For parents that are juggling a PhD, or for those that are about to embark on the journey of parenthood whilst studying. Whether you are considering a PhD, or are an early career researcher with a family, over the next few weeks I am going to be posting 7 tips that I have gathered along the way. I am by no means an expert – I am currently awaiting the imminent arrival of PhD baby number 2, whilst being in the 3rd year of my PhD. Safe to say, I am most probably in “The Valley of Shit” right now! But, I will be sharing a collection of tips, and words of encouragement, that I have received along my journey so far. Somehow, and no doubt with thanks to some of these, I am still managing to muddle through…
#1: Learn to say “no”!
School meetings. Attending a workshop. Writing an article. Taking on additional research. Going to a conference. Research seminars. Writing a chapter. Working with different organisations. Research groups. Teaching. Volunteering on a committee. Giving a talk. School events. Reviewing an article. Marking (*shudder*). The list could go on.
As a PhD student, you can be faced with many new and exciting opportunities that are difficult to say no to, particularly if you are at the start of your PhD, or if you are feeling the pressure to build your CV because you are constantly reminded that simply having the PhD in itself is not enough anymore. It can be hard to say no – they’re exciting opportunities, and you don’t want to let people down.
Then there’s the worry – what will happen if I say no? Will people think I can’t cope with academic life? Should I be able to easily manage all of these things? Will people think I am not capable? Am I not working hard enough? What if they never approach me again? What if I never have another opportunity like this?
Saying “no”, and not feeling guilty for saying no, is something that my supervisor has most definitely taught me. And, I must admit, it is only something that I am learning to do as the final stretch of my PhD approaches. I still feel terribly guilty about saying no (I find it so difficult!), but I know now – that it is for the better. If we say yes to too many things, we will eventually become overwhelmed. People will respect you more if you say “no”, instead of over-promising (committing to too many things) and then under-delivering, because you simply cannot perform so well when faced with too many tasks. Surely, it is better to do one thing well, to put your heart and soul into something that you can really focus on, than to end up losing track and doing many things half-heartedly.
Start practicing now – if you cannot commit to something – say no!