PhD Survival Guide: How to treat your PhD like a job

I am sure that like me, you have said to multiple people during your thesis experience that “My PhD is a job” or “I am going to work”.

As PhD students we are so quick to defensively argue that our PhD is a job, but many of us are much less likely to actually treat it like one.

We will easily work 50-60 hours a week (without over time benefits), work weekends, work through lunch breaks, and not take time off over the holiday periods.

This in part, is because if we want our PhD to get done we do have to work long hours. It is also because we do get benefits of not treating our PhD like a real job, including taking a day off or working from home without approval.

However, I think we need to all try to incorporate the important aspects of a job into our PhD experience.

Including, the idea of TOIL (time off in lieu). Meaning that if we have a really productive week we can have a guilt free weekend off or even an hour sleep in on a Monday.

Another important thing is to try to leave your work at work, which is definitely a harder task for PhD students because we live and breathe our thesis. But we can try to separate work from home. Maybe try getting changed as soon as you get home. Or if you are working from home, walk out your front door and back in when ‘work time’ is over.

Also try to integrate lunch break! I, like many of us I’m sure, do sometimes work through lunch and eat at my desk. But I try to take at least three lunch breaks away from my desk a week. The break refreshes you, and you’re entitled to it.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for sharing!

    As an incoming PhD student, I’m currently telling everyone I know exactly what you first mentioned: that I’ll treat my doctoral studies like a full-time job. I also know that I’ll be ready to work my socks off though to get things done so it’s great to get a reminder of the importance of a work/life balance. Great tips 🙂

    (I too find that a little ritual once I’m done with work like changing clothes once at home can help with mindset!)

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