There is life, which exists beyond a PhD; believe it or not and despite me saying that my PhD has taken over my life, there still should be some space to enjoy oneself. Striking the balance between work and life is tough and it doesn’t just affect us PhD students but coupled with the mental, emotional and physical turmoil a PhD can bring it is even harder to switch off and put it to the back of your mind.
It is important to be taking days off as well to refresh your mind, as even only a couple of hours of intense reading can be mentally exhausting. If you’re doing this for days and weeks at a time your mental capacity to retain information can quickly suffer. I know of students who treat their PhD as a 70-hours-a-week job – to me this seems absurd. It’s impossible to concentrate for this number of hours per week. But it’s not really for me to tell people what they should and shouldn’t do, I only want to pass on my own advice from what I’ve seen personally with my role in the network at my institution.
From my own personal experience people have their own pattern of working: some work 9-5, others work in the morning and others in the afternoon, you have to find a pattern which suits you and no one else as they aren’t doing your PhD – you are. Only you know the best times you can work. I prefer to work from late morning as I am useless beforehand (and this is when I prefer to do most of my exercise to help with clearing my mind). Do not let anyone dictate to you when you should work; you are in control of your own work and know your own mind. Similarly, as mentioned in the previous blog post, don’t compare yourself to anyone. Don’t think that because a colleague is in the office from 6 am you should be – that’s not healthy. We also have to remember that life outside of the PhD carries on and doesn’t wait for us and so flexibility with our working pattern is important. We may have children to look after, hospital appointments to attend, part-time work to go to, elderly relatives to take care of and other important life matters. At the end of the day family comes first. The flexibility of doing a PhD means that you can go back to it, but sometimes non-PhD issues can’t wait and we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if this happens – that’s life.
You also must take time out to meet with friends, go out and have a drink or maybe go and watch that game of football you’ve wanted to see all week. The things outside of doing a PhD often provide us with that much-needed time off to recharge the batteries and unwind, allowing us to approach the PhD with fresh impetus and a clearer set of eyes. Don’t be afraid to have a life.
Dr Andrew Rowe
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