The quiet days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve offer enough room for self-reflection – just in time before the year comes to an end. And with that comes the urge to think of ways we can better ourselves. The typical rookie mistake (which hopefully nobody is making anymore) is being overly ambitious about all the habitual changes that can be made starting on January 1st 2023. Be it picking up a new hobby or swapping bad habits with good ones, the most common reason for failure is lack of consistency. By mid-February most people won’t even know what their New Year’s resolution entailed.
To help you, our fellow PhD students, slim down your lists of potential items to add to your resolutions, we took the liberty of rating the classics for you.
Publishing at least x-amount of papers
Ambition is great. But only in appropriate dose. And only if your ambition does not become the expectation to which you hold yourself accountable. Getting work published is not easy and therefore a massive achievement. Deciding during the holiday season that your future-self has to measure up to the unrealistic expectation you have set for them is the perfect recipe for developing imposter syndrome. Be kind to yourself and celebrate all your achievements. In some years you will publish more than in others. Aiming for publications is a good but staying realistic is key.
SGSAH rating: 4/10 stars (+ a coaching class for your imposter syndrome)
Hitting the gym
The motivation behind this resolution usually stems from wanting to be more active. Gyms can be very convenient and allow you to exercise in your own time, at your own pace, and to the best of your physical abilities. But all this freedom and lack of commitment means that you need quite some self-motivation and discipline to get yourself there regularly. Doing a PhD is already a straining exercise in self-discipline and quite isolating as well, so think twice before you take on more of that. Try to think of any other activities you would rather try out. Perhaps there is a university society or sports club that can allow you to stay active with others. Don’t default to the gym and explore your interests and other options first. And please don’t be that person who only shows up to the gym until mid-January but keeps paying for their membership until the end of the year.
SGSAH rating: 5/10 stars (+ water bottle because hydration is key)
One book per week
Do people actually find the time to read one book per week for pleasure? While I really like this resolution because it forces you to differentiate between academic and recreational reading, I think quantifying it, adds an unnecessary layer of stress to an experience that is meant to be enjoyable. Stop counting how many books you have read halfway through the year and enjoy the time you are consciously dedicating to the books that have started collecting dust on your bedside table.
SGSAH rating: 6/10 stars (+ dust wipes)
Improving time management
The arguably most transferable skill acquired during a PhD across all disciplines is time management. Rarely in life are you left alone for multiple years to dig into your rabbit hole and create new knowledge to present in a your dissertation. And like any other skill, time management has to be learnt and practiced consistently. There are several different methods to improve time management, a popular choice for that being bullet-journaling. Here, you organise different aspects of your life, set reminders, and create to-do lists in a single notebook and log your achievements at the end of each day. Being held accountable by an inanimate object apparently works for many and ends up improving overall time management. To get starting, see if your university offers crash courses or seminars on time management.
SGSAH rating: 9/10 stars (+ stationary)
Celebrating the small achievements
The PhD journey is long and can feel isolating at times. To boost your own morale (because maybe nobody else will) make sure you don’t take your achievements for granted and celebrate them. Treat yourself to a cupcake, get together with your friends for a nice dinner or go on the weekend trip you have planned a while ago (shoutout to the annual SGSAH residential at this point). Don’t wait until the day of your graduation to be proud of how far you have come.
SGSAH rating: 10/10 (+ party hats)
Anna Rezk is a 2nd year PhD researcher in Design Informatics at the University of Edinburgh in partnership with the BBC R&D. Her research revolves around the implication of personalised and highly customisable public service media content and how it can be leveraged to promote inclusive and democratic civic participation. Due to her background in journalism and computer science, she is particularly interested in news, and how content can be algorithmically enhanced and curated without thwarting editorial intent. Find her on Twitter as @anna_rezk.