Tips for treating your PhD like a full-time job

I treat my PhD like a full-time job. I would like to start this post by acknowledging how fortunate I am to be able to do this. I have no kids, a supportive partner, a scholarship and desk space at my university. This post will not apply to everyone. I had a friend who  was forced to treat his PhD like a full-time job. This was because his supervisor was very stringent about him being in the lab every day. I, on the other hand, do not work in a lab and my supervisors do not check on me every day. This means I have to independently make sure I move my PhD forward every day. Here are some tips if you struggle to commit time to your PhD.

  1. I dress professionally every day. I am lucky, again, in this aspect because my profession is a school teacher. I already have an arsenal of professional clothes from working as a teacher, donations from my mum and mother-in law, and professional placements. Dressing professionally helps to put me in the mindset of work. Some mornings I feel like wearing my biggest hoody and leggings. If I chose to wear these, I can guarantee my mindset for the day would also be to relax and slack off. This doesn’t mean everyone who wears hoodies and leggings slack off, it just means that professional clothes put me into a professional mindset. It also means if I see someone important in the hallway I can confidently say hello.
  2. I arrive at the same time everyday. If you want to treat your PhD like a job, you should have an allocated start time. Mine is 8:30am, but I usually arrive before this time. This means I can settle in, check social media and begin to think about my day. Your start time could be later, or earlier, whatever works for you. But you need to make sure you are strict about following this.
  3. I plan my days. I have a weekly plan which outlines goals and tasks for the week. This helps me stay focused on the tasks I need to do.
  4. I smile at people in the hallway. This might sound weird; but, if I consider this a full-time, job the people in the hallway are my colleagues. I don’t smile at random undergraduate students, because they would probably think I was crazy, but I smile at the other postgrads and those who share the floor with me. This means I now have conversations with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It also means that I don’t feel as isolated. A PhD can be a VERY lonely journey. These small human interactions make it seem a bit more friendly and slightly more like a real job.
  5. I aim to have lunch with my ‘colleagues’ once a week. In my School there are multiple office spaces for PhD students. This means you don’t always see people in the hallway. I have organised a weekly lunch to keep in touch with people. I know that regular offices have a day of the week where they might order take-away and have a bit of a silly lunch. I consider this to be very similar.
  6. I pack my lunch, everyday. This one helps because it means that I don’t buy food from the outlets on campus (expensive and not always the best quality). It also means I don’t have an excuse to leave early, or go home because I am hungry. Most office workers pack their lunch every day (or if you work at my sister’s accounting firm they have lunch provided) so this is another way of treating your PhD like a job. It is all about creating a routine.
  7. I avoid social media. When I am in my office I tend to only use social media in my breaks between working. I have scheduled 90 minute periods, with 15 minute breaks in between. I also have a 30 minute lunch scheduled in. I tried Pomodoros of 25/5 but this did not work for me.
  8. I call it a job. I tell my friends, family, that it is a job. My partner knows that I leave the house at a certain time and that I am going to ‘work’. This helps me to remind people that although a PhD is ‘study’ it is also a full-time role.
  9. I make the most of my desk space. My desk is decorated, has piles of books, articles and other things on it. I’m lucky that I have a permanent desk. If you have a permanent desk you should consider making it the place you want to spend the most time at. One way to do this is to start using a whiteboard, calendar, post-its and other things to brighten the space and make it easier for you to feel comfortable.

I hope you have gotten some tips that might help you to treat your PhD like a full time job. Please comment below if you have any suggestions!

 

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