A coffee cup on a desk showing work to be done. Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash
Academia Personal

Looking back at writing my PhD


So I finished writing my PhD last December and it was in evaluation until recently. Now, I am preparing for my defence, which will take place in mid-May. I was thinking about how my PhD was determining my life in the last couple of years and how one simple thing changed my motivation from “well, I’ll see when I am done” to “I need to finish as fast as possible”.

How it was

So, I finished my M.A. back in 2010. By then, I fully emerged in creating and building up my own company, so studying and working was taking up all of my time. By then, I was already thinking, that I should start a PhD to follow also an academic career. Finally in 2013, I enrolled as a PhD student at my Almer Mater with a topic that both my supervisors proposed to me separately. As probably most PhD students, I started to randomly collect data.

2013 was also the year my son was born, so naturally, I had a lot on my plate. So I let the PhD slide a little, as there were more important things to do. In any case, a PhD is a never ending story and my PhD classes reminded me each semester to continue writing my text. I had problems though. I was not sure how to approach the topic and I was also not sure, if the scope of the PhD was all that I wanted to do. I had the feeling something was missing, but I was not sure what it was. So I was stuck, until I got a phone call.

What changed my mind

Some point in November 2018 I got a phone call about an upcoming position. This position was really attractive, but I needed a PhD for this. I had written maybe 10% already, so there was still a lot to do. This motivation alone however enabled me to approach writing my PhD in a completely different way. I sat down and created a plan. I wrote everything down that I needed to do, to finish the PhD in time and even came up with the idea on how to expand my PhD in a way that it felt more complete.

I was not done after a year and ultimately, I did not submit an application for that job I wanted to have. But that didn’t matter. I was already on a good way. It took me another year to reach a point of near completion. I estimate, that my PhD was at 90% by then, which meant that I had written about 70% of my PhD in about two years. The rest was more or less easy and I submitted the PhD two months later.

What I can draw from this

So how did this happen? That phone call motivated me so much, that I completely forgot to be clueless about my PhD and started to work immediately. Suddenly, I had the idea that I was missing all the time and the pieces fell together step by step. I learned, that having a bigger picture is certainly helping. It doesn’t matter if I write a PhD, an article, or do something else. By thinking what I might do afterwards or what I might be missing, I get the motivation I need.

I want to keep that in mind in the future. It sounds strange, but this story taught me that motivation can change everything. Of course, this does not solve all the problems, because after the PhD is before the Post-Doc…



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Sebastian Hageneuer

Hi! My name is Sebastian. I am an archaeologist, a university lecturer, freelancer, guitarist, and father. You could say I am quiet busy, so I learned to manage my time and energy to build good habits and still have space for myself and my family. Sounds difficult? Read here how I do it. Every Friday.

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