The Importance of Just Doing It


With one semester of my doctorate complete, I’ve realised something is missing from my research process: just doing it.  The importance of just doing it came about after spending about three months doing a lot of Thinking (capital "T", refers to high-level thinking, reflecting, analysing, and critical reflexivity) and a very small amount of actual "just doing". Thinking is not the same as doing.  Though, doing might be the output of all of that thinking.

Anyway, I do believe it’s important to allow a researcher the space to think, it’s also important to practice research methods of output. And every researcher knows deep down that her/his main output is to communicate, which usually means through WRITING (and presenting, but I’ll get into that later).

For me, it’s easy to fall back into old modes of operating.  My original "workflow" in my master’s program was to read, sleep, eat, think, go to work, write notes, read, mark a page, forget about it, and then, days later, come into my writing space with a jumble of unorganized notes and ideas to put on a page.  Honestly, it worked for what I needed to do, but isn't sufficient for what I need and want to accomplish now.

But at the doctorate level, I’ve felt overwhelmingly compelled to treat myself as professional researcher, instead of a poor graduate student.

I find it really easy to be a constant state of thinking about thinking (philosophy), but am thirsty to do something with all the thinking… or in the words of Monty Python: "Get on with it!"

However, this concept of “just doing it” produces a lot of anxiety for me. What is it I am doing? Why am I doing this or that? How will these things be useful three years from now at the Viva?

Right now the answer to those questions is simple: Yes… as long as I’m doing it.

I find the biggest theme of those questions has more to do with a feeling of inadequacy than with my actual production of work. And...Procrastination enters, my favourite coping mechanism when I’m just NOT doing anything.  The anxiety mountain builds to towering heights until I either: jump through fiery hoops to finish a 1000-word essay; ask, whisperingly, for an extension; or indignantly just don’t do it.

That answer is somewhat ominous, but the way I see it is: as long as I’m producing something, I will be on course with my own expectations.  And, those questions no longer hinder my growth as a researcher, but start to enhance the process. Which, kind of goes back to my last confession about preparing for a focused mind: “You, definitely, know more than you think you do.”

But what if I just did it? What if I made a plan, stopped over thinking, and produced something? What if I completed it a week before the deadline? How much more time would I have to do other, related things to my research, such as: developing and leading a research group; shadowing at an enterprise, volunteering to produce a workshop series for social entrepreneurs, building creative thinking tutorials workshops, etc?

And THAT is where the Importance of Just Doing It begins to shine, for me. Because just doing it, means that I have more opportunities to just do other things. And by the end of 2016… I’ll be able to reflect back on all of the things I accomplished.