Every Day Is A Restart

Not just the 1st of January. Not the 2nd, once you finish celebrating New Year’s Day!

Every day is a chance to look at what you do, how you do it, why you do it and think, “What else…?”

What else can you do to help build your talent?

What else can you do to steer your confidence?

What else will you need to be ready for your viva?

What else can you achieve in this new year?

Here We Go Again

Deep breath.

Get ready.

However much of your PhD is left, whatever 2020 did to you, take what you’ve got – of your research, your thesis and yourself – and build on it.

Find what’s good and do more good.

Find what’s hindering you and steer away from it.

Find what you need to help you get to submission, to the viva and beyond.

If your viva is this year, even if it’s months and months away, just reflect, “What could I do to help myself be ready?” Tuck those thoughts away, and come back to them when it’s time to prepare.

One more time, survive means “manage to keep going in difficult circumstances“.

My wish for you for 2021: Keep Going.

On Track

Even if this year has been bumpy, you’re still on track to succeed if you’ve submitted or are working to getting your thesis finished.

Being on track with your PhD means that you know where you’re going, even if you’re not quite sure how to get there. It means that you know you’ve got better – more skilled, more talented, more knowledgeable – and if you really reflect and review your progress you can see just how far you’ve come.

You’re on track because you’re still here, despite all of the problems, panics and frustrations that a PhD can throw at someone, despite all of the misery and pain that 2020 has brought up, you’re still here.

If you think there are any more bumps ahead, you can deal with them. Look ahead and plan if you need to, or wait for the moment to arrive and overcome as you’ve managed all of the other challenges of your doctorate.

You’re on track. Keep going.

A Long Way From Impossible

There’s lots about life that is difficult at the moment. Some aspects might even be practically impossible, compared to life in 2019, or even a few months ago. Thankfully, the viva isn’t one of those impossible things. There are difficult aspects to vivas, but none are impossible.

  • Knowing what to expect is not impossible. You can ask, you can explore, you can find out.
  • Knowing what to do to prepare is not impossible. It takes time – but not a lot – it could be tricky to manage if you’re social distancing and have limited space, but it can be done.
  • Knowing what to do on the day is not impossible. Ask others how they approached it, find out what’s involved with an online viva, decide how you want to approach the situation.
  • Building confidence for the viva is not impossible. Reflect on what you’ve done previously, see what you can do to remind yourself of all your talent. You must be talented to have got this far.

Some things in life will be beyond your control now. Some things will be impossible for you to do anything practical to change the situation, and that can feel really, really hard in so many ways.

Your viva is not one of those things.

Your viva, in all aspects, is a long way from impossible.

Keep going.

Interesting Times

I tend to write this blog many weeks in advance. As of today, Monday 16th March 2020, I have posts readied until April 5th, but today it felt right to pause and add an extra post.

The world is changing, quickly, and in some ways unpredictably.

Often, change seems gradual, perhaps so slow that we don’t even notice it happening. With some countries today in lockdown, social norms in flux, universities in the UK closing their doors for now, and all of this happening in the space of weeks, it’s difficult to see what happens next.

Last Friday I was in Bristol, delivering a Viva Survivor session, and in and amongst the questions about viva lengths, concerns about going blank or wondering what makes a good examiner, an important question came from the room:

What do I do if my viva is cancelled? I have a date, I’ve booked time off work to prepare, but it might be postponed or move online. What do I do? How can I get ready?

In that moment and since I have had a hundred and one thoughts about how to respond to this concern – a concern which must be going through a lot of PhD candidates’ minds right now. Here are a few:

  • If it’s cancelled, it will be re-arranged.
  • Your prep still counts. It adds to making you ready.
  • If you pause your prep, you can unpause later.
  • If your viva is online, you can make it work. Check details, check the systems involved.
  • If an examiner has to cancel, another will be found. Think about who else could meet the standard for a good examiner for you.

If you’re facing this situation won’t say “don’t worry”. That never helps. I’ll advise you to think – even if the timeline to your viva is now uncertain – think about what you can do today to make tomorrow better. Worry can’t be avoided, but worry won’t solve a situation. Your work will, your actions will. So what actions now will help you in the future for your viva? If you can’t yet act to reduce uncertainty, how can you act to increase your own confidence or talent?

I’m going to continue to publish and share a post every day about the viva. I don’t know how vivas will change, temporarily or otherwise, but I know what examiners are looking for, I know what candidates can do to meet the challenges of a viva, and I can help people to see the kinds of work or ideas that can help them be ready.

If you are struggling, ask someone for help. Ask me: email me, tweet at me, and if I can I will help. I may not have an answer that solves things for you, but I’ve helped a lot of people. If you need to, just ask.

In the short term, it looks like I’m working from home for at least a few months. There will be challenges with that, but also, perhaps, the space for new ideas or opportunities. A Viva Survivor session I was to deliver in person next week is now going to be a webinar. I have never delivered a webinar before! So this will be a chance to learn, grow and develop. We’ll see where that leads. I’ll be using some of my time at home to make more resources and find more ways to help candidates get ready for their viva.

Potentially, the situation in the world means some of my work will be cancelled. As a self-employed person that’s a little unsettling, at times it feels a little scary. But I feel confident that things will work out eventually. If you can help me, do check out my Ko-fi page, consider becoming a follower or supporter there. Or if you’re looking for general, considered viva support, take a look at my ebooks. Little things will help, and if you can help me, I thank you.

But help others first. If someone around you has their viva coming up, and because of the situation in the world they’re extra-worried, extra-nervous, consider how you can support them. Consider what little actions could help them to feel just a little better, because it all adds up. And if no-one around you needs help with their viva, consider how else you can be a helper for those around you.

Ask for help if you need it. Offer help where you can.

Survive means “manage to keep going in difficult circumstances.”

Keep going.

First and Last

That’s what your viva is likely to be. Possibly your first and last time even being in a situation like the viva!

Focus on the first: you can’t expect to be perfect. No-one is perfect the first time they do something. You can prepare, you can be confident, but know that you don’t have to be some unattainable ideal.

Focus on the last: you’re almost done. You’re nearly there. The hardest work is behind you. You can do this. You’ve done everything else that’s got you this far.

Keep going!

No Accident

I’ve got a few questions for you: Did you do the work? Did you show up at the library or the lab or the office? Did you overcome obstacles through the tough times? Did you learn, did you grow, did you develop?

If you did all of these during your PhD, how could you be in a bad position for the viva?

It’s understandable if you are nervous, but it’s no accident that you’ve got this far. Keep going.