Month: September 2014

8 PhD Lessons Learned at the Halfway Mark

I’m now officially halfway through my PhD (if I finish in three years, that is). How time flies! Here are some lessons learned at the halfway mark that I hope will help new and experienced researchers alike in their quest for productivity and success:

1. Create a comprehensive filing system
Filing will be mindlessly time-consuming, but helps organise your thoughts in the long term.

2. Handwrite more often
I know I’m researching in the field of informatics, which is all about electronic administration of health care (this includes electronic methods of data entry and access), but research has shown that hand writing aids information retention and creativity. I miss the days of writing furiously with my Pacer pencil on loose pages of lined folder paper, as messy as it was. I also use this awesome software called Scrivener which helps me organise my ideas, but nothing beats a good scribble!

3. Communicate more
With supervisors, administrators, researchers in your field and friends and family! All of these people need to know you’re alive and researching.

4. Establish balance and moderation
Excess is never pretty!

5. Be more decisive
First – plan. Secondly – write (and think) within your plan. A life without goals is wayward and ultimately unfulfilling. So is a paper without structure or purpose!

6. Read, read, read
Not all of it has to be work-related.

7. Each and every action or task must have a purpose
And that purpose needs to advance you in some way, shape or form. Be RESULTS oriented. Which brings us to GOALS – start broad and funnel down to specific tasks and time frames. Map out, hierarchically and chronologically, what you want and how you want to get there.

8. What other people think (beyond the boundaries of supervisory and constructive feedback) is not a primary concern
Identify those you can trust. Love and acceptance from a precious few is all you need. Those are the relationships you need to cultivate. You will never be able to please everyone, so stop trying.

Makeup Free Me

I was invited to attend a rather novel charity ball on Friday the 29th of August, organised by Merissa Mathew of Makeup Free Me, and supported by the Butterfly Foundation, which assists sufferers of eating disorders and their loved ones. Makeup Free Me is about women rediscovering who they are underneath all the layers of makeup applied whenever they go out and face the world. It’s about removing that veneer behind which many of us hide, and without which we often feel vulnerable and weakened. It reminds us that despite what society and media portrays, there is so much more to a woman than her physical appearance. The Makeup Free Me ball was an all-female event. Unsurprisingly, we were asked to attend makeup-free. It was interesting to see later in the evening with a show of hands how anxious most of the ladies felt about that! 

Upon arrival, we were provided with a pretty, golden masquerade mask. Once we got our masks tied on, adjusted and readjusted, we were ready to begin. It was a gorgeous, clear evening. Our venue, River’s Edge, provided us spectacular views over the Yarra River, with a balcony and windows from floor to ceiling. There were lollies, canapés, drinks, a photo booth, a DJ, and most importantly, heartfelt speeches about the charity and its origins. The stats were shocking and the message clear; body image is a serious problem among women of all ages. It’s important to shed light on the issue and build a culture based on performance and not appearance. There are broad and fundamental societal issues to be dealt with, yet we can all play our part by being conscious of the way we perceive and interact with the females in our lives, and the females of the world. 

Makeup really is like a mask, Merissa pointed out. A mask that women often use to conceal their identities and blend in with the ‘norm’. So she asked us all to take off our masks, and celebrate our individuality, which we wholeheartedly did. Personally, I’m quite comfortable with my appearance; I’m just as happy dressed up as I am looking like a wild-haired zombie after a Sunday sleep-in. But celebrating a girls’ night out with friends old and new made me more at ease than ever. I didn’t have to worry about looking neat/nice/respectable (though I do believe that a true lady should keep it classy at all times, haha); I didn’t have to worry about leaving my purse on a chair as I walked on to the dance floor. I even left my drinks unattended for most of the night! It made me realise how guarded we usually are in public, because we have little choice. Best of all was the happiness when I realised I could go to bed without having to take off my face at the end of the night! Little pleasures 🙂

Makeup Free Me is a great cause, so I encourage you to get behind it and donate. By asking females to forget about makeup for a change, it lifts an often heavy burden and frees us to change the world in a big way 🙂

Tasneem xo