Note to Self: Managing a Doctorate Pause


Then there was quiet

I have now received official confirmation of my Doctorate suspension. In a short space of time I have gone from a flurry of activity of a progression viva and an agreed suspension to……..…nothing. As I am learning, grounds for suspension means that you must not work on your doctorate, you cannot attend your monthly research group meetings, you no longer have monthly supervisor meetings.  I still have access to my University email account however even the emails coming through have tapered off. Nobody prepares you for this especially after three years of working at full steam.

Seeking evidence

In true academic style I decided to google “Doctorate break next steps”. This returned pages and pages of different University rules and regulations of intermitting.  The first literature hit was from the journal “Nature” which discussed in depth how taking time out would damage your career. Just what I needed from such a highly resected journal.  However there were some success stories shared and I particularly liked the one whereby an individual was able to look at their research through a new lens based on a new hobby they had undertaken. In an attempt of not making myself feel any worse for the decision that had now been formalised I stopped googling.

The early days

My first task was to catch-up with three years of decluttering which I found therapeutic. I also decided it was time to tackle the bigger house maintenance tasks that had been on hold.  Our ensuite is falling apart and I now close my eyes when entering the house as the driveway needs a blast with the jet wash. So what better time to get some house improvements booked in? However a few days into this flurry of activity I realised there were not enough “jobs” and this rekindled cleaning passion was not going to last six month. These tasks are short-lived and at this point I have twenty two weeks to go.  I am the type of person who likes to keep busy, but busy in a stimulating way.  Washing the windows for the fourth time was not going to cut it.

Learning form elite sport

Bizarrely, while trying to figure out next steps, I reflected on sport auto-biographies of which I am an avid reader- no sport is off limits. I am drawn by the discipline individuals have to achieve their goals, the highs and lows of being a competitive elite sports person and also the support networks that are in place to make these goals a reality. The irony of course is that I am no sportsperson but there is something in these narratives that I can draw parallels with- albeit as an average person trying to navigate my way through academia.  In these books are accounts of “career breaks”, falling out of love of your sport, not being selected, drug bans and/or injury.  Intertwined are themes of taking up different sports, re-establishing family and friendship circles and using times like this to reflect.  Often athletes reported returning stronger. At last a good news story.

Doing it the “Janice” way

Drawing on the above I have decided to continue the habit of writing through blogging and hopefully co-authoring an article (or two) on topics outside of my Doctorate. I plan to meet for a cup of tea with some of the individuals who are influencing my work. As an Academic Director there are plenty of activities to keep me busy at work and some short projects I can now take on which lend themselves to my skills set. As luck would have it, one is related to Social Media. I have taken up gardening albeit my husband is the gardener and I am capitalising on his great work over the years by watering the plants and doing some weeding.  I want to reconnect with being Mum so we as a family have bought “Digbie” the camper van to enjoy more of the weekends together creating memories.


So the plan…….. to read, reflect, reenergise, reconnect and keep blogging 🙂



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