Managing yourself: staying the course

Undertaking doctoral research is challenging and hard work. You will need to take positive action to ensue that you work efficiently and effectively, and stay healthy.

Avoiding self sabotaging behaviour

Want to get your life and doctoral research in control? Sometimes things just don't work out - your computer crashes and you forgot to back up, your supervisor doesn't understand you, and you have so many demands on your time it's almost a conspiracy to keep you from getting your doctorate finished. Maybe it's just bad luck. But if it keeps happening to you, and you are regularly over-committed or always leaving things to the last minute, there's a chance that you are deliberately self-sabotaging.

Common self-sabotaging behaviours include:

  • over-committing: you take on so many things that your high priority goals (eg your doctorate) suffer
  • procrastination: you put off important or necessary tasks, often until the last minute.
  • perfectionism: you want your work to be of the highest and most groundbreaking standard.
  • busyness: you look and feel very busy, but in reality only less important things (such as emails and referencing) are actually getting done.
  • disorganisation: you don't have a routine or system that makes managing your time and life easier.
  • not making an effort: you don't practise or try very hard.
  • choosing performance-debilitating circumstances: you try to work in a busy or unsuitable location or situation, eg cafes.

If you recognise many of these behaviours you might be self-sabotaging. Be aware, but not alarmed: we all have some of these behaviours some of the time. Sometimes just being aware that you're being perfectionist or over-committing can be enough to stop you doing it. So review your behaviours and try to identify patterns that get in your way.

Take action

If you procrastinate, set yourself deadlines. If you over-commit, try to get rid of some demands on your time.

Challenge your thinking

Our thinking determines our behaviour. If you're finding it hard to change your behaviour, then you need to challenge some of the assumptions and thoughts you may have.

Use the ultimate defeating SELF-SABotage tool

Set a specific goal
What is the next specific, practical thing that you could be doing to get closer to finishing you doctorate? What would your supervisor suggest? eg finish analysing your most recent data, or get started on the first section of chapter 3.

Earmark times to do this
Specify the actual times and dates you can do this in the next week eg Mon 9-12, Fri 9-1.

Look back to see what has stopped you in the past
Use the self-sabotage checklist to determine what your typical behaviour patters are - these are likely to stop you achieving your goal.

Fire away!
Have a go, do your best to achieve the goal you set.
- If it didn't work...

So, what happened?
What happened instead of working on your doctorate? eg I went and helped someone who knocked on my door, or I just thought I'd check one email, but I kept going.

Accurate thinking?
What were you thinking at the time? Were these thoughts accurate?

Back to the start again
Now go back and start again with a goal. Getting a doctorate requires a lot of persistence!'