On Monday 9 June 2014, a group of PhD students from Lancaster, Liverpool and Manchester universities participated in a NWDTC-organised workshop by PhD coach, Will Medd. The group that met at the outset of this cold, wet Liverpool morning was a collection of discouraged, disenfranchised or simply unmotivated students – stories in the introductory session commonly featured feelings of procrastination, tedium, frustration and dissatisfaction.
As is often the case when pursuing a PhD the sharing of these experiences and meeting new people was, in itself, a great comfort, but what proved to be even more encouraging was the transformation in the group’s outlook. During the course of the day, Will guided us through a series of self-management techniques designed to enable us, with practice, to address our concerns and frustrations and, ultimately, enjoy our PhD experiences.
At no point was anyone asked to explain their topic, research, or stage of study. Instead, Will helped us to identify the reasons that we embarked upon a PhD project, to articulate the values and goals that we may have side-lined or forgotten, and to draw a map to achieving our objectives. We talked about the obstacles standing between us and our goals – engaging with our inner critics, disruptive behaviours and ‘PhD gremlins’ – and learnt a number of techniques for constructively managing them. Finally, we discussed the practical first steps which could be taken to kick start a change in the way we approach our projects and each pledged to undertake one step the following morning.
By the end of the day, the atmosphere within the room had changed dramatically. The simple process of stepping back and reflecting upon our aspirations and values, carefully and expertly guided by Will, provided a welcome opportunity to refocus our studies and achieve a finer balance between our PhD and personal experiences. It was a thoroughly enjoyable and well-invested day and comes highly recommended by all who took part!