If you read my last update, you will know that in January I attempted to change habits in multiple areas of my life simultaneously. I think I was hoping that by perfecting my routine I could somehow hack the final year of my PhD. As many of my family and friends warned, all this change resulted in exhaustion and burnout. I just couldn't sustain the will power it took to control all of those areas of my life.
While this may sound like a disaster, I'm thankful that it happened. Firstly, it made me reflect on my life and question why I felt the need to optimise and improve my habits continually. I realised I already lived a very healthy and productive life and therefore all my changes just involved removing the few things that gave me joy (i.e. enjoying that second coffee). Secondly, I had to confront my addiction to self-help books/podcasts/videos etc. and acknowledge the negative impact they had on my internal world. I realised I needed to learn to run my own race and make changes based on my situation rather than an arbitrary standard I picked up from some life guru. The PhD is so individual it's ridiculous to base my milestones or workhours off other PhD students or professionals in other industries – instead I can make the most of its flexibility and figure out what works best for me.
So this month I have no new habits to report – instead, I've been trying to listen to my body and find my natural rhythms for work, play, exercise and rest. Surprisingly, I'm still eating healthy, getting my PhD work done, and exercising regularly but I'm feeling much happier about it. I realised I already had great habits in place. I just needed to recognise and enjoy them. I also decided to go see a psychologist to process my issues with perfectionism. She has helped me improve my sleep and also gave me some tools to start working on letting go of my intense self-discipline and managing the emotions that come with a PhD. I've also been lucky to have supportive PhD friends to process this with and talk through the challenges we are facing along the way.