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003 - The Zen of PhD

Long time no see!

This 4th post comes after 2 initial attempts which I ended up never publishing because I didn't feel 100% confident about them. I still don't think they would have brought anything interesting to this research blog, but they were very useful to me. This is the reason why I still decided to post a short text about them. Writing these two drafts allowed me to think certain things through. In fact, they turned out to be funnels to better understand the origins of my frustration, which was mainly caused by the fact that I was under the impression that time was flying by while I was not accomplishing much regarding my research.

I initially searched for a culprit in the specific of my situation, and the fact that instead of starting from scratch on a research project, I had been transitioning from a position as a research engineer. Yes, on the one hand, it enabled me to be very familiar with my field of research, but on the other hand, it meant that up until this Spring, I was still spending time on tasks that were linked to my previous missions. Anytime my bandwidth shrank and TO-DO list grew, I felt like I was prevented from "focusing on my PhD."

Eventually, the first draft turned into a list of all the projects in which I used to be involved, not just the ones that impacted my schedule. The second draft had me conclude that the actual problem was that I lacked a clear orientation for my research. In the end, I realized that I was indeed responsible for my own frustration. If I don't build a clearer frame within which to organize my work, I can't create landmarks to measure how much I progress. I can't clearly define what it means to be working for or "on my PhD."

To be honest, as far as I am concerned, this is easier said than done. I think there is a good part of improvisation and instinct in the way I work. It is satisfying when the outcomes are good, but it is certainly not the most efficient way to use my time. Gaining better working habits, more discipline but also more methodical ways of organizing my experiments is in fact one of my long term objectives. After all, doctoral studies are not all about research, they are also dedicated to training and learning new skills...