On the Thesis Path: January Blues

In this series, blogger Lucia keeps a record of her progress and experience in the months leading up to submission.

It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day. It’s a new year and you still have to write your thesis. After the holiday period, after the omicron wave and fear, and in what probably is the bleakest of months on this island: January. How do you get back on that writing horse? Asking for a friend.

I’ve had the privilege of having my father over for a visit from Brazil for four weeks. In mid-January he went back home and I am left here. Orphan. Back to being a full adult. To be honest, I craved being back to some kind of routine, but when the reality of it hit me, oh my, it’s been rough. Having to sail through the last weeks of January, with this weather, adapting back to some kind of routine, and with the overwhelming external and internal pressure I’ve put on myself is no easy task. External because there is an actual deadline looming. Internal because I am, without a doubt, my harshest critic, and often I find myself allowing for zero flexibility. Actually, let’s talk about that for a second.

What I mean with flexibility is that I have decided that these next five, six months will be hectic. I know they will be, but once I decided I am going to go into my goblin cave and not have time for anything else, and have several breakdowns a day, I am sure as hell going to do it. That is a reality that might as well happen, but, at the same time, because I have planned my stressful time, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. I thought I was preparing for my own stress and anxiety, but what I didn’t realise is that, by deciding that this is how my next months are going to be like, I was also not having any flexibility. I did not account for the unplanned, for the unpredictable. Being flexible also means accounting for the fact that you will have to constantly change your plan. Or that your plan might not work at all, because it is that, a plan, not the real thing. Any project manager reading this will understand. You can have all variables planned for, and that helps in many ways, but you have to be flexible about the changes and not-so-perfect things that come your way.

A white wall with the words 'Stubborn on vision flexible on deadlines' written on
Image Credit: Daria Shevtsova.

I decided I am only going to go back home after I submit, because I wanted to spend a long time back home not having to worry about a thesis. But when I had to say goodbye to my dad and I was bawling while riding the underground back to central London, I realised: what if I find a good offer on tickets before my submission? What if I need a week or two of some proper family time, of being the daughter again? What if being back home helps reset my mind and heart? If I decide that that’s what I need and I have the means to do so, then this means my plans will have to change. And that’s fine. I decided that I need to plan for flexibility. Because my own inflexible plans were making me miserable, and that’s not a good mental place to be in when you are writing a thesis.

Similarly, I’ve always been a bit bitter about the fact that my department doesn’t have the space or the funds to give me a proper office, and I have to be like a nomad researcher fighting for library desk spaces or computers, or working from my less than perfect home office most of the time. I was even inflexible about my own lack of structure. I decided and also heard from other researchers, doctors and translator colleagues that I needed to have a second screen, a proper bigger one, to do a lot of the minutia text work I am doing. I found a cheap repurposed monitor online and bought it. So what if I didn’t get given an office space? I will make my own!

These might sound like oddly specific examples, but they were part of my convoluted thought processes this month, and they made me realise the importance of being flexible and taking unpredictability into account. That instead of insisting on being miserable over the things I can’t control or the things I don’t want to change, I can be flexible and change things around.

What about you? Did you suffer from January Blues? How do you deal with having to change your plans?

Are you on the run up to a thesis submission? Let us know your experiences by leaving a comment below, tweeting us @researchex or emailing us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk.

Header Image: Jess Bailey Designs

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