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Thing 23: Wrapping up, reflecting and goal setting

Dr Teresa Phipps, PGR development and training lead, Swansea University

After 3 months, we’ve come to our final blog: Thing number 23! As with every year that we run 23 Things, I think it’s fair to say we’ve been on a “journey” – and without having to leave our desks! We’ve introduced a range of new topics for our Things this year, and for many of us (myself included) we’ve also navigated a new way of connecting with others across the world on our 23Things Discord server. As a committee running the programme, we’re continuing to learn about the best ways to connect with you all, and to enable you to connect with each other, and have had lots of discussions already about things we might change for next year. Please do give us your feedback too using the evaluation form that will be making its way to you shortly. As well as learning about many new and evolving issues in research, one of the fun things about running this programme is what we learn by connecting with all our participants, and there are always new things that you tell us every year.

woman wears black tank top letting go a confetti. She is at the bottom of the page and only the back of her head and her head and shoulders can be seen.
Photo by Jason Dent on Unsplash

For those of us who are constantly juggling multiple different demands, projects and deadlines (probably all of us!), it can be easy to forego the opportunity to pause and reflect when a programme like this comes to an end. There are always more tasks to move on to, and never seemingly enough time. However, if you’re reading this final Thing, I encourage you to take even just 10 minutes to think about what you’ve learned from taking part in 23 Things this year. If you’re not sure where to start, I’ve come up with a few questions below and shared my own reflections too.

Did you learn something from one of the Things that you had never heard about before?

For me, the most eye-opening Things were probably Thing 16 on emotionally challenging research and Thing 18 on decolonising research. These are both topics that I had a vague interest and awareness in before, but (for my sins) had never really stopped to think about in detail. What I liked about these Things was the way they forced me to think about the experiences and perspectives of researchers working in areas that might be completely different to my own, which we don’t often get the opportunity to do. I find it really enriching to learn about the experiences of other researchers and it makes me feel connected to a wider research ecosystem. 

Was there a Thing that made you think differently about an issue you thought you knew about, or had maybe taken for granted?

The Things about writing (Thing 9), thinking (Thing 5) and researching efficiently (Thing 12) definitely did this for me. I realised when reading these Things that I generally don’t really reflect much on how I conduct research (or any of the work that I do) – I just get on and do it. If I need to plan a piece of work, write or edit, I just sit down and do it (or at least try), without really thinking about what the best way of doing this might be. There are so many tips within these blogs that I definitely want to return to and see if I can change or improve some of my habits. 

Did you make a connection with other participants that gave you a new perspective on something?

Our adventures with Discord have been a new experiment for 23 Things this year, and while there have been a few hiccups, I think that on the whole it’s been really effective having a dedicated platform to ask questions, discuss the different Things and make connections, whether within the Pods or more broadly. We’ve also used Discord as a 23 Things committee which has been a good way to cut down on some emails, and we’ve definitely felt more connected to our programme participants this year as we’ve been able to check in with you all much more easily than in previous years.


What are your answers to these questions? Let us know in the comments below, or you might want to discuss with your Pod (or the new ‘Omnipod) on the Discord server. 

So what comes next? Now it’s over to you. Hopefully, you’ll take some nuggets of what you’ve read and learned over the course of 23 Things with you into the future. These may not be groundbreaking changes that revolutionise your life or your work, but even more incremental changes to your working style, habits, or things you can do to broaden your perspective on your research or the world of research more broadly. Are there some goals you can set for yourself? Many of us will be familiar with having to set and achieve annual goals in a professional context (as part of a professional development review or similar), but there might be more personal goals that you want to set outside of this context. Again, goals don’t have to be transformative, but can also be shorter term changes that might feel more realistic. To help with this, ask yourself how you can make your goals SMART:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Relevant

  • Time-bound

For me, the most important of these are the Specific and Time-bound points. To exemplify this, think about the difference between these two hypothetical goals:

  1. Plan which grants to apply for

  2. By 1 September, Research and collate a list of relevant research grants and create a timeline of deadlines 

Both of these involve constructing a plan to apply for funding, but the second has some specific actions to develop this plan, and a deadline.  

Let us know what your goals are, either in the comments or on Discord, especially if these involve things that you’ve learned or reflected on as part of 23 Things.  

And it’s not too early for us to start thinking about next year. We’ve already started thinking about changes we might make to how we run the programme, but we also need to think about what new Things we might introduce in the future. These usually change in response to new conversations that are taking place among our research communities – a big one over the last couple of years has been the implications of AI for research. What do you think we should include next year? Please let us know via the evaluation form if you have ideas.

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