As a PhD candidate, you balance many different obligations and responsibilities. There are seminars to attend, conferences to go to, presentations to give, books to read, and classes to teach. And of course, there’s the research and writing of your dissertation. Sometimes, it can be difficult to find the right balance between all these activities and making sure you’re spending the proper amount of time on it all. Now that I am in a more advanced stage of my PhD, I want to talk about my experiences balancing two critical aspects of any doctoral degree: researching and teaching.
As I’ve talked about in previous posts, this academic year is my first one teaching. At times, it has been a challenging experience, not least of all because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But having some teaching under my belt now has helped me realize it can get very easy to spend all your time preparing for class every week and letting everything else fall by the wayside, especially when you’re a first-time teacher. Don’t get me wrong, you obviously need to spend a lot of time preparing so you can substantively help your students master the material. It’s vital to have a full understanding of what you’re teaching. Yet at the same time, you need to remember you have other obligations too, so you can’t let one of them usurp all your time. Otherwise, you’ll have difficulty staying on top of everything.
Researching for your dissertation can be both a frustrating and rewarding experience. I love researching in general and doing the research for my PhD. As someone who is always trying to learn more, it is a real treat to discover or read about new things. It is particularly rewarding when you stumble across a real kernel of data or information and then start trying to chase it down. I feel so fulfilled when that happens to me. At the same time though, that can be frustrating too because you can spend hours on some small thing that doesn’t actually matter and then you have wasted time you could have spent on something more productive! It’s a tricky balancing act!
The PhD is a wonderful time for exploration and taking ownership of something that is really yours. I encourage everyone to take that time to do that exploring. But remember never to lose sight of the end game, and keep working toward that finish line.