I’m about half way through my second year of my PhD now. Which also means I’m half-way through the PhD! As soon as this realisation hits you there is an almost overwhelming sense of panic.
How am I ever going to get it all finished? What if my data is useless? What if my VIVA laugh at me? Will I ever be taken seriously as a professional? These are all questions second years start to ask themselves.
I don’t think there is any set way or list of tips that can help us PhD-ers through this tough second year. Its like a Wednesday. Wednesdays are half way through the week but are quite often the point when many people suddenly panic that they haven’t got enough done and realise that the weekend is swiftly approaching. The key is not to have the equivalent of a mid-life crisis. Keep that cool head that must have been there when you started. You will already have achieved an awful lot in the past year and a half. What made me realise this was being forced to list it all for a course application. If in doubt go through old diaries and notebooks and write a list of everything you’ve done / achieved. This gave me a sense of worth, that actually I am well on my way to becoming the well rounded professional I would like to be.
Some people might feel like they are beginning to slip below the surface. If this is the case, take a few days off, get out of the city, go on a short break or just stay in bed. Whatever you do, take a few days in which you don’t do anything remotely PhD / work related. I often find that this is like pressing a reset button. It allows you to return to your work with a clear head and a fresh approach. For me it even highlighted the weak points in my work – its better to spot and fix them now than at the end of the third year!
I suppose what I’m trying to say, in the words of the great Dad’s Army “Don’t panic Mr Mannering!” You still have plenty of time to achieve your goals. Keep that head above water and continue to fight towards the end. But don’t forget, the end, like winter, is coming! If you’re worried you won’t finish in time then write yourself daily / weekly / monthly goals. Also find a way to vent the stress – for me its a mindless hour pounding out the miles on the treadmill in the gym.
I hope this post helps any stressed second year PhD students out there who are beginning to feel as lost as I did a few days ago.
Keep calm and carry on second years, you’re doing great!