Starting off on a PhD journey, I knew the road wasn’t going to be easy and would require a lot of time and dedication. This meant less time with my family, and many hours in the basement office trying to figure out what I was doing, how I was going to finish this assignment, and how I was going to write a dissertation. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I was going to schedule studying into my already full life as a full-time faculty member, a mom of 2 small girls, and a wife! Figuring out how to get back into learning mode was the most challenging of the entire process. I was challenged with moving from the role of a teacher into the role of the student. I remember sitting down in the beginning of the program staring at the computer wondering why I decided this was a good idea and how on earth was I going to be successful. The good news is, through dedication, late nights, lots of coffee, and a support group, I was able to successfully complete my goal of earning an advanced degree – and so can you!
Being successful in any program requires planning, time, support and dedication. Here are some helpful tips and tricks that I learned from my PhD journey:
- Plan ahead – make a check list, buy a planner, do whatever you need to do so can proactively plan your schedule based on your course requirements.
- Focus on small steps – if you try to look at your journey as a whole it can be overwhelming and discouraging. Set small goals for yourself so you feel accomplishments along the way!
- Celebrate along the way – don’t wait until the end. Little successes along the way can provide you with the motivation needed to keep pushing forward.
- Share your experience with your friends and family – talk about where you are and what you have to do, and share it on social media (if you use it). Encouragement is so helpful to keep motivated.
- Realize that not everything will be perfect – be okay with accepting a lower grade or submitting a paper that may not quite meet the high standards you have set for yourself. Busy lives sometimes prevent us from being ‘perfect.’ Do your best and be grateful for the grades you earn and the knowledge you have gained!
- Ask for help – don’t be afraid to ask someone for help with family life, kids, parents, reading a paper, or whatever obstacles you are facing.
- Enjoy some ‘you’ time – it is ok to take a break to refresh and get back into the groove.
- Don’t give up – even when you are at the lowest point and you are not sure how you will continue on, take a deep breath and don’t quit! You can DO this!
- Surround yourself with a good support group – linking up with others going through the same program can help when you have to reach out for support and need someone who understands what you are going through. A solid support group with family and friends is essential for successful completion of a new degree or certification.
Please remember, not every semester, class, or assignment will be perfect. It is okay to not be 100% all the time – this was a tough lesson for me to learn, but so important. As long as you give it your best, learn the information, and meet the expectations, you have succeeded. Strive for your goals and reach for the moon. You have the ability to do anything you set your mind to! I am leaving you with my favorite quote – reading it every day helps me set the mood to be successful on days where it seems like the sun will never shine!
“I want to remember that no one is going to make my dreams come true for me… it is my job to get up every day and work toward the things that are deepest in my heart…and to enjoy every step of the journey rather than wishing I was already where I want to end up.” – Unknown Author
Danika Brinda, PhD, RHIA, CHPS, HCISPP