27 Jun

failure doesn’t have to snowball: on blogging

I missed a post yesterday. I also missed a post earlier in the month (although one day this month I posted on my own blog and the NLS7 blog so I had justified the earlier fail in my head).

Those of you who’ve ever run the dieting gauntlet (which I seem to have been running non-stop since I was a teenager) will be well acquainted with failure blow out. You know, when you have one day of eating everything you want and you think, ‘I’ve blown it now so I may as well just finish that family sized block of chocolate and wash it down with some more coke’… And then you wake up the next morning and think, ‘I really, really blew it yesterday so I may as well keep going’.

I think blogging – or failing to blog – can be a bit like that. Especially when we set ourselves crazy goals like blogging every single day for a whole month.

I’m feeling a bit reflective today, as I collate my thesis and put the finishing touches on it, ready for submission on Monday (and ready to hand over to my principal supervisor at 9am today… Ummm why am I blogging now, with less than three hours to go, when I have more thesis work to do?!).

Those of you that have been on this PhD journey with me know that I’ve set and missed a number of self-imposed deadlines along the way. When I started my PhD, my aim was to complete in four years part time. As a part time student, my candidature is six years, but I wanted to complete early for a host of reasons: my job depends on me completing; I’m researching in a rapidly evolving space; I couldn’t handle it taking any longer; etc. Four years came and went at the end of last year, so I missed that target.

I also wanted to complete my thesis during my 2013 sabbatical. Who was I kidding? I started sabbatical in July with data collection still in progress (and, notably, a plate that wasn’t clear of work-work, which it should have been [nobody’s fault but my own, btw]). I did complete my data collection and analysis and wrote close to 50,000 words, but I didn’t finish my thesis. When I wasn’t finished on returning to work at the end of 2013, I realised that meant I wouldn’t be submitting in a hurry, because at that time, I took over coordinating the degree I teach in. And then more work stuff and more work stuff and more work stuff…

As the year rolled on, I set myself a new target: to have my final seminar by the end of 2014. I booked it in, and had to push the date back a fortnight. I submitted my thesis to the panel with a discussion chapter I wasn’t happy with, but I sent it and I got that seminar done.

Then I was going to finish my revisions before Semester 1 started this year. Hahahaha! This year, we got our own degree, moving out of the Master of IT and into our very own Master of Information Science, so that was a big transition to manage. I also took on a brand new unit, teaching undergrads for the first time. In first semester, my team and I taught 175% of our usual teaching load with a lot of new and casual staff. It was a crazy semester. During this semester I did several thesis sprints, each time hoping to complete in a short block of time I’d carved out, like a weekend. Talk about setting yourself up for failure. So I missed all of those ridiculous self-imposed deadlines.

And with every miss, I felt like more of a failure.

The final push came in May when a permanent position was advertised in my discipline and, with the knowledge that I wouldn’t have a chance at the job without having submitted my thesis, I gave myself 37 days to complete my thesis and write my job application (and when I say ‘I gave myself 37 days’, I don’t mean, ‘I took myself offline, into the wilderness, putting all work aside to get my thesis done’. I’ve still had to do all the other things too).

I’ve felt like giving up a number of times. I’ve compromised a lot to get here. I have failed and failed and failed and failed. And not just on thesis deadlines, but on lots of other things that have been impacted by trying to hit these crazy thesis deadlines. If so many people hadn’t invested in getting me here, if my participants hadn’t been so generous with letting me into their worlds at one of the most important times of their lives, I might have given up.

Though I’ve fallen off the healthy eating horse and stayed off it for long periods of time, I have managed to get back on the PhD horse at each fall. Actually, I think it’s more like a bucking bull. But the point is, I set myself up to fail many times; I failed many times, including times where I hadn’t set myself up to fail and I just failed through sheer failing-ness; but I am actually going to finish it.

And so now, 870-ish words later, I’m circling back to the beginning of this post to say this: For me, blogging has been a fickle ride. I love blogging. I have had so much fun this month blogging and participating in conversations. But in other years, I’ve let missing a day or two of #blogjune turn into an epic fail, and I’ve given up. This time around, I’ve given myself permission to miss a day here or there, and the result is I’m back here today, even though I did the blogging equivalent of eating a whole pizza yesterday.

So the point of this long winded and rambling post was that I’m okay with missing a day, and I’m going to try to take that attitude forward. I’m not going to blog every day post-June, but I will commit to blogging once a week. And if I don’t blog one week, I’m not going to let it turn into a catastrophic fail. I’m not even going to apologise for it, because who really wants to read a blog where the author starts out with an apology about not blogging? I’ll leave the chocolate in the fridge. I won’t let one little blow out lead to an enormous blow out. I won’t let missing one week turn into missing a whole month and suddenly into missing a whole year. I won’t give myself the excuse to get the family sized block of chocolate out of the fridge. Because failure doesn’t have to snowball. That’s one lesson I’ve learned from doing a PhD and one I think was worth learning.

25/30 #blogjune

One thought on “failure doesn’t have to snowball: on blogging

  1. Loved this post, thank you. I set myself ridiculous timeframes and I’m often ambitious with what I can achieve in a certain amount of time, but you know what? Life is for living. And we make our decisions based on what we think is right at the time, within the circumstances. So we can’t beat ourselves up for not blogging one week because we really need to rest one evening, for example. ’tis all good. Continue on. 🙂

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