You vs. the PhD

One of the best decisions I made when I started the PhD was to treat it like a job. I would attempt to only work Monday to Friday during business hours. I didn’t realise at the time how radical this idea was (I was not involved in academic twitter at the time).

I wanted to put some emotional distance between me and my PhD. If my life was nothing other than the PhD, I knew that the minute I hit a setback I would crumble. I wanted to make sure that I had a “professional distance”. This would help not only to be more critical of my own work but also allow me to attempt to have a “work/life balance”. I needed to foster my friendships (this would also benefit my PhD, see here) and focus on my mental health.

I’m not lazy. The thought of only working during business hours can appear lazy to some. I just like to think I’m efficient. You can give yourself 8 hours to write a methods section or you can squeeze it into 3 hours. For me, the time pressure helped. I would block out sections for my day to write and I *had* to get my writing done in that time.

Sure, there were times when I worked late and worked weekends. Especially when I was cramming teaching into my schedule and marking assignments late into the night. Or if I had over-committed that semester. But this was an exception and not the norm.

Now I understand that sometimes we can’t make these decisions in a vacuum. Some PhD-ers work in competitive labs and your worth is apparently only measured by your constant presence, productive or not. I’m sorry if this is your situation. Or perhaps you have other challenges that prevent you from setting these limits for yourself. For me, I was just working alone with my supervisor so I could set my own rules. This was isolating sometimes, so I had to foster my friendships and seek support. But overall it taught me how to be independent, to manage my time effectively, and I finished my PhD in 3 and a half years.

Was I so radical? Did you set limits to your PhD work like I did? Or did your PhD creep into everyday of the week?

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