I just read another great blog post on Thesis Whisperer about all the shiny balls that distract us from focusing on the PhD. I love this analogy. I have the shiny prize at the end (the tenure-track job), but still have not finished the PhD, and the crazy shiny balls keep coming at me: publishing opportunities, conference organizing, service opportunities, exciting new courses to teach – and that fear that if we don’t take them all we’ll be harming our career. I keep telling myself this is a long-term commitment and that my goal is to maintain health and sanity and joy in the long-term – I’m very inspired by the Slow Professor movement – but some days I am just too tempted by those shiny balls! My solution is to find something outside of work to obsess over positively, a hobby – marathon training, knitting, whatever brings you joy and a feeling of accomplishment, so you don’t spend all your free time feeling bad about stagnant PhD progress.
One of my colleagues who was hired a few months before me is about to submit her final draft, a few of my good friends and colleagues who started around the same time I did are also reaching the end. If I am honest with myself I know I have at least 6 more months of work to do (and I am not advancing at all at the moment because I am teaching 4 courses (so I can not teach during the Winter term and finish the thesis). I kind of feel like I am running in place and watching everyone else whiz by, but they motivate me, these determined colleagues who keep their heads down and ignore the balls flying past. I am trying to follow Belinda Lawton’s advice and say no to new opportunities, or at least not seek them out, but I’m only partly successful.