#PhDchat: Under Promise, Over Deliver.

This was one the first pieces of advice my primary supervisor gave me.

While the camp is divided on this one (it doesn’t sound that pleasant to “under promise”), I found my own way of making it work. See, I am a people pleaser — I want to make life easy for everyone and hate disappointing those I look up to. I also often think I can do way more than what is realistically possible so I need to constantly remind myself that there are only 24 hours in a day.

How does it work then? For me, this is how it goes:

  • Think about the task at hand before you commit to a deadline. In an ideal scenario (where deadlines are either self-imposed or agreed to with supervisors, i.e. they don’t depend on external factors), always give yourself more time to do something than what you think is necessary. Say, if you think that you can finish an abstract in a day, tell your supervisors you will have it done by the end of the week. That will not only give you enough time to write the abstract, edit the abstract, write a better abstract but will also act as a fail-safe mechanism against potential obstacles (e.g. lack of inspiration, illness, etc).
  • PhD’s are busy times and, in the end, “done” is more important than “perfect”. By allowing yourself more time you can then improve on the end result by the deadline but if you don’t… that’s still okay, because you only promised (yourself and others) a certain amount to begin with.
  • If you keep pushing deadlines and are unable to deliver on your promises you will appear unreliable and while a lot of researchers consistently get away with it in their careers (and it will probably happen at times during your PhD, don’t panic because it does happen to everyone) it’s always better to play things safe when you can.

In summary, the way I see “under promise, over deliver” is that you give yourself more time to complete a task that you believe you could potentially get done in a shorter time. You can then either actually end up completing said task in a shorter time (your supervisors will be happy!) or deliver a better end result than what was initially asked for (your supervisors will be happy!).

Here’s another look at under promising and over delivering: link

Is this something you commonly do? Do you think that the research group could then develop unrealistic expectations towards you? What other pieces of advice have you received from your supervisors? Don’t be shy, comment below.

This article was originally published on literallyviral.com