Advice? Take it or leave it.

As a PGR, you are no doubt receiving plenty of advice from many different sources, not least (I hope!) this blog and any development workshops or online courses you are completing.  I’ve recently seen this excellent post by Amber Gwynne on The Thesis Whisperer blog, and it’s got me thinking about giving and receiving advice.

Amber gives a number of really good suggestions for contextualising advice and deciding which pieces of advice you should take or leave.  I would recommend you read her post.

[T]here’s an awful lot of advice out there. And then there’s just awful advice. So, how do you separate the wood from the trees … ?

Her advice (!) can be summarised, in my view, as a two-step process: contextualise the advice from the giver, and be highly self-reflective when considering whether it can usefully apply to you.  It’s this second point that I want to pick up in more detail.

Most advice is well-meant and seems useful from the point of view of the advice-giver.  However, much of the advice you will receive won’t be useful to you.  The process of self-reflection can help you decide whether to try something in the first place, but also to measure the success of something you have tried.  If you know, for example, that you are not a morning person, then a vast swathe of productivity advice (as well as some advice on taking physical exercise) won’t be useful to you.  No need to feel bad that you’re not up at 6am each morning – you do you.  If you’re not sure whether you’re a morning person or not, try some productivity advice for morning people and reflect on it.  Did it work for you?  What can you learn about yourself from testing this advice?  Can you adapt it more to you?  If it didn’t work, learn from it and move on.  No big deal.

We’ve talked a little bit about self-reflection on this blog before, particularly in the context of identifying strengths and weaknesses for development.  Effective self-reflection in this context and more broadly is all about increasing self-awareness and self-knowledge and can increase self-love and confidence, too!

What was the best advice you were ever given?  What is it about you that made this advice particularly helpful?  Do you take time to reflect on your experiences?

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Helen Kara

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