Goals for 2019

Yesterday I published a post reflecting on 2018 – a massive year for me that encompassed huge highs (hello PhD!), and some very real lows as well. Many of those lows were in relation to my personal life, and this blog is not the place to talk about them. That conscious decision to only include professional things in my reflections made it look like 2018 was essentially made up of achievement after achievement; good thing after good thing. Lots of good things did happen in 2018, but there is room for improvement to make 2019 the year that I want it to be – enter, goals for 2019!

A side note before I get into my goals: this year it feels like there’s an awful lot of people rubbishing the idea of the new year being a trigger for change, but for me it works. It’s an obvious time to refocus and reassess what I want out of both my professional and personal lives, and looking back gives me a boost to kick start the year with positive intentions. This isn’t about turning supposedly bad habits into good ones, or that whole ‘new year, new me’ bullshit, it’s just about making some tweaks to make sure that I have realistic expectations for the year ahead.

So, some things I’d like to do in 2019…

Refocus my career aspirations and invest my time accordingly
As I said in my reflections post, I spent a huge amount of time doing public engagement and science communication activities in 2018, but that’s not my job. I am not a professional science communicator or a public engagement professional, I am a researcher that communicates my science and works to engage the public with my science, because I am passionate about my field of science. I would like more people to know that research on research is a thing, I would like more people to understand just how important it is for us to get research methods right, for us to optimise and ensure our methods are as efficient as possible so that we can get good quality evidence from ‘traditional’ research (here I mean the scientific research that is being done to cure a disease or improve the way we diagnose etc, rather than research on research which is what I do).

Towards the end of 2018 my research work started to suffer because I was spending too much time on public engagement activities. Before I left work for Christmas it was becoming really clear to me that I needed to make some decisions about how I approach public engagement. I’ve said before that I don’t want to be a science communicator, I don’t want to make a living from doing public engagement; that’s still true, so it’s time for me to refocus and set some boundaries to make sure that I’m investing my time and energy in projects that are reflective of my future career aspirations – to stay in academic research that aims to improve the way that we do clinical trials.

Publish 2 papers from my PhD
This goal links in with the point I made earlier about spending a lot of time doing public engagement. Just after I submitted my thesis in June, I told my supervisors that I wanted to have drafts of 2 papers complete and ready to submit before Christmas. That didn’t happen, but in 2019 I want those two papers drafted, revised and submitted. This shouldn’t take a huge amount of work – I had one draft done and sent to supervisors before Christmas, so I need to spend some time editing that and cutting text down etc to send round for comments again, and the other one is currently sitting as a thesis chapter that needs to be reshaped. I’d really like to have both of these submitted and with journals for peer review by April this year, which I think is realistic.

Wind down my freelance work
I’ve talked about being a freelancer on this blog before – there are definite good bits and bad bits, but this year I’d like to continue winding down my freelance activities. When I first started to do freelance writing I liked the flexibility of it and the additional money I made enabled me to live more comfortably. Now I’m in a very fortunate position where I have a full time contract for 2 years when I start my new job in March, I’ll be on an actual grown up person’s salary and during those two years I don’t want to be spending my ‘spare’ time on freelance stuff. Instead I want to use it to put my absolute all into my research career – finding fellowships, making connections with people and doing some bloody good research. I enjoyed freelancing at times, but in recent months it has become yet another thing on my to do list; even during the final weeks of thesis writing I was writing copy for businesses, and this year it’s been a pretty relentless schedule of two blog posts (that require a decent amount of time to research before I even start writing), every single week. In 2019 I want to spend that time in other ways.

Rediscover a love of fitness
Linking into public engagement and all of the extra things that I’ve done along side my research, I have not been to the gym in months. I don’t mean like a month or two, I mean probably about 9 months now. I’ve been paying for use of a pretty high end gym for that entire time, and I have booked classes, but I’ve then gone on to cancel them because something else came up – Science On A Postcard orders needing to be packed or freelance projects had tight deadlines etc. In 2019 that needs to change. I used to go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, and I loved it. It was a normal part of my routine, and one that kept my mental health in check just as well as my physical health. Recently I’ve been experiencing really bad tiredness – I’m hesitant to call it fatigue because I don’t think it’s been that bad, but I have been sleeping a ridiculous amount, and feeling too tired to do things like going to the gym. Starting the year with a holiday and some much needed stress free time has been great, and I now have some supplements that will hopefully help the tiredness to reduce over the coming months, so I’d like to stat re-building my gym habit, and start going to hot yoga classes again. Whilst I’ve been out of the UK I haven’t had access to a gym (nor have I wanted it to be honest), but I’ve been walking lots which has been a great way to see new places whilst also keeping my body moving.

Those are the 4 main things I want to focus on during 2019, I have some little things I’d also like to do or get involved with, but I’ll update those as and when they (hopefully) happen! What do you think of setting new goals at the start of a new year; does it help you? If so, leave a comment and let me know what you plan to work on this year – I always find that putting my goals ‘out there’ and telling someone gives me more of a boost to pursue them so let’s share and encourage each other 🙂

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

At the beginning of 2017 when I first started this little blog, I published a post on my goals for this year. Now we’re in that weird time period between Christmas and New Year, so I thought I’d reflect on what progress I made with those goals, and then set some new ones for 2018.

Reflecting on 2017

2017 goal: Begin piecing together the thesis
How did I do? I’m pretty happy with this one, and with 6 months to go until I hand in I’m not feeling tooooo terrified. I attended my first writing retreat and finished a full first draft of my systematic review chapter (currently sitting at over 30,000 words), which is a really nice foundation to work from – much better than beginning to tackle the thesis with a blank page in front of me. I’ll go into more depth about where I am with my thesis in a post over the next few weeks, so there will be more details there. Overall though, I’m feeling relatively happy with the progress in made in 2017.

2017 goal: Read more widely, and more frequently
How did I do?
This year I have been doing the #365papers project – reading a paper every day (on average) for a year. I did a decent job with this, but let my reading slip in December meaning I haven’t finished the challenge. In previous years, I’d have forced myself to finish the project and completed the whole thing, but this year I just don’t want to. I’ve taken a proper break over Christmas – I don’t go back to work until January 9th, and I haven’t opened my laptop for anything work related since I left the office on December 22nd. Over the next few weeks whilst I’m off I’ll  start getting myself organised for going back, but I’m not going to force myself to spend my Christmas break reading papers. I kept up with the project until the end of November which was pretty good though! Outside of academic reading, I’ve read 52 books this year – a mix of non-fiction and fiction, and I think that’s helped with my writing too.

2017 goal: Seek out opportunities to publish
How did I do? One thing I’ve learned this year is that publishing takes AGES. Really, it takes a very long time. This year I’ve been involved in lots of different projects that will give me publications, but it looks like they’re all going to come in a bundle in 2018. To be honest, that’s no bad thing – I’m really excited to see them coming out, and I feel like lots of hard work on this goal has paid off.

New goals for 2018
Rowena Murray’s ‘How to Write a Thesis’ – a book that I’ll be carrying everywhere with me for the next few months!

Finish the thesis, become Dr Gardner
This one’s obvious – it’s the biggest and most important goal of 2018! I am aiming to hand in my thesis on June 30th 2018. So far I think I’m on track to meet that date, but there’s a lot of work to be done over the next few months to make sure that things work out.

Secure funding for after the PhD
This is the goal that I’m most terrified about. Academia is a competitive game, and I want to stay in health services research after my PhD is complete – this means finding funding. Keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed for this one.

Get involved with some new, innovative science communication and public engagement projects
I have a few ideas for projects and ideas that I’d like to put some work into, but the bigger ones will need to wait until after my thesis is handed in. Between now and thesis hand in, I do want to keep up with public engagement work – but on a smaller scale. I’m thinking of creative projects linked to Science On A Postcard, collaborations with other makers (I’ve already got 2 lined up for the beginning of 2018!), and small-scale projects that I can do alongside the thesis.

2018 is going to be a big year for me, and I’m looking forward to sharing it on this blog – hope you all have a wonderful break and a productive year ahead too!