Before The End

A long time ago I would regularly help to deliver residential learning programmes for researchers. Two or three days at an isolated retreat centre, long hours, creative project work, sharing ideas and experiences and thinking about what it all meant. I loved it.

The course director had a good way to close each experiential learning programme. We would all sit down, two or three staff and maybe a dozen or so postgraduate researchers and talk about what the programme had meant. Before the end, we would go around in a circle and just say anything we needed to in order to finish.

This might be something that had stood out. Something we were thankful for. In some cases something that was bothering someone. Something that had been a surprise. Something that had been learned.

And when each person had said their piece they would finish simply with, “I’m done.”

I’ve been reminiscing a little lately and thinking about the end of my PhD. Looking back I do think I could have finished things off better. After my viva I was so focussed on getting my corrections complete and my thesis finished. Then I was wondering what I would do next. Before I knew it I had to pack my desk and office space up, move things out and start something new.

I don’t wish I had had more time, but I do wish I had used my time differently. After my corrections I wish I had spent a little more time on sorting things out. On deciding what I would and wouldn’t be taking home with me. I kept boxes of notes and papers for years before realising I was never going to do anything with them.

And I particularly wish I had taken more time to thank people who had helped me.

My encouragement for you: do what I didn’t. Take a little time after your viva to make sure you finish in a good way. You will be busy. You will have 101 things to do. Still, take a little time to decide carefully on what you do and don’t need for the future. Take a little time to thank people before you move on to the next thing you’ll do.

OK. I’m done.