Nice, But Not Necessary

As you finish up your thesis, take twenty minutes to make a list of all the things that didn’t quite make it.

  • What did you not have time for?
  • What did you not have enough resources to do?
  • What didn’t come together in your thinking?
  • What did you realise too late to do anything about?
  • What would you have changed if possible?

Label the list Nice, But Not Necessary. Add anything else you had thought to do, thought was a good idea, but which you didn’t get to. It can help you to think around your thesis, different approaches, tangents that would be good to explore, ideas that could have merit.

Interesting stuff, but not essential.

Keep the list, but know you don’t need to focus on what-might-have-been. Your thesis, the necessary, the essential, is good enough.

Learning From Mistakes

Nevermind typos in my final thesis, I made far bigger mistakes throughout my PhD research…

  • I spent days trying to solve a typesetting issue, before realising I was making a simple code error.
  • I tried for weeks to organise a set of numbers before realising that I was really overcomplicating the situation.
  • And I worked for months trying to solve a series of calculations before admitting that the problem was way too complex for my PhD.

In all of these I struggled, I was frustrated and at times I was bitterly disappointed – but I learned.

I learned how to be a better coder. I learned to see problems in new ways. I learned to stop and say no.

Where did you make mistakes during your PhD? What did you learn? And how has that made you a better, more talented researcher?

Limits

A PhD is all about limits.

  • There’s a limit to how much you could do.
  • There’s a limit to how many questions you could ask and answer.
  • There’s a limit to how many papers you could read.
  • There’s a limit to how long you can spend writing your thesis.
  • There’s a limit to how much time you can invest in preparing for your viva.

You can’t do everything you want. There will always be other things you could do.

You have a choice. You can focus on everything that didn’t happen; you can try to speculate and account for all of the maybes and possibles…

…or you could focus on your limits and where they’ve lead you.

You’ve got this far through your research journey by having limits. Keep going.

The Extra Mile

During my PhD I didn’t have to extend my algorithm to consider the HOMFLY polynomial…

…but I thought it was more useful than just writing it was possible in a discussion section.

I didn’t have to produce tables of plait presentations in my thesis…

…but I knew that no-one else had done it before and thought it might be helpful to someone.

When have you gone the extra mile in your PhD? When have you done something, big or small, that maybe wasn’t essential but which helped?

Make a list of what and why. Don’t play them down. They can show others your drive to do something valuable for your field.

Hiatus

What happened?

It’s been some time since I’ve posted a new episode, and I’m sorry to say that there might not be another before the end of 2016. Episode 63 came out a few days before we went on a family holiday. When we came back we had the convergence of a busy work period and our daughter started nursery, which has added a new adjustment to the flow of our daily lives here at Casa Ryder.

It dawned on me recently that I had forgotten to follow up with a few people who had volunteered to come on the podcast – and then it dawned on me that I had forgotten to even promote the podcast through the Twitter feed. Recently, I’ve been working on a few new projects and a few old ideas, and the podcast has slipped through the cracks as a result.

So what now?

  • I need to spend time to shake up the design of the site and get the Other Resources page up to date;
  • I need to follow up with people who have volunteered to come on the podcast and share their experiences;
  • I need to book a window in my diary to start a new research project and I want to ask both for your help to promote it, and for question ideas;
  • And I need to do another Q&A episode, because I enjoyed the challenge of making the first one.

If I spend a bit of time now and think it through, make a proper plan, then I can get 2017 off to a good start!

In the mean time…

…if you’ve been in touch before about coming on the podcast, expect an email in the near future. If you’d like to come on and share your research and viva experiences, then please get in touch. If you’re looking for viva experiences from a wide range of PhD graduates then check out the Archive. And if you’re looking for a bit of extra support then check out my ebooks and print offerings – including the ultra-concentrated Viva Prep Handbook!

Thanks for reading, thanks for your support and thanks for listening to the podcast.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Viva Survivor Workshop Update 1!

A week ago I announced my viva preparation workshop, Viva Survivor, which is taking place on June 29th in Manchester. I’ve been delivering these workshops in universities for six years, but this is the first time that I’ll be offering it directly to PhD candidates – and I want to make it extra special for people who are coming. Over the next four weeks I’ll be blogging here and over on my work blog about the behind the scenes things as I prepare for this workshop; this is my first update over here, so let’s recap:

I’m writing a blog post soon for my main work blog about books, but here is a sneak peek: I’ve created a paperback print run for my first book Fail Your Viva!

PrintRun1

Participants at the workshop will receive a copy as part of their participant pack, and I made a print run of 100 copies to be able to offer the book directly. I’ve created a books page where you can order them from me, and have a stack of padded envelopes ready and waiting to send them on their way. I love reading books on my Kindle, but there’s something awesome about a print book. If print is more your thing, then maybe this is what you’ve been looking for! Check here for more details.

I have some more great things to share about the workshop over the coming weeks – and plus next week the podcast is four years old, so I’ll do something fun over the week to celebrate that 🙂

Thanks for reading – check out the Eventbrite page for more details, and if you know someone who might be interested then feel free to share this with them!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Q&A Episode Coming Soon

Hello!

One of the few podcasts I regularly listen to is the Tim Ferriss Show: I highly recommend it, Tim interviews people about how they manage to be excellent in their fields. It’s a wild ride sometimes, and he has a huge variety of people on his show. I don’t think that the Viva Survivors Podcast is a “wild ride” but I think it’s great that there is such a variety of PhD graduates who come on here to share their experiences.

A few times now, Tim has had special Q&A episodes and listeners ask him all kinds of things – anything and everything really. It struck me a month or so ago that this might be a useful thing to do on Viva Survivors, at least every now and then. I used the poll function on Twitter to see if this was interesting to followers, and got a couple of positive votes, and also heard from several friends to say that this was a neat idea.

So let’s do it!

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Calling all PhD Graduates!

The Viva Survivors Podcast is almost three years old! I can’t believe it personally, it seems like only yesterday that I was sat on my friend Shaine’s couch, hoping that the app I had downloaded was going to work fine and that his daughter would stay asleep while we chatted about his research and viva.

Forty episodes later and here we are. I’ve had to take time off every now and then, but am really feeling back in the flow again now. Part of this is having a loose schedule to work towards, of releasing two episodes a month, give or take. This has been easier in the last six months because at times I’ve recorded several podcasts in a very short space of time and then released them every few weeks.

I’m writing now because I need YOUR help to make the next few episodes happen. Can you come on the podcast and share your experiences? Or do you know a PhD graduate who would be happy to share their PhD and viva stories? I’m looking for three kinds of interviewees at the moment:

  • PhD Graduates: full time, part time, recent or from years ago, I want to hear from you and hear all about your research and experiences. Many more people want to hear what your viva was like too!
  • Academics: I’ve so far made two Academic Job Specials, and these have been really popular in helping people think through different aspects of pursuing and maintaining academic jobs and careers. Academia is in the mind a lot around viva time for many people – your experience and advice could really help.
  • Examiners: Have you examined PhD theses and conducted vivas? You have really valuable ideas about the other side of the viva, and this could be hugely helpful to those who listen to the podcast. Dr Katy Shaw shared her experience of being an examiner in Episode 32. Your advice could also really help.

I’ve got a few weeks coming up where I will be largely working from home; I’ll be using some of this time to play with my daughter, some of it to start writing my next book and I want to use some of it to record the summer slate of podcasts. It may be that if you were interviewed in the last week of May that your Episode would not debut until the end of August – but if you have the time now it will be hugely helpful in maintaining the podcast this year.

If you want to come on the podcast, for any of the three possibilities mentioned above then please get in touch – either email me, tweet @VivaSurvivors or @DrRyder or leave a comment on this post. If you know someone else who would be great to have on the podcast, or have an idea of a viva-related area that you think would be good to explore then let me know too.

I’ve loved doing this podcast for the last three years, and look forward to doing it for a long time to come. Please help me make that happen.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS: I have a new book out!

Support the Podcast!

The Viva: Who? What? How? is out!

"The Viva: Who? What? How?"

The Viva: Who? What? How? is out now!

What is this?

An ebook. Twenty-seven chapters, nearly 20,000 words, and answers to the most frequently asked questions about the PhD viva in the UK. I deliver viva preparation workshops, and over the last five years I’ve got a great understanding about the questions that distract PhD candidates. This book helps eliminate those distractions.

There are more details below, but if all you want are the purchase links, here they are!

  • In the UK, The Viva: Who? What? How? is in the Kindle Store here.
  • In the UK and around the world, The Viva: Who? What? How? is available from Payhip here.

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