Friday, 6 October 2017

For those of you who have just FINISHED A THESIS...


Here is a little blog post I wrote when I was musing on my own beautifully finished thesis, one sunny October, not so long ago.

(I added that quotation at the end just now, by the way.)


Happiness in academia

Lovely article which I read this morning:

In a nutshell:

 - Don't compare yourself with others; moderate your expectations; be kind to yourself, and practice self-compassion; don't be too concerned about getting that promotion, or loads of money; and meditation and 'savouring' [the moment] are very helpful.

(You heard it all here first.)


Dr Cloud Nine

Tuesday, 12 September 2017


I went to an amazing art exhibition recently, on a very famous artist. (You’ve probably heard of the guy; he goes by the name of Raphael.) (Erm… I’m sorry, I’ve got no idea why I’m being all patronising all of a sudden.)

If you stopped by the entrance of the exhibition, and you looked at their little timeline of important events in Raphael’s life, you would notice that Raphael’s year of birth was exactly 500 years before mine (here’s to everyone born in ’83!!!…) So I felt an instant affinity with Raphael. (He, too, would have been one of those ‘millennial’ types, like me. Or something. You know what I mean - he would have lived his life with similar milestones to mine, a turn of the century as he came of age, and so on…)

And then if you did some maths (which I did, and it always takes me a little bit of time), you worked out that… Raphael was only 37 when he died.

I am 34.

I stood there for a bit and considered this, and I thought to myself: … live as though you only have three years of your life left. This thought has occurred to me before, now and again: none of us know how much time we have left on this earth. I could be hit by a car tomorrow and my life as I know it could be over. I could get cancer tomorrow. Today might be the healthiest I’ll ever be. Today might be the happiest, richest, most carefree, most productive I will ever be. You just can’t know these things. So when people tape postcards to their fridge that say things like ‘Live as if this is all there is’ - this is what they mean. Live as if this is all there is. Live as if you only have three odd years left.

(The Barbara Sher book which I have mentioned on this blog before asks you exactly this question: ‘What would you do if you had six months to live?’)

This is all a bit tricky. On the one hand, we don’t know how much time there is left and we should live each day as though this is all there is. On the other hand, I am occasionally brought up short by the panicky thought: Oh my God I don’t have a retirement plan!… Oh my God, I haven’t got a pension!… That six-months-to-live question, whenever I consider it, always brings me tremendous clarity: I always know exactly what work I would desperately want to bring into the world if I suddenly found out that I have limited time to get my best work out there. And I know that, if I needed to, I would beg, hustle, be pushy, and never hesitate to draw on every single contact and advantage I have ever gained in my miserable little life, if I ever thought that this would help me achieve my goal. 

Interestingly, though, whenever i do this exercise, I always end it by thinking: but I CAN’T do that in real life, because if I did only have 6 months to live, then, d’you know what?… I wouldn’t have to worry about money. I would’t have to think about safety nets and paying bills and retirement plans and the future. I would only need to get by for six months. I could just plan to live off my savings, and sit down and do the work I want to do, and it wouldn’t matter if I got paid for it or not. It wouldn’t matter. And it does matter to me now, in real life, because I need to pay bills. And I need to think about the future. And so I find myself distracted by needing to look up occasionally, and accept paying jobs, and fill in job applications. And then I wonder why I’m not spending as much time as I should on my own important projects.

The eternal conundrum. Do I live as if this is all there is - ignore the I-don’t-have-a-pension voice, assume I might die at any moment, and just throw myself into living life in the now?… Or am I actually being very foolish if I do that, and will I look up in 20 years’ time and see all my friends comfortably moving on with their elegant lives, while I still have to scrabble round for low-paid contracts to survive?…

I don’t have an answer. And I don’t have any advice, either. (I don’t even know what is right for myself; let alone what anyone else should do…)

Anyway, I’m going to try to strike a balance. I once read an interview with an actress who was maybe in her fifties, sixties (forgive me, famous actress, for I can’t remember the exact things you said…) What I remember very clearly is that she said that she tries to live as though she were still 27. Whenever she is offered an opportunity, or a challenge, that might make her think ‘I’m too old; I can’t do that; I should have done that years ago, now it's really too late’ - she tries to respond to the invitation as though she were still 27. I love that idea. I’ve been trying to copy it.

So: I’m 27 (though really sometimes I’m also 34); I might live another three years; I’m going to make that three years the nicest and the most productive ever; I’m going to live as though this is all there is.

(But I’m also secretly hoping that, if I do that, maybe the next bit - the ‘if you build it, they will come’ bit - will fall into place too. Maybe if I just focus on doing my best work, someone will eventually pay me for it.)



CN xx

Good Advice from the Internet

I logged into LinkedIn this morning (an odd thing for me to do.... And, by the way, my LInkedIn page still said that I am doing a PhD. Which gives you some idea of how often I update it.)

(I have been on a business course this week, and have been learning a little bit about 'marketing yourself', amongst other things; hence the sudden urge to check out LinkedIn.)

Anyway, there are some clever people on there who are constantly tweeting out good business stories (so it doesn't count as procrastination, because I found it on LinkedIn. OK?....)

Anyway: here is an article that caught my eye.

'You Need to Give Up These Toxic Habits If You Want To Be Exceptionally Successful'

I like it!... In a nutshell, the article says things like:

- 'Comparison is the thief of joy' (Theodore Roosevelt). Don't compare; be happy with your achievements. (I read somewhere else that you only need to be better than the person you were yesterday.)

- Listen to people properly.

- Stop being 'too agreeable' - say 'no' to things, to avoid overstretching yourself!...

-'Give up the gossip' - don't gossip about people, because you'll lose their trust.

- 'Stop aimlessly roaming the internet' (this one made me smile, because, mwahaha, how else would we find all these weird and wonderful articles??... But, like I said, new rule: if I got it off LinkedIn, it doesn't count as time-wasting. If you got it off my BLOG - similarly, well done, you're off the hook. But now go do some work.)

- Stop procrastinating - choose a tiny bit of the task and make a start. (Regular visitors to this blog will know all about the Procrastination Bible - Neil Fiore's 'The Now Habit' book.)

- 'Dump the toxic waste' - if someone negative preoccupies you, don't think about him or her. Give your energy and brain space to thinking about people who make you happy instead.

Love it. And now go do some work.


CN xx

ps Just for fun, I'm having a read through my blog - from the bottom up. Read this: it's good stuff.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

'The PhD Commandments'

(Found on an old file in my computer, written during the PhD. Unpublished, unfinished; I probably meant to go back and say many more things. I'm just going to publish it now.)

Here are The PhD Commandments:


Thou shalt not work from home too often. If overused, home becomes lonely and depressing. Home is booby-trapped with distractions and tasks (cleaning under the oven, tidying socks) into which the hapless procrastinator runs.

Thou shalt get thyself a small portable computer (for around £200), so that thou canst work in libraries and university cafes, but without breaking thine back or wrists in carrying the thing.

Thou shalt take regular breaks from work, and reward thyself with treats.

Thou shalt take at least one full day off a week.

Thou shalt try to write thine PhD for at least 10 minutes non-stop every working day. If thou succedest, try writing for 30 minutes. If that works well, try doing tomatoes. ('the tomato approach' is outlined briefly here.)

Thou shalt not skimp on exercise, meals and sleep.

Thou shalt not say 'I am not worthy'. [I am not clever, my PhD is rubbish.] Thou art VERY CLEVER. (Thou wouldst not have gotten this far if thou did not have some pretty special gifts.)


(And thou shalt get off this blog now, and go do ten minutes of work!...)

CN xx

'What have I done'

I had a sad thought cross my mind the other day, and it was this: am I just a big waste of space?... I don't really do anything, I haven't really ACHIEVED anything; four years on from my PhD and still I haven't found a decent job; all I do is potter around in my Grotty Job from time to time, pursue a few creative projects half-arsedly on the side, and mostly I just sit around, have a nice time, cook and eat and spend too much money, go to gyms and exercise, scribble useless things in a notebook, and apart from that, nothing.

This is one of those thoughts that comes to you when you are trying to work alone and are a bit panicked, and you haven't planned your time very well so the day stretches blankly ahead like an empty succession of hours to be wasted; you know you have lots to do, but you can't even remember where to start; and then the thought comes to you, masquerading as a perfectly logical truth, based on the 'facts' of that day (I'm terrible, I'm not even doing anything, I'm not doing anything good with my life).

It's not true, of course. I had to think very hard about this one, but eventually I remembered that I am not a waste of space. I think I'm often confusing the notion of 'success' with 'financial success', which, tis true, is something I haven't yet completely achieved. But if, actually, the point of being in this world is to light up your corner of that world a little bit, and contribute something, and help a few people achieve their goal, then maybe I haven't done too badly.

I have:

- helped one or two people finish their PhD (and the proof is in their comments!... Thanks, lovely people!...)

- taught many students, over my time as an 'academic', and at least one of those students reports being inspired by this

- I have done a lot of creative projects and have amused many people with silly, pretty things... (I was trawling through my laptop the other day, searching for a specific file, and I was surprised by how many forgotten old little commissions I ran across - and actually how much effort and joy had gone into them...)

- I keep forgetting this one: I have written a book!... (and I want to write another one - I have so many projects in the pipeline - but how to do them all?... How?... ... Note to self: dig out The Procrastination Bible. That is ALWAYS the solution)

- I have written things and published things online that people have enjoyed.

- I have been nice to friends and family and cooked them food and tried to give them love and kindness (I've probably failed quite a lot at this last bit, I know, but I do try)

... Quote of the day:

"Let your life be shaped by decisions you made, not by the ones you didn’t."

(Maybe I haven't really made too many 'bad' decisions; none that I wouldn't own to, and none that I wouldn't 'stand by'. It's not too bad, this life of mine. It's what I created; it's genuinely and honestly mine. Maybe people will say nice things about me at my funeral.)


Contact me on hatemyphd 'at'

Sunday, 18 June 2017

'Know Thyself'

Can I just say: I’m loving the Myers Briggs personality test indicator thingy. A friend wrote something on Facebook about wanting to know her friends’ personality types, and as a result I spent a happy couple of hours revisiting mine. It says some nice things. 

If you haven’t already had a go at it, and you are struggling with your PhD right now: have a go at it, do it. Set aside a chunk of time when you’d only be procrastinating all day anyway. Spend some time mulling over your responses; get them right. Prepare to be amazed. (As you will know from the very end of a previous post, I thought mine was kind of revealing.)

I did the Myers Briggs test back in about 2010-2011, when I was hopelessly drowning in PhD, and was signing up to all the ‘Motivation’, ‘Time Management’, ‘Planning’, ’How to do your PhD’ type courses at my Graduate School, hoping to infer something from them that would magically help me transform myself from the chaotic mess I was into the kind of person who… could finish off a PhD easily and quickly, and with pleasure. (It didn’t quite work out like that.) A Guru in one of these seminars suggested, amongst other things, that we all take the Myers Briggs personality test. He said that to understand your personality type can help you figure out why you work the way you do. I remember that I did the test on a sunny Saturday; one day when I was procrastinating over something else, and just having a nice day doing nothing, I finally sat down to do it. (It wasn’t around the time of the seminar; it just sort of organically felt like the right thing, many months later.)

I remember that I spend lots of time thinking about my responses, asking myself ‘Is that really what I would do?…’ - and giving carefully-considered, well-thought-through answers. Maybe because of this, my test result came back particularly revealing. It proclaimed, loudly and clearly, lots of things which I had for a long time kind of known about myself, but never articulated. Most surprisingly, it labelled as ‘strengths’ several qualities which I had long thought of as ‘bad things’, ‘rubbish thing’, their opposites being labelled in my head as ‘that thing I’m no good at’, or ‘that thing you’re supposed to do and I’m not doing, and I don’t even know why’. To see your inherent ‘weirdness’ written out on the page, but in complimentary language and packaged as a human ‘strength’, gives you a different narrative to begin to tell yourself. (It took me a long time to get used to that narrative and let it actually inhabit me; for a long time after taking the test, and after finishing my PhD, I would still look at those qualities and think ‘Yeah, but that’s no good. That doesn’t help you find a job. That doesn’t help you get on in the world. That’s all very nice, but…’)

Knowing your personality type can help you figure out why you work the way you do - and help you become aware of your strengths, the Guru said. 

Post-PhD, I spent a long time applying for jobs with titles like ‘Office Co-ordinator’ and not being quite sure how to answer that question in interviews when they ask you ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time?’ (‘I see myself as an Office Co-ordinator but with more responsibility and skills…?’ - is not really true). It took me a really long time (until about this year, I dare say, if not actually this WEEK) to realise that I don’t need to be a square peg trying desperately to fit into a round hole. I don’t need to write another job application on which I proclaim career goals and desires which are only loosely mine, things I ‘can happily do’ rather than ‘really really would like to achieve’. That whole plan, suggested by a careers coach back when I had just finished a PhD, of finding a ‘back-up job’ and going down to four days a week and then eventually having a go at your dream - I don’t need to do that. I have the grotty job which I do for a couple of days a week and which brings me a tiny income that is just fine. I don’t need any more than that. I don’t need anything. Just get on with it, I’m telling myself.

I read something the other week (in the readers’ comments under an online article) that ‘a weakness is just an overdone strength’. I’m not going to dwell too much on what this might mean for me. I’m not even sure I’ve thought really carefully about how this might apply. But I’m feeling a bit more ready to embrace the things that make me ‘me’, and go out and do them. Out loud, and unapologetically.

I have an overwhelming urge to tell the truth sometimes. 


CN xx  

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

How to be Good at Interviews

I really, really suck at interviews. Why is this?... I know why: it's because I don't prepare for them properly. Ever. I just don't want to.

(I also know why because I just googled 'why am I bad at job interviews'.)

So I'm sitting here today, depressed (interview tomorrow), feeling stressed, thinking about how I really need to finish preparing my presentation for that job interview and how I reeeeeally don't want to, and the more time passes, the worse I feel ('Now there's hardly any time to......' 'Aaaaggggh'). And I'm Googling stupid things like 'why am I bad at interviews'. And I'm writing little motivational notes to myself, which i am leaving all over the place. And I'm making myself tea. And doing laundry. And... And... And...

The universe is an interesting thing sometimes. An email just arrived in my inbox with the title 'Some interview questions'. I did a double take. It is actually from my book editor, who would like to write a fun little blurb about me on the publisher's website, and to that end has sent me a few questions to answer. Can I just say: TOTALLY UP MY STREET. I perked up immediately; I feel like a celebrity already. I started drafting lovely thoughtful answers before I could stop myself: come on, bitch, you've GOT an interview to prepare already.

And then it struck me: why must I hate the job interview prep, when really it is kind of the same as the fun 'interview questions' - think about my life, think about what people want to hear, tell them a nice story?...  Why can't I see it a bit more as an exercise in something like 'Hey, I'm amazing - of course you can interview me about all the amazing things I've done!... I can't wait to tell you everything I know...'

(Disclaimer: bit delusional, yes, I know. But I'm running out of time and I'll take ANY positive thought that comes my way. Anything. Really, anything.)

So now let's go ace that interview prep....


CN xx

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Statistical Analysis: How I spent my Saturday


So this is how my day is going so far...

- Number of job interviews looming: 1

- Number of presentations to prepare for job interview: 1

- Number of hours I planned to spend on job interview prep today: (like, 8 or so?... Obviously, these were going to be interspersed with productive little ten-minute breaks, during which I do a little catching up on commissions/ do laundry)

- Number of hours of interview prep which have so far happened: 0 (although do 5 minutes scribbling count?...)

- Number of hours spent having a lie-in this morning (and afternoon) : (... if you count from the moment I was awake, then I think about... 7)

- Number of loads of laundry that have made it into the machine today: 1 (yay!...)

- (number of loads that have made it out again: 0)

- Number of self-help books perused so far, when I should be working: 1 (Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real, by Thomas d'Ansembourg)

- Number of chats over the phone with best friend: 1

- Number of actual things achieved by 5 pm: 7 (had shower, brushed hair, ate breakfast, ate lunch, put laundry on, made tea, put computer on, started writing blog post :) )

- Things still left to do today: 1 (prepare for that bloody interview....)

- Number of hours still left available to me: (oh, I don't know... two? Because I have a friend who offered to look at my interview presentation and she has time TONIGHT. And also, I want to go on a date.)

- Number of small steps I intend to take: 2 (1 - write some notes on what friend said; 2 - plan very simple 10-slide presentation).

- Number of biscuits I intend to eat when this is over: fuckloads.

I am now going to spend one hour (that's right, just ONE, out of my entire day) preparing for this job interview.

And then I'm getting out of here.

(It's all about the small steps.)


Cloud Nine xx

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Procrastination: Why we do it,* when we do it** - and what can we do about it***

[* like, just because; ** ALL THE TIME. *** Read on...]

Ho hum. You know how I used to say, The Procrastination Bible is for life, not just for Christmas?... Turns out it's true. Know how I used to think I was procrastinating on my PhD because of my PhD, because I thought it was a rubbish thing to do?... We-ell.....

I think I might owe my PhD a small apology.

Being a PhD survivor, a recent therapy convert, and of course, as you know, the happy owner of a Kindle-full of self-help books, I have finally done that thing where you have an epiphany about your life and you make a plan to do something cool with it. That's right. Alongside that 'grotty' job that I still do (which is actually a lovely job, and I've been making my peace with it, because after all it feeds me and pays the bills), and that University teaching gig, which I do for fun, I have also began working on - drum roll - my own creative little business. (You might remember from a very old blog post that I'm kind of into that...)

It's not yet making enough money to live on, and it's not yet well-known or big or award-winning, but it's there, it exists, you know?.... And I've never actually felt more alive, more excited, than I have been feeling for this past year, now that I have taken charge of an area of my life that previously I didn't know what to do with, and now that I have projects of my own that I care about, and that I would do in my spare time anyway - projects which are now miraculously becoming real.

So then, I ask you, why the hell am I procrastinating for most of today on some fairly simple and rewarding and creative tasks?.... Why?...

I have been asked by some nice people to do a couple of commissions. And I've had these sitting on my 'desk' now for.... what feels like weeks. And I haven't done them. One of them, half-started today, is in front of me. The others are still haunting my poor brain. I want to do them, and I want to get them out of the way, and I want to present them to the happy people and have done with it, and yet I just.... don't want to.

How very interesting. Why?... I think I know why. That moment when you sit down at a blank page, which you are miraculously supposed to bring to life with your ideas: that moment. I'm terrified of that moment. Even though I know full well that I have all the skills and capacities to sit down at that page and bring the project to its logical conclusion with all kinds of success. Even though I know very well that if I don't, all that will happen is - I will get to start again. Really, this is the most low-risk enterprise I have ever been involved in. And yet here I am, and I don't want to do it. (it's also that thing where life intrudes, some deadlines overwhelm you, job gets a little bit busy, and all of a sudden you don't feel like doing the creative project quite as much as you might have done; every time you sit down to it, you think aaaagh, that meeting at work that I forgot to email people about...)

So to all those amongst you who hate your PhD, and procrastinate on it whilst imagining the array of better, shinier things that await you on the other side of it: the Procrastination Bible is for life. Turns out we might still need it post-PhD. Turns out it's not the PhD. It's something bigger than that. Do you hate yourself sometimes because you procrastinate?... Don't hate yourself. Don't worry. Everyone does it, it turns out. Even the people with the 'cool' jobs, those ones doing their own thing, and 'living the dream'. Would you believe it - they all still can't do it either.

I don't know about you, but I think I need another one of those cut-out-and-keep lists to stick on my fridge...

Notes to Self: What to do about Procrastination

1) Rule no. 1: if you ever get commissioned to do something, make a start on that thing as soon as you get it. Literally, do it that same evening; cancel whatever else you had planned. Don't let it sit on your desk or in your files gathering dust for days while you 'think about it'. That is the worst thing you can do, because this is when procrastination creeps in. Think to yourself, 'When is literally the earliest moment that I can start working on this?'...

2) Procrastinate sensibly. Have several little projects on the go. If you find yourself procrastinating on the commission, you can get excited about updating your website or writing a blog post (woohoo!). It's still work avoidance, but at least you're working on something else... (I've been doing that today, actually. Desperate to avoid the creative jobby that's been making me uncomfortable, I've found myself spending a little bit of time on some of the other tasks which I've not managed to do earlier, and which now seem curiously appealing.

And 3), Note to self: identify which tasks you procrastinate on. (for me: those ones where I need to be creative and work to a brief, so I can't just produce any old thing and go ta-daaaah, but where I am also left to my own devices, with no immediate need for action, no face-to-face interactions to get things moving, and just an open space in time for me to fret in. I have no trouble, say, selling already existing products, or doing something which involves a direct interaction with a client; but leave me on my own with flexible time frames and a 'what-if-they-don't-like-it' kind of project, and I'll procrastinate my life away.) Solution: in the future, either say NO to such projects altogether, OR ramp up your fees for those kinds of tasks, so that they'll only come along infrequently, and so that I'll also be motivated by the financial rewards (yay!).

There. That's my little conversation with myself. Thank you, everyone, for letting me share.


CN Xxx

[Business woman/ Artiste Extraordinaire]
[New! From Cloud Nine. Now with exciting life goals!]
[Emotional inadequacies sold separately.]

Monday, 13 February 2017

A memory

I have a memory from last summer which has recently been coming back to me:

I am sitting in a taxi. I'd just spent the day running errands which were to do with my own little creative business project (so I was excited, had had a fun day, felt like I was going somewhere with everything I was doing). I'd made a start on a lasagne, and then I had to get changed, grab the gift I'd bought for my friend, and run out of the house and hurry to my friend's party. (I had hoped to stay at home for an extra hour, cooking and dithering in a lovely way, savouring some alone-time, when she texted me and made it clear that she wanted me at the party NOW. I allowed myself the unusual luxury of calling a taxi - I don't normally do this - and there it was, arriving to pick me up, and there I was, nice dress and the comfy/pretty shoes and gift in a bag, and we were off.)

I remember that I was wearing my favourite dark green dress and a slick of fuchsia lipstick. It was summer, a sunny early evening, and I had a light trench coat thrown over my outfit, and I was in a taxi. Little things, but luxuries to me, and I felt like a million dollars.

The taxi driver and I got chatting - wish I could remember how it started, and exactly what was said - and somehow, we got talking about 'success'. And I mentioned to him - you know, I sometimes don't feel successful. I don't have the traditional, normal 'things' that define 'success'. And yet if someone were to look at me, it's not like they'd think that about me. I look like the very image of success.

The taxi driver looked at me in the rear-view mirror - a young woman, healthy, dress, lipstick, all bright colours and youth and shiny hair - and he said something like, really, just look at you - you've got everything you could possibly want - you are rich (he didn't exactly say the following words, but the conversation was along the lines of: you are rich in terms of health, you are rich in terms of youth, you have absolutely every thing you might need; you have absolutely won the lottery of all things to do with luck. I remember that thing I read in various 'self-help' books: you are enough. You are perfectly fine just as you are. You have everything you need.)

I remember that gorgeous summer's evening, being chauffered from one nice part of my Saturday to the next, green dress and lipstick, friends waiting for me, and a conversation with this driver, and everything being OK in the here and now. It keeps coming back to me, this memory. (I'm not sure if it's happy or sad. I think it's happy.) I must not let it go.

Mornings - continued

This morning I woke up at 6:35.

And then I got up. And I turned off my alarm. And then I went in the other room (and not back to the warm, warm bed). And then I did the thing I wanted to carve out the extra little bit of time to be able to do.

(You see, recently I've been living the sort of life that a 'normal person' might lead: getting up in the morning, EARLY, and trying to piece myself together and heading out to work. I've been missing out on my beloved morning ritual of 'morning pages' (cf. The Artist's Way), and I've been feeling quite sad about it. But the thought of getting up EVEN EARLIER than EARLY was just ridiculous.

Then last night I was looking at this podcast (I say 'looking at', because I couldn't be bothered to listen to the podcast, but I just scrolled down and was lazy and skim-read the transcript instead) and what caught my eye is that this writer, who was being interviewed, talked about how he managed to train himself to get up at 5 every morning, precisely to try some of those life-enhancing type practices that I've been going on about in one of my previous posts.

So he tells you how he managed to make himself get up, and get out of bed, early. And I loved this thing he said:

'That was the morning my entire life changed, and this is kind of where I’ll wrap up the story, is I woke up the next morning at 5:00 AM, which if you ask anyone that knew me back then, I wouldn’t be caught dead waking up at five unless I had to catch an early flight, right? Never. I only woke up when I had to wake up, which is what most of us do, right?
Look at your schedule. You’ll go, “When’s the last possible minute that I could wake up and not get fired, divorced, have my children taken away from me?” Right? [...].'

And I love that because that resonates. No one has ever put it quite like that before. The reason we fail to get up 'earlier than early' in the mornings, when already life demands a pretty 'early' start from us, is because it's normal to want to get as much sleep as possible, to stay in the warm bed (instead of exchanging it for the arctic circles of the waking world) and to want to put off getting up until you absolutely HAVE to.

But this guy managed to motivate himself to get up. He offers two tips: one of them I've already tried doing, the other is amazing and it helped me make the first one work.

His tips for getting up at 5 are:

- set an alarm and move your alarm clock to the other side of the room, so that you physically have to get out of bed and walk over to turn it off.

(I already sometimes do this. The trouble is how to have the courage to NOT go straight back to bed afterwards. To the warm bed, with the pillows and duvet, and sleeping lover, and all the wonderful things...)

And his other tip, which I think is the best tip, is,

- create a visualization, before you fall asleep, of how this getting-out-of-bed thing will actually work; say to yourself 'Tomorrow morning I will wake up refreshed and full of energy, and I will go and [do the things I want to do]'.

So I tried it. I set my alarm for earlier than I'd like to (absolute latest time to get up - 7:30; a good 'early'  time to get up - 7; my 'earlier than early' goal for today - 6:35). And I said to myself in my head: 'Tomorrow I am going to wake up refreshed and full of energy; I am going to... turn off the alarm clock, put on my slippers, go to the room next door where it's warm; make myself a glass of hot water with lemon; and I'm going to write my morning pages.'

It took me forever to drop off to sleep (this due to a bad night's sleep the previous night) but I just kept thinking - I'm going to wake up refreshed and full of energy.

I woke up when the alarm went off; fuzzy, groggy, sleepy, not quite right after a not-quite-finished sleep. But, would you believe it, I turned off that damn alarm clock, and I put on those slippers, and I went into the next room.

And I did my lovely morning writing, and I felt powerful and energized (even if I did feel quite dopey, and did wonder how I was going to get through my day, and did spend my walk to work planning multiple possible naps in various nooks and crannies of the building).

And the guy says,

'Number two is, you got to set your intentions before you fall asleep about what the morning is going to be like. Specifically, those first few moments. Before I go to bed, I tell myself, no matter how many hours of sleep I get, I’m going to wake up feeling rested, energized, rejuvenated, and I’m going to jump out of bed, and I’m going to keep moving forward, right?
Whether you visualize that, or I have a bed time affirmation that you can — that’s available online if you Google “miracle morning bedtime affirmation,” I’m sure you can find it. Bedtime affirmation that I read it before bed, and it’s essentially programming my subconscious mind for how to respond when the alarm clock goes off. I’m not deciding in the moment, that moment of waking up, and not in my REM, or in the middle of my REM cycle or whatever. I’m not deciding in the moment in the morning. I decided the night before I went to bed, I had my intentions, rock solid commitment was made before I opened my eyes in the morning, and then when I open my eyes, I just live out what I visualized or affirmed before I went to bed.'

And also (when asked if he wakes up 'refreshed' no matter how much sleep he had - does he wake up as productive when he's slept for three hours as when he's slept for eight hours, or whatever) :

'[...] there’s a lot of great books on sleep. But there’s also a lot of differing opinions. So I tell people look, here’s what I experimented with. I tried getting eight hours, or seven hours, six hours, five hours, four hours, and here was the difference.
This goes back to one of the tips I gave earlier about setting your intentions before bed. I tried all of those durations, but I tried all of them, each one. I literally did multiple nights at eight hours, telling myself I was going to be exhausted in the morning, and every time, if I set those intentions of being exhausted in the morning, that’s how I felt. I also felt exhausted if I got six, five, or four hours if I told myself I’d feel exhausted. I flipped it over and I went, I’m going to try eight hours, seven hours, six, five, and four, telling myself I’m going to wake up, and it’s a very intentional affirmation that I just have.
It really comes on the belief of the mind/body connection, you know?'

The guy got my attention.

So here I am. I got up at 6:35. (I just had a little nap in the armchair just over there in the corner.) I did that thing that I'm never, ever able to do if I have to be at work first thing in the morning, that thing I love to do for myself, and which really helps me. And I feel like I've reaffirmed my commitment to all the things I've learnt from The Procrastination Bible, and all the other motivational bibles which have got me through my PhD: the power of positive thinking, of affirmations, of visualizing success - they all matter... (I've been letting them slide in the last few days, feeling a bit blue, grappling with unwelcome life changes and circumstances, feeling helpless and powerless and 'not good enough'. Feeling like crying a little bit every day, asking myself 'what the hell am I doing with my life', 'how can I do all the positive thinking when the reality is THIS'. And now I'm seeing that you have to do those things no matter what, and stick with them, and imagine the bestest possible outcomes, and decide what you are committed to doing, and do it; and create positive expectations for what you would like to happen, and hold on to them.

'I heard [...] a quote that I’ll share right now, because this quote literally was the catalyst for turning my life around faster than I ever thought possible. It really was what gave birth to the concept that is now The Miracle Morning.
The quote is from Jim Rohn [...]. He said, “Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development,” and he went on to say, “because success is something you attract by the person you become.” In that moment, I stopped running, and I replayed it, and I thought, “I’m not dedicating time every day to my personal development. Therefore, I am not becoming the person that I need to be to create the success I want in my life and sustain that success.”'

You can view the transcript, or listen to that podcast, here:

(I listened to it properly on my walk to work this morning.)

Have a great day, everybody!...

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Contact Me

Dear Readers of this blog,

For some time now I have been wondering what to do when people ask me for details of my other blogs, and other projects, and I have also been wondering what to do when there is someone on THIS blog that I'd like to contact, and perhaps thank him or her - thank for visiting, or for encouraging me in a particular way, or for otherwise showing their support.

The weird thing is that I want to be friends with ALL OF YOU, and I want to tell you ALL about all the cool things I'm planning to do with my life, my extensive knowledge of self-help books, and my general itch to do creative and silly things. On the other hand, I don't really want to give up this privileged position of anonymity. Not just yet.

Writing this blog anonymously has allowed for two things in particular to happen: 1) for me to be able to come here, especially in the early days, and VENT, totally honestly, about the things that I felt were wrong in my life (mostly PhDs, obvs). I'm not sure the venting would have been quite so honest, nor so heartfelt, if I had been writing as 'me'. Also, no-one wants to risk being 'found' by colleagues and professional contacts, to be known as that academic who really, really hated her PhD.

And so the other thing that this anonymity enabled was, of course, a genuine connection with people sharing the same experience. If I hadn't written anonymously, I'm not sure my posts would have been as relatable as they were to some people who read them. They would have been sugar-coated with a veneer of professional 'readability': [yes, but what if someone SERIOUS stops by?... I'd better temper my outburst about missed deadlines, and instead cite something appropriate for grown-ups. I wonder if there's anything suitable in Plato.]

But at the same time, I would love to be able to share with some of you some of my upcoming thoughts, and dreams, and projects - and I would also love to have a place where people can write to me and say things, and ask questions, which maybe they don't want to say publicly here.

So I've created an email address - NEW! From Cloud Nine! - and if you are a regular reader of the blog, or if you are a fan, or if you have advice or feedback to give (or even you have already given it and I've already thanked you), or if you'd like to be on a special mailing list which will receive details of my next creative venture - or any, or all of the above - I want to hear from you, and you can write to me at hatemyphd 'at' (the unorthodox 'at' is to stop spam bots crawling all over my site).

So now there are some ways you can write to me:

Email hatemyphd 'at'

OR post your own email address in the comments below, and I'll note it down and delete the comment.

Lots of love,

Cloud Nine xx

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


I keep meaning to write something on this blog. Every time September-October comes round (aka ‘deadline time’, I want to write a cheery post: go on! You’re nearly there! You can do it!... I want to write something every time crazy political events happen, and the world feels like it’s been knocked out of kilter. I want to write something every time … well, just every time I think of this blog, and remember all the nice comments from all the nice people on here, which helped me so much. In a corner of the library, somewhere, a bound copy of my PhD slumbers on a shelf, and in it, in the Acknowledgments section, if you ever find your way to it, there is a brief dedication to all of you…
Now and again, the idea for a coherent post comes to me. If I don’t seize hold of it, and write it down, it floats away. Here are some incoherent bits of such posts.


The list of things I am supposed to be doing every day keeps growing longer by the minute. Sometime last year, a kind friend emailed me a nice article: a list of things we should all be doing before 8 a.m., to help us have a great start to the day and be more effective in our everyday lives. It’s meant to help us all be better people.

It included things like:

-       have a cold shower
-       eat some protein (an egg is best, apparently. YUM. I’m into that)
-       meditate (I have the Headspace app on my phone, with ten free meditations, which you can just listen to as much as you like. It’s supposed to help you carry that calm, meditate-y feeling around with you for the rest of the day)
-       (and other things, which I’ve obviously not been doing, and which I’ve forgotten)
My own personal morning to-do list, refined over the years through self-help-book reading, and which is meant to help me become more effective in my everyday life, goes something like this:
-       Every morning, first thing, write. (This is called ‘morning pages’. You do a sort of brain dump, writing freely for three pages or so, to offload your inhibitions and negative thoughts and stuff, to free you up to be unashamedly creative. Source: Becoming an Artist. Good for: writers, arty types, PhDs…)
(This is also good for when you need to write something extra one day, like an article, and you don’t have time for it; you’ve created a practice of getting up and writing every day, and so you can just naturally slip it into that time…)
-       Every day, do some wrist exercises, or wrist yoga, to look after wrist. (Note to self: must see chiropractor. I keep putting this off, because to see the chiropractor costs forty pounds.)
-       Every day, do some singing exercises. (These are special singing exercises, for, erm, snorers.)
-       Every day, play a bit of guitar or piano?... (My self-professed raison d’ĂȘtre since I was a kid, music is getting lost by the wayside somehow. I never make time for it anymore.)
-       Every day, do something for my business. (I am a businesswoman. I’ve started a business. Most of the time I forget I’m actually doing this, and instead get tangled in a mire of looking at job adverts and wondering ‘shouldn’t I get a steady job with a pension’.)
-       Every day, go swimming or do some yoga, because it makes me feel better.
-       Every week (so, on some days), do some exercises from the current self-help book of choice (because you’re actually meant to do them, not just read them, nod sagely, and think how useful they would be.)

(And then there’s the stuff from the Money self-help book, which I should be doing every day, because it is important: )

-       Every day, read something about money (note to self: must get better at understanding my finances, doing things like filling in claims forms immediately, and generally valuing myself more)
-       Every day, do some affirmations. (Affirmations, as in positive statements that you’re using to try and re-wire your brain. So you’re trying to go from thinking thoughts like ‘I am useless with money’ to ‘I like money and I appreciate what it does for me’. ‘I am very optimistic about my financial future.’)
-       Every day, I’m meant to be writing down what I spend. (I forget to do this, obviously.)

Thing is, if you’ve read more than, like, one self-help book, the lists of things ‘to do every day’ just gets a bit insane. I have this vision of myself spending all morning meditating and writing, exercising and affirming, having cold showers and cooking lovely eggs for breakfast, and of course this is all great, though it assumes you don’t actually need to be anywhere before, like, 11 a.m.). Not to mention that the whole system falls apart on any day when your job requires you to be up at daybreak to travel somewhere (I am doing the Grotty Job again, by the way), or on days when you have a job interview the next day and you’re sitting around in your pyjamas trying to prepare for it (like today).

Well. Today, at least, I am reasonably successful. I am up and about, have cancelled all Grotty Jobs and University-related activities, and I’m sitting here, porridge heating gently in the kitchen, and I’ve written this. Let this blog be today’s ‘morning pages.’

Have a good day, everybody!.....