Putting yourself (and research) first


This post is about over-commitment. Over-commitment is like this invisible ‘thing’ that I seem to attach myself to far too often, and this year i’ve decided to let go of the strong bond that holds us together and put myself, and my research, first.

When I was an undergraduate student, I worked a minimum of 15-20 hours alongside my degree to support myself.  In Honours, I was working 30 hours a week in the public sector while I was studying full-time. The motivation for working this much was purely financial, I had to make ends meet. Yes, I was busy.  And no, it didn’t leave a lot of time to fulfill my social needs, and I still managed to make time. But only just. I was over-committing. 

The same thing happened during, and after, Masters. I handed in my Masters in early December, 2014. A week later, I was working full-time at a private educational provider in a role that challenged me in more ways than I can describe. Meanwhile, I was awaiting the results of my thesis, which came through in February. Two months later, my thesis was lodged, and I was back working as a tutor and as a Research Assistant at the uni. Tutoring is one of my favourite things in the world, and if any of you know me, you know exactly how much I love seeing my students on a weekly basis and how much effort I try to put in. 

Before I knew it, I was enrolled in a PhD in October. I was still teaching and working as a Resesrch Assistant. And then things got busy. I presented my Masters research at four conferences and symposia, both nationally and internationally, over a three week period. At one of those conferences I was presenting a 45 minute workshop, as well as participating in a panel straight after. I co-convened one of the symposia, and a week after all of these finished, I co-convened another within our department.

I took two weeks off at Christmas, which was well-overdue, but I felt that I had neglected my PhD by spreading myself too thinly, and I really didn’t want to get behind. So I started 2016 with a drive to write like i’d never had before. I decided I would write 500 words a day to help me keep on top of things. This goal has been semi-adhered to, but i’m definitely working on it! I also made the very tough decision to not tutor in first trimester this year.

As hard as it was to let go of applying to teach my favourite courses, and to have ongoing interaction with students in a teaching capacity, i’ve decided to put myself, and my research, first. I always hear my supervisor telling me that it’s okay to put yourself first, and that you is just as important as they, and your needs are more important than their needs. It’s important to understand our own limitations. I want to do everything, and I want to be involved in everything. But I can’t. I’m only one lady, and there aren’t 48 hours in a day. Realistically, if it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done in my office.

So i’m heeding my supervisor’s advice about not over-committing and i’m putting myself first. I’ve got conferences coming up this month, research assistant work, a book chapter to write and a social life to maintain, all whilst i’m doing a PhD. It sounds like a lot, but I think there’s a difference between being busy and being over-committed. Not tutoring will be a hard adjustment, but making this sacrifice means I will have one less thing on my plate.

One less thing to think about.

One less thing to worry about.

One less thing to do.

And one less thing to distract from what i’m already committed to.

This decision might just be a really good learning curve for me, so watch this space!