Don’t feel bad about not getting shit done 24/7

Indulge me while I have a little brag (and there’s a point to this that’s bigger than the bragging, I promise)

I did a shitload of impressive-sounding stuff* during the 5 years of my PhD, including:

★getting awarded an overseas student scholarship for my PhD
★writing and delivering papers at 12 conferences
★publishing in online journal/websites (including one in The Conversation that got over 45,000 views)
★won a public engagement award (3 Minute Thesis)
★organised a national postgraduate conference, an internal departmental symposium, and 18+ other workshops, study groups, talks and events

I don’t share this list with you to brag or to shame or to spark some kind of mad comparison-orgy*.

I’m sharing this to show you what is and can be possible – if you desire it – even if (or especially when) you’re not killing yourself with overwork and trying to get shit done 24/7, 365 days a year.

Because I assure you, I never worked 24/7. I was never that person hauling my exhausted, sorry ass around campus working obscene numbers of hours. I most certainly did not ‘produce’ and ‘output’ material for my PhD all day, every day.

Nah. Not for me.

I always made sure I had my evenings and weekends off; time for yoga, extended brunches and Netflix binges; and enough sleep.

But, when it was time to work, I would sit down, get really intentional, and get shit done.

I also let joy lead the way a lot of the time. I did all the events, conferences, workshops because it gave me a huge amount of pleasure, challenge and enjoyment – and so it never felt like work and I never really felt drained by it.***

And as a bonus, all this activity ultimately fed back into enriching the research and the thesis itself:

Taking my foot off the pedal, getting rest and having fun literally made my research better.

Let me repeat that for you in the back:

Resting and having fun literally made my research better.

Please sit with and allow that possibility for awhile. I know it can be confronting and uncomfortable. It goes against everything we’ve been taught about what it means to be a successful, productive, responsible individual in society.

But overwork and driving ourselves into the ground all day, every day, isn’t sustainable. We’re seeing this more and more now.

It also doesn’t mean that we’re doing better work or producing more output (I hate language like this, but since I’m responding to these kinds of capitalist imperatives, then I’m reusing, for now, the same language we’ve become so accustomed to). There’s masses of research around the actual inefficacy of working in this way.

So let’s give ourselves even just the possibility of another way.

Because here’s how the logic of that other way could work:

When you’re rested or pursuing what lights you up in your PhD ➡️
you feel more energised and motivated ➡️
which means you’re bringing more of that energy and motivation to whatever you’re doing ➡️
which means that you’re going to do that work better, with more focus and intention ➡️
and you’re also going to be clearer headed and more open to spotting other opportunities/ideas/connections ➡️

…which ultimately leads to achieving more, while you’re working less overall (or at least starting to scale back from pulling those overworked 20-hour days!)

It works. It’s how I managed to accomplish all the things I did (and you’re welcome to check out my full portfolio here) while only working an absolute maximum of 7 hours a day (and that was right at the end, just months before submission)

This is also what forms the heart of my PhD coaching – supporting you to find more easeful, joyful ways to work, so you can work less but achieve more. And feel bloody good as you do it. If you’d like to start freeing up more hours and generate the best progress so far in your PhD, maybe jump into a no-obligation discovery call with me to see if coaching would be a good fit for you! Book your call here and let’s get you feeling easy breezy again.

* Yes, ‘impressive-sounding’. I don’t think of anything I did as being really intrinsically impressive and it’s all relative/relational anyway.

** And anyway, since making the decision not to remain in academic research, none of these ‘accomplishments’ really matter to what I want to do and am doing now. I believe that those intentions (of getting clear about what you want from these accolades and for your future path(s)) are always gonna be more important than the accolades themselves – but more on that another time.

*** I was doing my PhD full time with the financial support of my scholarship, so I acknowledge that I had the immense luxury of not having any other familial/parenting/work commitments. I know that time isn’t as expansive and available for everyone in the same way. BUT, even so, even with other commitments + responsibilities, I still stand by the belief that you can get more done – and of a better quality – when you’re not pushing yourself 24/7 and when you’re, paradoxically, building in more rest and enjoyment in the process.

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