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Loving my doctoral journey...(and getting sh*t done)

I have never thought I was an academic, it just wasn't how I saw myself. Yet, here I am .....Dr Mish. So, how did I move from feeling not good enough but starting my part-time Doctorate in October 2017 to passing my viva (where you have to defend your thesis to a panel of examiners), at the start of 2022? I want to share my journey with you, but it's not just about my doctoral journey, it's about getting stuff done!

Firstly, I had low expectations of myself, but a curiosity of whether I could do it. I thought, "if I can make it to the Christmas break", then to the end of the first year and so on. It helped me break the journey down into smaller manageable chunks. When I had told people that I was going to do a doctorate and said that I expected it to take about 5 years, most people were horrified! I recall saying "well, that 5 years will pass whether I'm doing my doctorate or not, so I may as well give it a go!" At each stage of the research journey, I took it one step at a time and maintained a curiosity about my own capability.

Secondly, I enlisted my cheerleaders. My cheerleaders were a group of family members and friends who were nudging me to keep going. The nudging was really important. There was no pressure from them, they would simply ask "how's it going?' as a reminder that they had my back. Their belief in my ability to achieve it was unwavering. They asked about it even when they didn't quite understand what I was going on about, not because they are unintelligent, but because I was so immersed in it! My research supervisor and the teaching staff at the Uni were wonderful at encouraging and challenging me on my journey. I also had a 'study buddy', a fellow doctoral student I that was on the same journey as I, we're still in touch and keeping each other to task! The doctoral journey is a lonely one, so I'm very grateful of having those around me that were cheering me on from the side.

Thirdly, I took it seriously. I realised that to achieve such a big piece of work I needed to approach it like it was my job. This meant moving my paid work around so I could dedicate time in my week to the research. This was not easy. I was running my business for my private psychotherapy practice and have a family, so the balancing had to be finely tuned. Did I get it right? Not all of the time, no! But I knew if I really wanted to achieve this, I had to make time to do it. I was often asked, "where do you find the time?' I would reply "I have the same time as you, I'm just choosing to do this rather than something else". So, yes, it meant early mornings, before my 'day job' started, it meant missing out on a few social events, it meant writing at weekends. It meant diving into savings so I could cut down on some of my work temporarily, so I could write up my thesis. I really took it seriously and committed to it. I also loved it, it felt like an indulgence to be reading, analysing, and writing. It didn’t feel like a chore, it felt like a treat! This was what I wanted to do, so why not enjoy being immersed in it!

I realised in doing my doctorate that my approach is relevant to many areas of my life, it captured how I generally tackle things: To be curious, have support, to commit and take it seriously. Go for it.

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