Originally published on July 3rd, 2013
You may be studying for hours, days, weeks, writing up, reading and analysing until your eyes give up. Apparently, your body should be telling you to stop. But there it is another video, another lecture, another paragraph that keeps you going.
It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it feels great.
For me, this boost in productivity has been provided by confidence. And this confidence, in its turn, has been provided by an amazing post-exam feeling. Similar to the need to drink beer after an examination, I have been drunk on productivity following my Annual Progress Review. For those who are not too familiar with the concept, it is roughly an oral examination of what you have done in an year. Everything. From the first day to the last. And the problem is that there is normally so many things that have happened (and not all of them good) that it is hard to start speaking and make it look like it was a good year and you have reached your goals.
My concern about what to talk about lasted for a week. Then I met my supervisors and they advised me it was going to be a friendly conversation, not an execution panel. So I decided not to worry, and just summarise what I had achieved, and be ready to answer questions that might be a bit outside the research field. I was very chilled out, through and through. Since I have not had a lot of participation in this year’s group, I did not know how my colleagues felt, so it was surprising to see two of them (the person before me and the person after me) shaking with nerves and worried about what the panel might decide. Funnily enough, I did not have that horrifying cool chill that breaks in after realising you have missed out something very important in an exam. I just did not understand what they were worried about, because I was not.
My APR went well. There was indeed a friendly, yet of course academic conversation, of what I am doing and what I have done, and a small list with my achievements. They are not particularly amazing achievements, but for me, everything counts. I have to say that having made it through the year is probably my biggest achievement. Getting to the stage when I am up to speed with my first year colleagues despite having spent 50% of the time working in hospitality and not on my research is just unbelievable. That, for me, is the key that opens that confidence boost. The fact that after that I was praised for having mentally survived such a year, and having triumphed over pressure rather than succumbing under it, is just a little extra to make me feel smug and proud of my own achievement. I was even in the mood to make a joke about it. I said that if I can survive standing on a court with 100 spectators watching and booing me, I think I can probably survive any sort of criticism and pressure. Sounds hilarious, but it is true.
The overall impression is that I am doing fine, but of course work does not end here. I am expected to perform just as well or even better next year. It is all good – after all, this review is just a review, not a final examination. It’s meant to orient you and point you in a direction if you do not have one, but you are the one who is meant to keep pushing to get there. And that’s what I am doing at the moment.
I shall be taking the next two weeks off work, and I’m back to my project afterwards. I will be starting the writing up of the first two ‘chapters’. Note the flying quotes. I am ready. I got a confidence boost powered rucksack behind.