This week I have decided to write a more personal blog post. I think it is important to be open and honest with oneself, and I find that writing about how I feel can help me to clarify my thoughts. So, be warned that the following differs in content from my previous posts, but I hope it provides insight into the ups and downs of being a postgraduate student for students and non-students alike.
Over the past few weeks I have seen a gradual change in my day-to-day activities. This is, in part, due to a change from planning things to doing things. For weeks, I have been planning the semi-structured interviews, whereas I have now run pilots to finalise the questions and have started recruiting for participants to take part. Since the beginning of the year, I have been planning a research workshop for CDE students with some of the other student reps, which went very well yesterday. For months, I have been planning the first steering group meeting, which is going ahead tomorrow.
This change from planning to doing has been a welcome one, and I am looking forward to doing more in coming weeks as I conduct interviews and analyse the results. However, I have also been feeling like I am not doing enough. I keep asking myself "why?", but I do not know the answer. I am not sure if I think there are expectations I need to meet, or if I am putting too much pressure on myself. When I write down all the things I have done, especially when I consider the extra-curricular things I do each week, it's difficult to justify these feelings of inadequacy.
At the same time, I have seen some of my peers who have developed umpteen prototypes for their projects, when I've only got the one, and seem to be miles ahead as a researcher. Something my industrial supervisor has highlighted to me is that it is difficult to compare your own progress with that of other people, even if they are at the same stage of their programme. It's simply not possible, since everyone's project is different. Yet, we all do it anyway. Being aware of this is important, and I usually end up steering myself away from the "comparison spiral of doom", or helping others to avoid it, but it still rears its head now and then.
The doing has helped because now I feel that I have gone from juggling the planning of four or five different things to having done something concrete I can share with my supervisors (and blog readers!) in coming months. I do have a tendency to take on a lot, but that's because I like being busy. Perhaps being kinder to myself and reflecting on what I have done instead of what I still have to do could help mitigate these feelings. I certainly feel better after putting my thoughts into words.
I'm sure there will be other moments of doubt and uncertainty over the course of my EngD programme. I'll have to make sure to come and read this advice from past me if I find myself feeling like it again, but for now I'm interested to know what you think:
How do you manage feelings of 'not doing enough'?
Let me know in the comments below or send me a tweet on Twitter!