Stop thinking about it. . . 

Inevitably, working as a PhD student places one in close professional proximity to many important, influential individuals–professors, other scholars, university administration, graduate students, library and archive staff; the list goes on.  Arguably, one of the  most important professional relationships–if not THE most important professional relationship–is a PhD student’s relationship with his or her faculty advisors.

I have one primary advisor, and he has been a source of a wealth of practical and scholarship advice.  Just recently, I ran into a wall–rather inevitable in the course of a process like this.  I turned over and over every single option I could conceptualize in my mind, but there was no clear answer.  This, of course, was a frustrating exercise.  I explained the problem to my advisor and I, quite literally, asked for his advice.  And, that advice surprised me–in a very positive way.

Instead of pointing me to a “right” answer that was somehow escaping my view, he told me to step away from the problem and, quite literally, to “stop thinking about it.”  He also prescribed my using my time differently in the short term.  He well knows that I am either working or thinking about work most waking minutes of the day.  Instead, he thought it was best that I focus on something that wasn’t related to work so I could reapproach the issue with more confidence and clarity.  

It is very easy for the many responsibilities incorporated into a PhD program to become very all-consuming.  We are literally inundated with short- and long-term timelines.  Goals are deliberately challenging to reach, and they require time management, perserverence, and focus–not to mention a lot of work.  Often, I feel like I need to manage everything–every requirement and every minute of my time–to reach these goals.  However, sometimes, that approach can detract from progress as much as it might contribute to success.  Sometimes, time spent working and planning how to approach work is just as important as time spent doing something totally unrelated.


I took this picture after returning home from the dentist.  When I saw them all on the bed, I thought to myself: “Geez, I have a lot of cats.”  And, yes, one is missing. 


One thought on “Stop thinking about it. . . 

  1. Very good advice; I used to manage a team of application developers in a prior career and would frequently take a developer away from the desk when they’d be lost. Get away from the work for a bit, clear your mind for a day or more if needed and then take a new look at the issue (don’t call it a problem as that has a negative connotation). The solution will be there.
    But, as you’ve made it this far, you probbly have a good handle on your approach and just needed a kick-stardt. Good luck going forward.

    Old John

    Liked by 2 people

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