I became a senior manager and my diary went wild. I’m going to talk about what it’s like here, both so you can more effectively work with the senior managers in your team (maybe your supervisor, or a significant administrator), but also so you can have an insight into what it’s like to be a senior manager as you think about your own career trajectory.
Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to sit down and attack it directly. But sometimes, you need to come at it sideways. We are often most creative when we are wandering around a problem or when we have taken a break.
One way we have used to make decisions about the future, since deep history, is to attempt to make patterns out of random stuff.
You may have heard the proverb ‘a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, it’s from Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. But while getting started feels hard, finishing a research thesis is so much harder.
Back in 2021, I tracked my writing for a year. I kept a done diary for 6 months (as I’ve previously written about on the blog), but I also met up every month with an old co-author and we each wrote a little report on what we’d been doing: what was growing in the garden, what we were eating, what was going on in the world, what we were doing to move, what we were reading, but also what we were doing to progress our next writing project.
As I was getting to the end of the recent book, I was buying books at my usual pace but not reading them (as that brainspace was completely taken up with reading my own draft or references for the draft).
Now the book is in and the summer has started, I felt excited to dive into all these books but I also felt stuck. I couldn’t get into gear, let alone find my groove.
So I rummaged around in my toolbox, and came up with this list of techniques. None of them are perfect, but little by little we are turning the dial back to reading.
“Deadline juice” is a term I just made up when talking to a student the other day, but it’s pretty apt. It describes the eustress response to an upcoming deadline—a healthy (yes short term appropriate stress responses are healthy!) jolt of adrenaline when your energy is up, your focus is up, your speed is up.
If you have ever learned the piano, you may have had to do ‘five finger exercises’—little pieces that are less about their musical value, and more about making you use all five fingers on your hands, to improve your technique. They are warm-ups, strengthening and skill-building exercises. They are part of the invisible part of performing music—I have never seen a concert performance of these exercises, but I’m also certain that every concert pianist I have ever paid to listen to, has done hours and hours of them in their time.
The doctoral journey looks different for everyone, but there are some common hard parts. Knowing that these parts can be hard for lots of people is often a bit reassuring. It also helps you to plan—I had a lot of friends doing their PhD ahead of me, so I was able to watch them and know what might be coming for me.