Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    Today I had my interim review with my two PhD supervisors. In short, it went well, there were no real concerns that needed to be discussed, although I was given some suggestions. One of my supervisors said that (as a general piece of advice for PhD students) is that I should be working from 9am to 7-8pm every day (including weekends!)

    I know that sounds unreasonable (especially during weekends) but what I gathered from him is that you have to work very hard. An extended routine is something I'd definitely be willing to do if I want to do well in my PhD, but I'm not feeling entirely confident about how I go about achieving it. One idea I had was maybe to start a day of work at 6am or 7am and work until 5pm, this making it a bit more in line with when a typical work day ends.

    Does anyone have any tips for maintaining a routine like this, and for getting up really early to start a day like this, whilst feeling refreshed and able to work effectively?
    • TSR Support Team
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Support Team
    Moved to Post Graduate
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    Great question. Following this thread.
    Offline

    17
    ReputationRep:
    Noone doing a PhD works 10 hours a day including weekends, your supervisor is being ridiculous.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by poohat)
    Noone doing a PhD works 10 hours a day including weekends, your supervisor is being ridiculous.
    I figured that was quite ridiculous. Even after he left, my main supervisor insinuated he was exaggerating a fair bit, but that the same idea holds - you still need to work really hard for a PhD and there's never really a point where you can say you've done enough work.

    Still though, it would be great if someone could suggest some things to help me to work more productively so that I can adopt a routine like this and see if it works for me.
    • TSR Support Team
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Support Team
    I know one of my mates who is doing a PHD and he never does 10 hours a day.
    Offline

    17
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by omegaSQU4RED)
    I figured that was quite ridiculous. Even after he left, my main supervisor insinuated he was exaggerating a fair bit, but that the same idea holds - you still need to work really hard for a PhD and there's never really a point where you can say you've done enough work.

    Still though, it would be great if someone could suggest some things to help me to work more productively so that I can adopt a routine like this and see if it works for me.
    From your signature, you are doing mathematics. This means that unlike lab science, you arent going to have a well-defined work routine where you need to arrive at the lab at 9-10am every day, do your experiments, and leave. Instead, your time is going to be very unstructured. Some people thrive on this and naturally get a lot done, while others find it hard and need to discipline themselves to work regularly.

    It really depends on you, and there is no generic advice. During my PhD I worked very irregularly, and often did a burst of 14 hours of non-stop work where I stayed up overnight until 7am in the morning, and then did nothing for 3 days afterwards - the logic being that I wanted to keep working as long as possible while I was "in the zone". On the other hand, I know people who forced themselves to do regular 9-5 days, and also done well. Different people work best under different conditions, there is no one-size-fits-all work routine.

    Also bear in mind that for a PhD like mathematics your 'work' doesnt just happen when you are sitting at your desk - you will find that you do a lot of thinking about your problems at random times, like when you are outside walking around, or reading papers on the train, or even just zoning out in the pub while a boring conversation is happening around you. Its not just a case of sitting at a desk for 8 hours and expecting work to happen.
    Offline

    15
    ReputationRep:
    Great advice from poohat.

    The bottom line is that everyone has their own way of working. I currently can't do very much of use before lunchtime, but then I can happily work through to 8-10pm if I really get the bit between my teeth. Some days I have quite a short attention span so I work in two hour blocks with twenty minute breaks between them. I also work best at home and spend very little time on campus. Plenty of my colleagues are 9-5 desk jockeys and do very well. I think 20+ years in an office job gave me an aversion to that type of environment. Learning how and where you work best is part of the research apprenticeship.

    As for working ten hours a day, seven days a week for three to four years... What a load of nonsense. I don't doubt that this happens to me coming up to deadlines, but that's just another part of my personal working pattern. If you're having to do that as routine throughout your PhD, then I'd think you were doing something badly wrong and being supervised very poorly.

    My supervisors (and in fact my department generally, from chats with others) emphasise that research students must learn to factor in downtime each week, in order to avoid burnout. We're encouraged to take at least one day a week completely away from our research. As poohat says, you need time to assimilate and process information, which can't happen if you're constantly reading, experimenting, writing etc. Research isn't a state of perpetual motion. You need time and space in which to engage your brain and actually do some thinking. Managing a research workload sensibly is a core skill which your PhD should be developing.

    There's certainly no such thing as "enough" work with a PhD in my experience - there are always more papers and books than you can cope with. But there is such a thing as an appropriate and useful amount of work. Sadly there's no magic one-size-fits-all formula. As you're at a PhD, you must have done well in your undergrad and/or Masters. I'd suggest you start out by working the pattern which worked for your most recent dissertation, and develop it from there if you need to.
    Offline

    17
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by omegaSQU4RED)
    Today I had my interim review with my two PhD supervisors. In short, it went well, there were no real concerns that needed to be discussed, although I was given some suggestions. One of my supervisors said that (as a general piece of advice for PhD students) is that I should be working from 9am to 7-8pm every day (including weekends!)

    I know that sounds unreasonable (especially during weekends) but what I gathered from him is that you have to work very hard. An extended routine is something I'd definitely be willing to do if I want to do well in my PhD, but I'm not feeling entirely confident about how I go about achieving it. One idea I had was maybe to start a day of work at 6am or 7am and work until 5pm, this making it a bit more in line with when a typical work day ends.

    Does anyone have any tips for maintaining a routine like this, and for getting up really early to start a day like this, whilst feeling refreshed and able to work effectively?
    Honestly you are never going to have to do that much work, I don't know why anyone would say that.

    Most people I know treat it like a 9 to 5 job and have to put the odd weekend in. Including those in the field of Mathematics.
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    I don't know about TS, but I would say that the question is not as much about whether the 10 hours a day are justified, but more about what is the best way to make sure you are productive as a PhD student. Obviously, regardless of whether you intend to work 10 or 5 hours on a day, you will not be productive for the whole time.
    • TSR Support Team
    • Very Important Poster
    • PS Reviewer
    • Clearing and Applications Advisor
    Online

    20
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Support Team
    Very Important Poster
    PS Reviewer
    Clearing and Applications Advisor
    Some great advice from poohat and Klix88.

    Something that I found useful was to keep at certain things like writing and reading on a regular basis, say once a week or once every two weeks so that you don't end up falling behind.
    Offline

    13
    ReputationRep:
    It depends whether this is time only spent on your research - excluding writing/reading what others did - or time you spent with preparing conferences, teaching students, ... In the latter case I know some PHD students who are basically spending their whole time on their PHD, before important deadlines and/or in the last year.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Nathanielle)
    It depends whether this is time only spent on your research - excluding writing/reading what others did - or time you spent with preparing conferences, teaching students, ... In the latter case I know some PHD students who are basically spending their whole time on their PHD, before important deadlines and/or in the last year.
    I do spend quite a bit of time doing extra paid work, including online tutoring for A-level students, teaching in undergraduate workshops, marking problem sheets, and note-taking for students with special needs. Not to mention that I'm sitting in on certain lectures. All this on average amounts to around 2 hours a day, which doesn't sound like a lot but it can feel like it breaks things up a bit - so I think I'm going to have to spend a bit more time in the evenings at the moment.

    Something else I would also like advice on is how not to overwhelm myself with things and make sure I take things nice and slowly rather than setting myself unrealistic deadlines and trying to force myself to get something done in a very short amount of time. I'm a bit of a strange person, because even if all the extra commitments were completely gone, it wouldn't necessarily improve my productivity on my research by very much. I find that the only way to achieve a lot is to take on a lot and it's my way of trying to make my PhD as fulfilling an experience as is possible.
    Offline

    15
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by omegaSQU4RED)
    Something else I would also like advice on is how not to overwhelm myself with things and make sure I take things nice and slowly rather than setting myself unrealistic deadlines and trying to force myself to get something done in a very short amount of time. I'm a bit of a strange person, because even if all the extra commitments were completely gone, it wouldn't necessarily improve my productivity on my research by very much. I find that the only way to achieve a lot is to take on a lot and it's my way of trying to make my PhD as fulfilling an experience as is possible.
    Unfortunately, productivity us very much a personal thing and you just have to find the techniques and working patterns which work for you. I've carried on doing what I learned from my undergrad and Masters working patterns (unless I have to fit with someone else's timetable) and that works for me.

    Basically, I know that I don't really get going until early-mid afternoon. I reserve mornings for reading, admin, form filling (there seems to be an inordinate amount at my uni), emails, planning next tasks etc. Anything heavy duty like writing, stats, data input etc., starts in the afternoon, but I can then comfortably carry on until 9-10pm. I occasionally forget to eat an evening meal. I have at least Saturday or Sunday completely away from my PhD, as per my department's guidance.

    I also hate working in my office on campus - I'm a mature student and I think my previous working life has made me associate an office environment with stress and unpleasantness. i've worn quite a dent in my sofa at home over the last couple of years! However some of my colleagues (notably the younger ones, for whom this is their first "desk job") treat their PhDs as 9-5 (frequently longer) office jobs and this works well for them.

    It also depends on your supervisors. Mine have said they couldn't care less where I work as long as I deliver good quality work, to deadlines. They rarely want to see me face-to-face and most of our communication is via email. Some of my colleagues have supervisors who expect to see them at their desk 9-5 Monday to Friday, and will randomly appear in their office to check attendance.
    • Community Assistant
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    Community Assistant
    Depending where you are, 10h/day including weekends is not unheard of in lab-based sciences... but for maths I agree it's ridiculous, especially as you won't get output for every hour you put in. At the undergrad level we get told you need to do like three hours of reading for every hour of lecture (psychology) but.. no one does that. I think he is just setting high expectations, but aim for 9-5 on weekdays and you should be fine.
    • Thread Starter
    Offline

    16
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Klix88)
    Unfortunately, productivity us very much a personal thing and you just have to find the techniques and working patterns which work for you. I've carried on doing what I learned from my undergrad and Masters working patterns (unless I have to fit with someone else's timetable) and that works for me.

    Basically, I know that I don't really get going until early-mid afternoon. I reserve mornings for reading, admin, form filling (there seems to be an inordinate amount at my uni), emails, planning next tasks etc. Anything heavy duty like writing, stats, data input etc., starts in the afternoon, but I can then comfortably carry on until 9-10pm. I occasionally forget to eat an evening meal. I have at least Saturday or Sunday completely away from my PhD, as per my department's guidance.

    I also hate working in my office on campus - I'm a mature student and I think my previous working life has made me associate an office environment with stress and unpleasantness. i've worn quite a dent in my sofa at home over the last couple of years! However some of my colleagues (notably the younger ones, for whom this is their first "desk job") treat their PhDs as 9-5 (frequently longer) office jobs and this works well for them.

    It also depends on your supervisors. Mine have said they couldn't care less where I work as long as I deliver good quality work, to deadlines. They rarely want to see me face-to-face and most of our communication is via email. Some of my colleagues have supervisors who expect to see them at their desk 9-5 Monday to Friday, and will randomly appear in their office to check attendance.
    I've got a bit of a problem at the moment - I felt really unprepared for a supervisor meeting today (which I had already postponed from Tuesday) as I was stressed out due to having a lot to do (e.g. example sheets for modules I'm sitting in, marking undergraduate problem sheets, note-taking for certain students). Me and my supervisor had a long chat and she said that one concern she had was that I'm not being focused enough or going into enough depth, and at the end of the day I need to always be in a position to provide something tangible about my work. Which is perfectly fair enough.

    However, I still don't know what working style works best for me - so recently I've just been turning up to the office and sitting down and doing the nearest thing to me that needs doing, and I've been hopping between things rather a lot. So I haven't been able to solidly focus on my reading as much as I would like to have done and it's giving me a lot of doubts about how I work best. I could really do with some advice on this.
    Offline

    15
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by omegaSQU4RED)
    I've got a bit of a problem at the moment - I felt really unprepared for a supervisor meeting today (which I had already postponed from Tuesday) as I was stressed out due to having a lot to do (e.g. example sheets for modules I'm sitting in, marking undergraduate problem sheets, note-taking for certain students). Me and my supervisor had a long chat and she said that one concern she had was that I'm not being focused enough or going into enough depth, and at the end of the day I need to always be in a position to provide something tangible about my work. Which is perfectly fair enough.

    However, I still don't know what working style works best for me - so recently I've just been turning up to the office and sitting down and doing the nearest thing to me that needs doing, and I've been hopping between things rather a lot. So I haven't been able to solidly focus on my reading as much as I would like to have done and it's giving me a lot of doubts about how I work best. I could really do with some advice on this.
    Try alernating? One day of reading, one day at your desk doing the other things that need doing. Or read in the mornings and do other stuff in the afternoons. It's difficult to say - it's very personal. You just need to try alternative approaches and see what works.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    I'm doing a one-year MSc at the moment and am working ~10h/day 6-7 days each week (because I need to do my laundry at some point). However, due to deadlines only partly associated with my course I have to finish the main portion of work 2-3 months before it is actually due, am also working on two publications not associated with my course, teach and try to keep my collaborations alive. No person "only" doing their degree with normal deadlines should have to work those hours, certainly not for 3 years.

    To your question: It just happens. I have a term plan which shows when I have to do what and how much time have to do it. That means I sometimes finish an assignment a month before it is due and have it lying around in case I want to revise it at one point. The thing is, once it is done, it is done - no looking back, unless something really good comes up. That means I essentially have more (self-imposed) deadlines and more allnighters.
    For me at least it is also not about a 9-7/8pm day. I will sometimes work 12h each day of the week or for two days straight without sleep. Basically, whenever I feel I can do more than usual I will do it and that means I can take it slow when I am feeling a bit down.
    Also important: That is my everyday life but it doesn't mean I am locked up in the lab/office 24/7. I go for drinks every Friday and on the odd weekend trip to visit friends living further away, or we meet in a nice hotel somewhere. One of the reasons I accept my crazy schedule at the moment is because it gives me 2 months off in the summer. I was going to add "and because it is temporary" but to be honest, I do not know if it is. I want to keep my collaborations working and that means I will have to publish outside of my PhD programme too.

    I also know people working similar schedules who are building their own company or try to publish a book while doing a postgrad degree. Again, a PhD programme should not be 70h/week 52weeks/year. It wont be 40h/week either but I think no-one expects that. It is also a question of your programme - will you teach for example? That is usually 6-10h/week in Psychology. How often will you be away for conferences, visiting trips, forums, etc? That all takes away time from your daily schedule at some point in the year and means you'll have to make up for it in everyday work.

    I personally find that when you are doing something you love, it makes it all seem more bearable. It is still exhausting but in a good way - like having a really good gym workout. All you want to do is shower and go to bed but darn, does it feel good! Of course, it is also easy to overtrain, so be careful. No degree is worth ruining your mental or physical health.

    EDIT: What I was trying to say is he might not expect you to put in 10h/day for your degree but all extra-work considered, that is what you might end up with.
    Offline

    3
    ReputationRep:
    I am not a PhD student, but my friends who are PhD students definitely don't work this hard- they almost never work on weekends and generally operate a 9-5.

    You said you had a meeting and it went well, so whatever you are doing is working, so I'd stick to that! If it ain't broke....
 
 
 
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • Poll
    Have you ever been hacked?
    Useful resources

    Groups associated with this forum:

    View associated groups
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

    Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

    Write a reply...
    Reply
    Hide
    Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.