My PhD Defense was successful!

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.

Daily planning on paper (whaaat, so low-tech?)

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:

A screenshot of my list tool.

And I also use Trello to keep track of my workflow or of big projects such as clutter clearing and renovations:

An excerpt of my Home Trello board.

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.

An excerpt of my Work Trello board for this week.

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:

My daily planning last Sunday morning.

After a while, William found it, and then it had ‘drawings’ all over it. He really enjoys drawing on my fancy planning paper:

William joins the daily planning process.

Anyway, we both had fun, so it was good!

Do you prefer to plan your day using digital tools or paper?

Find what works for you! Try this: Daily intention-and-implementation setting

I get a slight gagging feeling when I read about “add these 5 habits to your morning routine to become extremely productive.” These may be great habits, but they’re not all necessities for everyone. In fact, in my workshop on priorities & productivity, I emphasize that different things work for different people. The best thing we can do is to try out different ideas, figure out what works for us, and implement that consistently.

There’s no point in trying to change ourselves. You may think that getting up early is a great idea, but if you’re an evening person, that may not be the best approach for you. Or you may think that it’s great to be able to follow your own to-do list, but if external accountability is what you need, you’d be wasting precious time trying to change yourself instead of doing what works for you.

Continue reading “Find what works for you! Try this: Daily intention-and-implementation setting”

How my husband and I divide baby- and household care: 0-2 months after baby was born

It seems like there’s no right way to divide labor in a household these days. Many of us are past the days when women take care of the kids and the house and men go to work. But when a baby is small, the mom is breastfeeding, and the dad is going to work full-time, what is a fair division of labor?

For us, the answer has been to stay flexible and adapt as our needs and our baby’s needs were changing.

The first two weeks: Crazy land

We started out sharing pretty much all baby-related tasks: we both changed diapers; we both woke up in the night; we both comforted him when he was crying; we bathed him together.

Even breastfeeding was somewhat of a shared effort since my husband would arrange all the pillows, I’d sit down, and he’d hand me William. When William started moving around or waving his arms, hitting himself in the face, Jacob would hold him in place on the pillow or let William’s little hand hold onto his finger in order to stop the crazy thrashing about.

During the first two weeks, we received help with the household and the baby from the maternity nurse and my mom. For those two weeks, Jacob did all the cooking since I was still recovering. After the first week, I started running a laundry here and there or (un)loading the dishwasher once in a while. But I didn’t have to do too much of the household stuff because my mom was still there.

From 2 weeks to 2 months

From 2 weeks on, Jacob, William, and I were on our own. This was the period when we were the most tired. I was trying to do more around the house while also taking care of the baby by myself since Jacob was at work full-time.

I don’t like taking naps, so I was trying to survive on the interrupted sleep I got during the night. While William was not one to cry for long periods during the night, he still woke up every 3-4 hours to nurse. At that time, breastfeeding took a long time, so I was usually up for 1.5 hours with him at each waking to nurse him, change his diaper, and get him back to sleep. And this was happening every 4 hours! I was exhausted.

At the same time, Jacob was trying to do his job well and serve his patients as he usually would, while also cooking all of our food and taking care of countless household chores (we still had to get done all the chores described here). He was also waking up almost every time William and I woke up, arranging pillows for the feeding, changing diapers, rocking him to sleep, etc. He was also exhausted.

Sharing night feedings

At this time, I came across the suggestion that the mom can pump a bottle of breastmilk, go to sleep, let the partner feed it to the baby, and then the partner gets to sleep. This was a lightbulb moment for me! It helped us immensely.

We had a nice evening routine: at 21:00, I pumped a bottle of breastmilk and said good night to my men. I cherished this time for myself: I brushed my teeth, combed my hair, cleaned my face, and put on hand cream. How luxurious these simple self-care acts felt! Then I hugged my pillow and enjoyed sweet, sweet sleep.

In the meantime, Jacob waited for William to wake up. Around 22:00 or 22:30, Jacob fed him the pumped breastmilk and changed his diaper. He put William in bed next to me by 23:30 and then went to sleep in the guest bedroom. It was tough to have him sleeping away from us, but in that way he could get uninterrupted sleep and wake up relatively rested at 6:30.

The next time William woke up was around 2:00 or 3:00. At that time, I fed him, and then again around 5:00 or 6:00. I usually went to bed around 21:30 and finally got up around 8:00. My sleep actually wasn’t too bad this way.

Fun during night feedings

Funny note: I listened to audio books during the night awakenings! I got rather annoyed by having to be awake for 1.5 hours twice each night, and I wondered how I could make it nicer for myself. The answer struck me: listen to fun audio books! Suddenly, those awake times weren’t so annoying anymore, and I was learning interesting things from my audio books. What’s more, I quickly got the Gold Night Owl badge on Audible 🙂

During this time, I was trying to do my fair share in the kitchen. Since William was napping quite well during the day, I was able to do quite a bit at home. Jacob and I were probably sharing our cooking duties 50-50, and it was working well.

Around 2 months, things changed, and we had to reinvent our division of labor…

Happy birthday to me and a question for you!

Yesterday was my birthday (yay!), and reflecting on the past year got me into a bit of a contemplative mood, so I have a couple of questions for you.

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog posts and following along with my work. It means a lot to me that people are finding the info I share interesting and useful. It makes me really happy when I see that somebody has read my blog post, and I do a little victory dance every time somebody leaves a comment.

In order to provide information that’s interesting and useful to you, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions:

  • What do you struggle with in terms of organization, time management, and lifestyle?
  • What works particularly well for you in this respect?
  • What topics would you like me to cover?
  • What specific questions do you have?

Let me know! I’m really curious to hear from you 🙂

Let me know by commenting below or on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn.

Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. from Pexels