Credit: Elizabeth Howell
After I graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota earlier this month, many people asked me: How did you do it?
I was of course very lucky. I received partial tuition support and could afford to support any other fees that were required. I have a moderately flexible work schedule and a supportive family. My supervisor, in a word, was awesome.
But when I dug down into these questions by others, I realized that what they were really asking was how I found the motivation for it, on top of working full-time.
It really came down to doing one thing at a time. Literally. Every evening before a weekday, I'd ask myself, "What is the one thing I need to do tomorrow to push the Ph.D. a little further?" (I tried as best as I could not to work weekends; while my husband can attest to the occasional sulky Saturday where I'd be buried in paperwork, really, it wasn't that often.)
The weekday "one thing" sometimes it meant a call with my supervisor. Sometimes it meant a couple of more hours of "coding", or labelling portions of transcripts, for analysis. Sometimes I'd do research with one question in mind to answer, so that I didn't get overwhelmed by the amount of literature.
It's amazing how far a focused hour or two daily of work gets you, if you're lucky enough to have the time for it. Take that effort over seven years, and you might be able to do something remarkable. Me, that's how long it took to finish a Ph.D. But for you, this might mean something even more meaningful.
Perhaps you have a book in you. Or you'd like to build a website. Or you want to mentor students. It doesn't take a full-time commitment to do any of these things. If you treat your life priorities as a small part-time job, working a few hours every week, over time you will see progress.
We have big goals here at SWCC, as well. We're going to run a conference in Ottawa in 2020 and will soon be asking for volunteers -- keep an eye on our website and social media for more details in the fall. Our committees are ramping up activity to work on our website and values and awards. A group of people are helping me go through several decades' worth of SWCC files to decide how best to preserve everything.
These are all huge projects. They do feel overwhelming at times. But I remind myself -- it just takes one thing every day. One thing, build it up with other things, and progress will happen in a few months or years.
Is there one thing you would like to help us with? Send me a note at email@example.com to ask about volunteer opportunities, which includes things such as blog posts, serving on committees or helping with the conference.
Otherwise, I wish you luck in figuring out your "one thing" for the fall!