Okay, it’s Monday. The first Monday after the winter break. Our first week back at university, and somehow life is already more chaotic than anticipated. I am generally a very organized human being, with my husband repeating after me “efficiency is key” whenever we set out to do something. For all my planning, calendars, and delegating, it can still be difficult to streamline academic life. As much as we think of ourselves as loners, with niche specializations and nerdy quirks, we are inherently influenced by the decisions and actions made by others. And it is for this reason that my Monday has started off chaotic.
With New Year just behind us, most of us have probably made one or two good intentions for 2023. Let me share mine with you: starting fresh. Rather than continuing in the same way that I have been doing things for the last 8 years, it seemed to be time to switch some things up. Keep it spicy. Especially when doing a PhD, the lack of clear structure allows you to wander, and at some point, your academic work can come a bit into a rut.
Although the chaos of today is making my life more exciting, it was not the fresh start I was thinking of a week ago. So, taking the bulls by the horn, I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor to discuss how to progress things. I am lucky that I can talk to my supervisor about feeling stuck, or when I believe to be correct and want to continue my work in a specific direction. This is not something that everyone has, and if you struggle communicating with your supervisor, I recommend looking at the Queen’s Graduate Supervision Handbook – created by the University to provide supervisors and students with the tools to maintain positive working relationships. Alternatively, if you would like to talk to someone in person, it may help to talk to a Student Advisor at SGPS – many of us run into trouble one way or another and the Student Advisors do an excellent job giving tips.
Together with my supervisor, we came up with a plan to set clear deadlines for the next months. Although it will be tight to get everything done in time, it does give me a new purpose to push myself and to really get things done. Even more, with 3 courses this semester to TA, it will be busy, and so it is important to have clear deadlines for everything. So, once more I had to put on a brave face, and this time I reached out to everyone to make sure that all timelines are coordinated. Seeing such an organized calendar sure does feel like a fresh start!
If setting deadlines are not your thing, however, there are other ways to make a fresh start to the new academic year. Join one of the workshops offered at the ARC or attend the writing boot camp coming up in February! Whatever you do, making a fresh start requires you to step out of your comfort zone. For some of us this may be through meeting new people, while for others it means to challenge themselves. No matter what you decide to do, however, keep in mind that trying is always the best you can do. And, keep in mind, if the fresh start does not work this time, there will always be another New Year for more good intentions.
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