PhD Month One: What have I accomplished?

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

I’ve seen the question flying around Twitter: “What have you achieved in the first month of your PhD?”. So, in answer to that question, here's what I've accomplished:

  1. Made friends in the office and at the climbing gym.

  2. Completed two funding applications (okay, well one is complete and one will be sent off tomorrow).

  3. Got university login details and email account.

  4. Climbed my first V5 boulder indoors and my first V3 outdoors.

  5. Visited my field site; saw fresh wolf tracks and sea otters, and got soaked.

  6. Drove on the right-hand side of the road.

  7. Started reading around my topic.

  8. FaceTimed all my immediate family members.

  9. Attended a project management and professional skills workshop.

  10. Got a membership to the student ice cream society so I can queue-jump and get bigger portions of free ice cream!

It's not all about accomplishments. Here’s a list of stuff I haven’t achieved:

  1. Fixed my on-campus printing capabilities despite at least weekly trips to the IT support desk.

  2. Found a horse to ride within cycling distance from my house or university.

  3. Organised my PhD supervisory committee.

  4. Fixed the dodgy chain on my bicycle so I can actually cycle to university.

  5. Learned as much as I wanted to about the techniques I hope to use in my PhD.

  6. Climbed the V6 boulder in the gym I started working on.

  7. Project managed my PhD to include complete timelines and deliverables.

  8. Learned to love cooking.

  9. Opened R.

  10. Worked out a concrete way of getting my partner to join me in Canada.

I’m pretty happy with the things I accomplished this month. I’ve included both lists because let’s be realistic, every time you cross something off your to-do list, there’s another one right behind and ready to take its place so you're never truly done.


I also think it’s important to remember that life is about balance. I’m trying to achieve and maintain the "work-life balance" that we all (should) strive for. There's no yellow brick road on the way to achieving work-life balance, and even if there was, I'd definitely veer off it every Monday when I get stressed about the week ahead.

Had a shit day. Walked along the river. Had an epiphany. Used two hands to take a selfie - nobody's perfect. Took the day off. Had a better week.

This month I’ve worked some long days, but only so I could work some short days. Could I have achieved more PhD-related things this month? Probably. Could I have had the same amount of fun if I did? Definitely not.


So let's try a thing. For every work-related "accomplishment" or significant to-do list task that gets done, give yourself a break. You are more than your PhD.

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