • Reflect on the help you had. Who were your guides? How did they help you?
  • Look out from the summit. What can you see now? What’s on the horizon?

Perhaps the viva is a little like the walk back down the hill. You know the way, the terrain is more familiar, it won’t take as long as the climb up… Your footing could still be a little treacherous in places, but you have more experience than when you climbed up.

You can see more from the top of a hill than the bottom. And you can only get there through your effort and time.