It consumed me. For two months I would awake naturally around 5:30 am then read and write until 10:00 pm, breaking only to eat and use the washroom. For these two months I had energy like I seldom do. In fact, it was a stretch of production that I have never experienced before. I literally did nothing but think critically and articulate my thoughts each day, all day, for these two months. But why?
The doctoral degree process is a rite of passage. It requires that the student demonstrate a minimum level of acquired knowledge and research ability while on the path to obtaining the PhD. In order to do this successfully, certain milestones must be reached and a major milestone is the “qualifying” process. Essentially, the doctoral student must show a mastery of the major influences the field in which they study and therefore “qualify” to continue in the pursuit of their degree and advance toward the beginning of the dissertation.
In my program, we are required to submit an online “dossier.” This electronic dossier is a declaration of my statement as a potential PhD candidate as well as highlight the major actions taken in the areas of research, teaching, and service. My dossier was the single reason I spent so much time and energy they way I did for the past two months. My desk was covered with articles and manila folders to separate the various topics I needed to master. Additionally the area two feet to the left and right of my desk was piled a foot high with books and other prominent readings. This small space served as my battle station for two months.
I would wake up at 5:30 and immediately turn on my desk light, power on my computer, light the candle on my desk, and grab some water from the fridge. My mind would not allow me to deviate too much beyond this routine. Within about ten minutes I was seated and ready to go. Each day I would reread the entire dossier and determine where I should devote most of my effort that day. I had zero temptation to check on the score of the ballgame, watch TV, take a nap, or otherwise. Before I realized what was happening several weeks passed by. Then, before I knew it two months had passed by and I had submitted my dossier.
As it now stands I am 4 days away from my oral defense of my already-submitted dossier. I will then be judged by two faculty member in my program who are not my advisers. I am almost there, almost done. Looking back it is clear that the process consumed me. I hope this reflection is helpful for you. Remember, the PhD is a rite of passage; we must demonstrate that we know our stuff to progress on the path toward the PhD degree. It can be done, certainly. But it requires nothing more exotic than steady, simple, and relentless work.