Prompted by the fact that today is my wedding anniversary, I’ve been wondering whether or not people generally celebrate passing their viva years afterwards. June this year marked my tenth vivaversary (if you like forced portmanteau words!). I think about mine every year, but I’m an anomaly because it’s sort of my job to think about the viva a lot.

I imagine for some people, after a few years, it just becomes part of the background radiation of their life: a low level buzz you only notice when you have to fill in a form and someone asks about your title.

For some it’ll be front and centre, a defining moment, part of who you are, what you do, how you live your life – and not because you’re an academic or have a job that requires a PhD. It becomes a core bit of your identity.

Whatever it means to you, however you celebrate it at the time or afterwards or even if you don’t, it’s worth making a note of your viva date. You won’t get a present every year, but it will fix that achievement in your life’s calendar.

It means something.

You did it.

A Lot To Celebrate

Celebration is a human fundamental. We’re wired to mark the important things, and finishing a PhD is a big one. There are lots of points where you can stop and say, “Woohoo!” and it’s useful to mark your progress.

Celebrate your first draft being done, then celebrate when you submit.

Do something to celebrate getting your viva date, because you’re one step closer to the finish line.

When you pass have as many celebrations as you like, one for each group you belong to – family, friends, colleagues, and so on – and then celebrate again when your corrections are complete.

There is a lot to celebrate. Celebrations don’t have to be big, but finishing your PhD is a big deal. Don’t play it down. Don’t focus solely on it being done and move on to the next thing.

Why does getting your PhD mean something to you? Celebrate it.

One Step Closer

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by research, by writing up, by getting ready for the viva and the day itself. There are lots of things you could do to advance any one of those goals. Sometimes the problem is that there are lots of things you could do alongside many things you already have to do just to be a part of the world.

Start small then.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed then find one small thing you can do (not could, can), and do it. Move yourself one step closer to the finish line of submitting your thesis, or getting ready for the viva. It might not feel like much, but lots of small steps will bring you to your goal.

So what’s your first step going to be?

Letting Go

At some point you have to let go of your thesis. At some point it’s as good as it’s going to get. You can’t anticipate every comment you could get from examiners. You can’t write things in an effort to prevent questions. It doesn’t work that way.

For any kind of creative work – and a thesis¬†is a creative work – there comes a point where you have to stop, be happy with what you’ve done and move on. Moving on after submission means preparing for the viva, using the solid foundations of your research and thesis.

Let go when you submit. You’ve done as much as you could possibly do.