The very first day of my PhD I googled “how much time is enough to spend on a phd”. . A quick search revealed conflicting answers, some saying 9-5 Monday to Friday, others suggesting 12-15 hour days and weekends as a minimum. I have a tendency to overcommit myself, so I chose to listen to the 12-15 days and weekends advice.
In the beginning of my PhD I loathed workshops and social events. I honestly felt that if I wasn’t reading or writing, I was wasting my time. I had a very loud ticking clock in my head that constantly reminded me I was not doing enough. As a result, I would take readings home and sit on the couch while my housemates watched television in the same room. I would guiltily be drawn into the shows they were watching, all the while clutching my journal article and a pen in my hand. I would work on Saturdays and Sundays, trying desperately to keep my concentration while my family and friends attended fun events without me.
To an outsider this is obviously not sustainable. I was pretty stressed and miserable, I felt like I was constantly working and achieving nothing. In part, I was. By forcing myself to follow what I had read online, the ’12-15 hour days and weekends’ I was doing myself more harm than good. I was being less productive because I was tired and not getting any rest. Whenever I was working I was achieving less because I was exhausted. My scholarship says I can’t work more than 8 hours of paid work, Monday to Friday 9am-5pm. This is the guideline I now like to work with. I try to be working as though my PhD is a fulltime job, 9-5 Monday to Friday with sometimes 8 hours of paid work thrown in. For me working now means reading, thinking, workshops, social events within the faculty, meetings, student events and writing. While I am working my focus is to make the most of the hours I have during the day. As a result, I am less stressed and have a work-life balance.
I won’t lie, sometimes I work weekends or stay past 6pm. But this is when I want to and only when I know I am not compromising my physical and mental health. I don’t stay because I feel like I have to.