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AVOIDING PHD BURNOUT!

January 18, 2018

Welcome to the spotlight on the Secrets to Success. I wanted to share a post on psychological burnout Ive been thinking about since the end of last year after watching this great video from one of my favourites speakers Vinh Giang (former SA boy doing it big in LA). In the lead up to my first international conference in December I was relentlessly working thinking I was producing at maximum capability. However, when I watched this video, it really refreshed my perspective on working effectively.

 

A PhD is hard work. Its an investment in yourself and a commitment to a project over a long term of 3 to 4 years. Your brain is always “on" thinking about your project, how to manoeuvre the hurdles and see the light of successful completion. There are many long nights, weekends and overtime to push forward a project to reach high quality outcomes. At times we may encounter issues (seemingly never ending…) when experiments and deals don’t work out as planned, which we try to tackle head on by continuously pushing forward to reach a solution. However, this often leads to hitting a wall… (exhaustion and thoughts of “cbf”).

 

I guess a lot of times we think it's about working hard and being productive to achieve something. However, in the process of working long hours we reach a point where we are no longer efficient in producing good work in this time. Just pushing through can be negative in the long run.

 

Remember sometimes its not only about the hours you are putting in, rather how effective you can be in that time. Therefore having a day off in a week can help you recharge and "sharpen your axe" to keep grinding effectively the next week. This is elegantly described in the video below from Vinh. When you are working extremely hard at accomplishing a long term project, you need to be having extreme fun in your off time to refresh and tackle the next incoming tasks at hand. [After my realisation, I’ve maintained to a routine of sleep and have one day off on the weekends to pursue creative hobbies. I feel good, real good.]

 

Cliffs for the video:

Its not only about work ethic, but building skill. Financial success is based on how much value you add, which is predicated on skill.

 

- There is a wood chopping competition between two individuals, a big person and a small person.

- The small guy cuts for 1hr and leaves every 15 mins, repeatedly over 5hrs.

- In the end the small guy falls the tree before the big guy.

- The big guy asks, "How did you beat me, you were taking breaks every hour?"

- The small guy replies, "I wasn’t taking breaks, I was sharpening my axe…"

 

“You got to work hard, you’ve got to keep chopping trees. But you have to remember to take time out to go and build skill, to sharpen your axe. Don’t just work hard relentlessly without sharpening your axe.”

So going into 2018, stay motivated and effective to smash this year on a high! Best of luck with your project :)

 

You can take it as insight, or you can take it as Just BS!

Kit.

 

[Post inspired by the thoughts of Vinh Giang]

 

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