It’s official: I defended my PhD dissertation, and now I’m Dr. Manahova! Crazy…
The defense itself was a great experience, actually. I was nervous, for sure, but more than that I was excited. While I was a bit anxious to find the right answer to each question, I also enjoyed the dialogue. And at the end when I was awarded the PhD degree, it was exhilarating!
Practice makes progress
I will stay away from saying, “practice makes perfect” because my defense certainly wasn’t perfect. But I think the reason I was able to feel excited instead terribly anxious is that I had practiced and prepared.
At the beginning of my defense, I presented a 10-minute summary of my work. Oh, had I practiced and practiced it! For one week before the defense, I practiced my presentation once a day every day. In fact, I really don’t like practicing presentations; I don’t know why, but I never have. However, I made a promise to myself that I’d practice it every day because I knew it would help me stay calm and feel prepared, and I kept that promise.
On the day of the defense (this past Monday), I practiced my presentation three times one after the other. It felt very silly to practice the same talk three times in a row, but I felt myself improving with every repetition, and that boosted my confidence.
During the two weeks prior to the defense, I also read up on some recent papers related to my work. This gave me a feeling that I was up to date with the field (to some extent), but there was also another unexpected benefit: during the defense itself, some of my answers were inspired by the papers I had read in the previous two weeks. These were new ideas that went beyond what I had written in my thesis, so I believe they contributed to a more interesting discussion with the committee members.
The end of a massive chapter
My PhD defense marked the end of a long, important chapter in my life. I began my master’s in cognitive neuroscience in September 2014, then started my PhD in the same area in October 2016, and now finally defended my doctorate in October 2022. Wow, that’s eight years of my life! I truly can’t believe it.
I’ve learned so much during this time, and I’ve had so many great experiences. My supervisors were amazing, and my colleagues were so, so cool. I didn’t quite figure out the mystery of the brain, but I’d like to think I advanced our understanding, albeit a tiny bit.
Now that this chapter has come to an end, I am ready for the next one. There’s something bittersweet about transitions, and there’s something exhilarating too. It feels like everything is possible. I can’t wait to see what comes next. At the same time, I think I’ll take a little break and rest for a few days–it has been wonderful but intense!
By the way, if you’d like to check out my PhD dissertation, you can find it here.
We got a white board at home. Oh, the joy! Jacob wanted to get it because he thought he’d need it for work. I was trying to hide my enthusiasm as he was ordering it, and I didn’t tell him I’d be taking over it, haha!
We’ve needed something like this for a long time. We do our family planning in our shared google calendar and our shared lists on To Do, but we noticed we needed some sort of visual reminder in our home about some specific home tasks.
We’re also making an effort to spend less time on our phones when we’re having family time in the evenings, so we can’t see reminders on our phones and can’t check our calendar or to do list. Once we’re finished with work and we’re home with William for the evening, our phones go in the Phone Box. We take them out if we actually need them, but then we put them right back in the box. This avoids mindless scrolling on the phone when we could in fact be connecting as a family.
This is where the white board comes in
There are two columns on the white board: ‘Tasks J’ and ‘Tasks M.’ We can each put tasks underneath each column, which gives us the ability to assign each other tasks and give each other reminders without nagging–this is key!
For instance, I am in charge of the food menu, so I know what needs to be cooked each day. We also buy lots of frozen foods (meat, fish, fruits, and vegetables) because they tend to be cheaper for the same or even more nutrients than the conventional options. The evening before we’re going to cook something, I think about what needs to be defrosted, and I put it on Jacob’s tasks. (Jacob is in charge of defrosting stuff because he’s very good with packing stuff in the freezer, and he has a special system for what goes where. Clearly, I’m not the only organization nerd in our house.)
Why don’t I just tell Jacob what he needs to defrost, you may ask? Haha. Are you married or living with someone, I’d ask? Often when I tell him to do something, he may not want to do it, he may be in the middle of something else, or he may not even be home from work yet. It’s so much easier to put the reminder or task in an external holding space, so I don’t have to do any reminding or nagging myself.
So when Jacob is home and is ready to deal with the tasks for that evening, he checks the white board and then does them in his own time. The other most common tasks for him on the board are, ‘Empty trash’ and ‘Cook sweet potatoes’ (he’s the sweet potato master!).
Funny enough, he doesn’t write down tasks for me very often. Usually, he apps me a request for something, and I put it on my to do list or on the board. That’s just how it goes. I look forward to the day when he puts a task on my white board list though!
By the way, William also wanted to have his own column for tasks he needs to do. So I made him a column with tasks such as, ‘Play,’ ‘Tidy up,’ and ‘Clean’ (he loves cleaning with a handheld vacuum cleaner). Let’s see how long this fascination lasts.
Naturally, William also loves drawing on the white board, but yesterday he ended up drawing on the wall underneath the white board as well. Clearly, there are drawbacks to using a white board…
Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve been doing daily planning on paper. Dan-dan-daaaaaaan!
Why so low-tech, you may ask, when I usually use digital tools? And that is a good question indeed.
The digital tools I use
I use a digital list tool (currently Microsoft To Do) to keep track of my lists, for instance:
And I also use Trello to keep track of my workflow or of big projects such as clutter clearing and renovations:
These are all super useful, and I will not stop using them. But there’s also a different use for paper planning…
Daily planning on paper
Some months ago, I felt the need to do a brain dump on paper. I’d wake up in the morning and have all kinds of thoughts swimming through my mind:
“I’m working on my website today.”
“And I need to do a load of laundry.”
“Oh, and I should start the beef in the instant pot.”
“And I need to order throat spray for William.”
“I really shouldn’t forget to…”
And on an on. Since I’ve been working at home, this has become even more of an issue because everything happens in the same space, and I can potentially do all these tasks at any time in the day. After a while of this, I knew I needed a change.
I bought pretty daily planning paper and began to write down all my tasks for the day on there.
I created a little ritual where I’d sit down after breakfast with my calendar and my to-do list and plan the day out on paper. Then, as I completed each task throughout the day, I’d check it off. It ended up being very pretty.
Why not do it digitally?
Now, you may point out that you can do this easily in any online list tool, and you’d be correct. For instance, Microsoft To Do has a nice ‘My Day’ function that I could have used.
But I had this strange need to do this on paper. I wanted to be able to walk past my desk throughout the day and glance at my list and check off items.
I’m also trying to spend less time on my phone. Every time I checked my list on my phone meant that I was holding my phone in my hand and could easily check my messages, email, etc. I’m making an active effort to do this less often, so it made sense that I’d avoid my phone when possible.
I also love planning on paper. I wish I could use a paper agenda with its beautiful pictures and fancy paper, but it is so much less convenient than an online calendar that I doubt I’ll ever go back to it, alas. But the daily planning on paper actually offers me some benefits and feels slightly decadent.
Do I do this every day?
I did do it every day at first but not anymore. Sometimes it feels repetitive, and then I don’t do it. If the day is mostly a work day, I have my work tasks on Trello, and I’m spending most of my day on the computer anyway, so I have no use for a paper version.
But on a day when I’m mostly doing housework and activities with William (Thursday and Sunday for me), I don’t spend much time on my phone or computer. In those cases, I use my daily planning, and it allows for a lot of flexibility. This past Sunday, for instance, it looked like this:
After a while, William found it, and then it had ‘drawings’ all over it. He really enjoys drawing on my fancy planning paper:
Anyway, we both had fun, so it was good!
Do you prefer to plan your day using digital tools or paper?