The Changing Whys

Why did you start your PhD?

Why did you keep going?

Why did you make progress?

Why were you ready to submit when you did?

Why are you going to be ready for your viva?

You had your reasons that got you started in your research. While those might change as you keep going, you still have your whys as you head to the finish.

Circumstances for your viva might change, pressures might rise up that you were not expecting. Keep a hold of your whys – why you’re doing your PhD, the fundamentals – and you’ll get through.

(remember the definition of survive)

7 Reasons Webinar, 10th September 2020

A bonus post for today! The short version: I’m running my 7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva webinar this Thursday morning.

I love helping PhD candidates get ready for their viva. Earlier this year, during lockdown, I explored a few ways to reach out and help as much as I could. 7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva resonated strongly with participants, and I’m delighted to be offering it again now.

A lot of candidates are told not to worry about their viva. They’re told that it will be fine. They don’t need to stress. And that isn’t helpful. It’s true, but it’s not helpful! Candidates need to know why they don’t need to worry. Candidates need to know what to do to help their concerns.

And that’s what 7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva is all about.

If your viva is coming soon, or you’re curious about what you can do to help yourself, the webinar this Thursday, 10th September 2020, will probably help you. You’ll get a sense of what the viva is about, what you can do to prepare, realise what you’ve already done that helps you and more – plus have space to ask any questions that are particularly troubling you.

I think that every PhD candidate could benefit from this session. I’m really proud of what I’ve developed – of course, I would say that, wouldn’t I?! 🙂 Don’t just take my word for it:

7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva is running this Thursday, 10th September 2020 at 11am. It’s 1-hour, live, and there are only 40 places. Registration is £10, but until midnight today (Monday 7th) there is an earlybird registration of £5. If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll sign-up or tell someone you know who could get some help from this session.

Thanks for your attention 🙂

(and if you have any questions about the session, or about anything really, do get in touch!)

You Have More Than Hope

You have all the days you spent working for your PhD.

You have all the nights you spent as well.

You have all the questions you asked.

You have all the answers you found.

You have all the lightbulb moments when something came into focus.

You have the nervous times before a talk, and the moments spent sharing what you’ve done.

You have the questions you were asked and what you said in response.

You have your thoughts and feelings about your research.

You have all your motivations that push you on.

You have your friends, family, colleagues, supervisor and community.

You have expectations for what will happen.

You have a thesis! And everything else you wrote and crossed out to get it into one book.

You can hope your viva goes well, but you have more than hope.

You’ve got this far for a reason. Keep going.


My youngest sister is nearly eight years my junior. It feels at times like we’re separated by generations. I’m sure she was the first person I heard use the words “ceebs” as a contraction of “can’t be bothered.”

It’s a good word. Said with the right tone it perfectly conveys the frustrated boredom of knowing what you need to do, but being unable to get going. You can make a plan, set short term goals, have a vision and still some days you’re just ceebs.

Maybe you’re like this with getting your thesis finished or preparing for the viva. Maybe it all seems too big. Maybe you can’t see the end yet. What then?

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of work by Tony Robbins lately. I like one of the solutions that he promotes for ceebs: just do something. Don’t try to think your way out of whatever funk you’re in. Sitting there, thinking about not being all ceebs isn’t going to do it. Get up and walk around, change your physical state. Start something. Write something. Pick up a paper and read it. Open to a chapter in your thesis and start making notes.

Totally ceebs with your thesis or viva prep? Get going.


Where does your drive come from? What pushes you on to complete your goals? I’m not asking because your examiners necessarily will want to know, but because I think it’s good for you to bring it front and centre for yourself.

Is it for personal achievement? Is it for a career? Is it to make someone proud? Is it to be the best? There’s no right or wrong answers, just a source of energy.

The PhD is supposed to be difficult. Your motivation can help move you beyond the difficulties. Doing things can get so intense that we forget why we’re doing them in the first place. So take a step back and put that motivation at the front.

Why are you doing this? OK, now do it.