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Radical alternative ways of approaching productivity in the PhD

If you’re struggling to work the way you think you should be working in your PhD, here are a few radical, different ways of thinking about research productivity and PhD success.

1) The 9-5 day, 40-hour week does NOT suit everyone (most people, actually).

And as academic institutions become more like corporate/capitalist businesses (yes, I said that out loud –come at me), the more our workday is increasingly shaped to prioritise productivity/output alone.

2) Finding YOUR own optimal way of working ….

… (while also being able to honour commitments/deptartment hours etc.) is more important than trying to slavishly adhere to a fixed and rigid schedule that just isn’t helpful for you to do your best work

3) Research is such an individual endeavour

That means your way of working/time taken will also look very differently to someone else’s.

Don’t compare your 2 hours of work with someone else’s 8 hours (or vice versa) – it’s simply not an accurate comparison.

4) Remember that research work is intense and heavy going…

… so ‘output’ can’t always be tangibly measured. And it definitely can’t be measured using the same metrics as other types of work or from your previous educational experiences. Just because you’re not literally ‘producing’ all the time, it doesn’t mean that the research/thinking/processing/assimilation isn’t happening.

It follows that you might find that while you can normally work 8 straight hours in other contexts (other jobs/previous degrees), you might get tired or hit a wall in a much shorter period of time while doing your PhD. That’s totally okay. Learn to adapt and adjust your norm.

5) Rest, creative play, your normal life and conscious time away from the research…

… is a HUGELY IMPORTANT part of the actual research. You absolutely need time and space to process and percolate. The ideas, connections and deep thinking often happens best when you’re not forcing it.

6) Your work routine and hours will often change throughout the PhD

as your project evolves and as you take on other activity (e.g. teaching, conferences etc).

Some periods are quieter/less busy than others. Let yourself be flexible + change things up as you move along.

7) SUPER IMPORTANT: Longer hours ≠ better work.

Nobody cares if you took 2 or 12 hours to do something; you don’t get extra credit or bonus points for longer hours, overwork and struggle.

8) SUPER SUPER IMPORTANT: Short, focused, intentional periods of work often still yield plenty of excellent results.

For some people, working short amounts is better/more productive+easeful than sticking with conventional (longer) work hours

{Bonus: Learning about your human design can be a huge help for figuring out your best way of working (e.g. Projectors are best when they work no more than 4-5 hours a day. Generators can work very long hours but feeling lit up and joyful in what they’re doing is key to fueling and sustaining them)

ALL of this is to say (again) that it’s so important to find your own work groove.

Instead of shaming yourself for it or forcing it to fit an ‘acceptable’ working mould, honour those ways and make them work FOR YOU.

Fuck capitalist corporate working ideals. Find your own. Really.

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