This week has been quite intense. It’s been a Deadline Week.
Those of you currently researching for a PhD will know what that means. It means stress, it means sending work to colleagues for proofing before submission, and it means meetings with supervisors to have your work dissected before re-writes and re-drafts (remember, you get to take breaks and you get to have some hours off to recharge. Do it – makes reading easier and more efficient.).
Well, this has been my first PhD Deadline Week. It’s been stressful. It’s been difficult. And it’s also been the first deadline of the PhD I’ve missed.
Yeah. I messed up. Late submission. First one. First impression. I missed the deadline. My work was late by several days. I had a meeting with my supervisors and they pointed this fact out very plainly. I got chased up by panel members. I had a panic attack.
You know what happened afterwards?
It was fine.
Don’t get me wrong, try your hardest every time to get work in on time. Get that stuff done early if you can. It’s super important, and it has consequences. Your examiners and panel members need time to read and digest the work of numerous candidates, and their deadlines have given them the bare minimum of time to do it as it is. But your supervisors, your examiners/panel, and your admin staff will get it if there’s something that gets in the way of your work. Life is tough when you’re in the middle of a PhD, especially as a mature student. They’ve done one. They know.
So tell them. My main advice in this post is to keep communication open with everyone involved in your PhD work.
If you’re a month or two away from a deadline and you feel like you need some guidance, email your supervisors. [Supervisors: email your candidates! I know you’re ultra busy, but it’ll be quick, easy, and they’ll be less panicky and messy in meetings as a result.]
If you’re a fortnight out and you don’t know who your panel is, or when your panel is happening, email your supervisors and your department administrators. They know, and they’ll tell you: you just need to ask.
If you’ve got to the deadline day and you know you need another 24 hours, email ALL of the above, and your panellists. And text your Mum, she’ll be very happy you did.
In the words of the mighty Stephen Hawking, as quoted by Pink Floyd, “all we need to do is make sure we keep talking.”
It’s actually been really helpful as a mature student to see my relationship with my supervisors more as a line managerial one than as a “student and master” relationship. This is a job. It’s tough, it has rules, and it has real consequences. But if you start realising that everyone else that’s involved with it sees it as a job, it makes it way easier to do the same.
Tell your supervisors if you’re struggling. Tell them if you need some assistance and guidance in your reading and time management. And please tell them if you’re struggling with health issues, mental or physical.
You’ve got this. But you’re also very much not alone. Your team is there, they’re ready for anything, and they’re pretty much expecting slightly panicky emails after work hours for them to see when they get to the office tomorrow morning (sorry, boss!).
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