A Week Off

Today is the start of my daughter’s school half term break, so I’m taking a week off! No webinar delivery, no sitting down to write, no admin or prep; I’ll check my email every other day perhaps just in case there’s something that can’t wait, but otherwise it’s family time for me.

The blog will continue to be published though. I planned ahead. Actually, I plan a long time ahead for this blog. I have a system in place so that if I was sick and had to take time off it would still keep going fine, for a while at least. The same with my business. I planned ahead, in the long term, to make sure nothing was in my diary for this week. I planned in the short term to make sure that things were finished last Friday or left in a good state for picking up next week.

A week off could be just what you need when you submit your thesis. A chance to pause, step back, rest, relax, clear your mind and do something for yourself, before you have to pick up your thesis and start to get ready for the viva.

A week off takes a little prep. Looking ahead, planning, finding good stopping points for projects, or sketching out how you start going again.┬áTime off helps you work well when it’s time to be on. Make sure you take the time you need to help yourself be at your best.

Pressures & Priorities

When and how do you get ready for the viva? How do you manage what needs to be done, especially considering that you’ve already got lots that you need to do?

Consider the pressures on your time and availability to get the work done. You don’t need thirty hours per week for a month before the viva; a little time each day can help. Focussed work helps you get ready.

If you have a job or responsibilities, if you’re looking for work or face other pressures then you can find time to get your prep done. Step back and look at the big picture. Find gaps to allow you to get the work done.

Consider that viva prep – even while getting ready for your viva – is probably not the number one priority in your life. Acknowledge that it needs doing, accept that there are other things that have to be your main focus, then plan out where and when you will do your work to get ready for the viva.

Sketch a plan over the period you think best, making sure there is enough time to do all of the things that will help you: reading your thesis, making notes, checking papers and rehearsing for the viva.

The pressures and priorities that are your personal situation can only be navigated by you. Step back: look at how things are and what you need to make space for. Then find a solution that works for you.

Little Things

If you’ve submitted your thesis but don’t yet have a date for the viva then it might feel early to prepare for meeting your examiners. Before you have a date it could feel like you’re aiming at a target that is vague or not quite real.

Viva prep is not so tightly timed, usually, that one has to wait for a date. At some point after submission you could simply start – but if you have other responsibilities or are worried that starting soon will mean you forget things, then you could do some of the following while you wait:

  • Read the thesis examination regulations for your institution.
  • Explore papers by your examiners to get a sense of their work.
  • Write one or two short summaries of some aspect of your work.
  • Have coffee with a friend and have a gentle conversation about your research.
  • Plan how you will do your prep once you know the date.
  • Read a couple of posts each day from a daily blog all about the viva…!

You could do lots of little things to help begin your preparation. You don’t have to wait for a date to start getting ready. Reflect and explore how you could use your time wisely.

Make Space

Doing your viva prep might mean that you need more space or time than you currently have. You already have a busy life and now there’s one more thing to do. It’s only for a limited time but it could feel like a lot.

Thankfully, taken together, all of the tasks you might do to get ready for the viva don’t amount to much. Making space to do them means, depending on how busy you are, just finding a little room:

  • Breathe. Remember that many, many people have had their viva and have got ready for it. You can too.
  • Plan. Think ahead. Explore when you need to start and sketch out when you will do certain things.
  • Get help. There are many people around you who can give you support. Ask!
  • Do a little work, often. You don’t need to spend hours at a time. Small tasks build up how ready you are.

Thinking ahead and planning can create the space and environment you need to do the work as stress-free as possible. You’re busy, but only a little space is needed to get your prep done.

No Time

If it feels like getting ready for your viva is a lot of pressure, or if you feel like you already have a lot of priorities, then start small.

Do one thing. Find thirty minutes to read and commit to it, rather than rush and hurry to get it done. Make a small window in your busy life to make some notes. Ask a friend to spare half an hour to listen and ask questions.

If it feels like there is no time you still have to prep. Ask for help. Get support from friends and family to free you up to do the necessary work for getting ready.

If you only have a little time you still won’t need a lot to get ready for the viva.

Getting Ready If You’re Busy

I had a luxury of time to prepare for my viva. I didn’t have a job or a family, so I treated my prep as a continuation of my 35-to-40 hours per week routine.

Most candidates won’t be in that position. You could have a full-time job, or a part-time job, or family obligations or 101 other things that I didn’t have to think about.

And that doesn’t need to be a problem. It just takes a little planning to make sure you don’t feel overwhelmed.

There are lots of things you could do to get ready (and there are lots of posts on this site on those sorts of topics!). Think about what will make you feel prepared. Explore how much time you might have, based on when you might submit and what your work pattern is like.

Break things down. How long would it take to read a chapter of your thesis? How long would it take to write a summary of a chapter? How could you spread it out over the weeks before your viva?

Even if you don’t have specific dates and times now, you can map out roughly how you might get it done. Keep that rough map. When your thesis is submitted you can start to make that sketch a reality.

Viva preparation doesn’t take hundreds and hundreds of hours. If you’re busy, or you’re going to be, sketch a plan today.