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Feel-good work routines for your best PhD days

Do you start your work weeks by being intentional about your work routines + plans? Or do you just bumble through it, bleary-eyed and/or in an overwhelmed panic?

Here are my 8 best tips for creating nourishing, fulfilled, full days:

1 Find your own work rhythm

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing or how they’re working. Their work groove may not suit you.

Figure out what YOUR optimal work practices are. E.g.:

  • What time of day do you work best? (Mornings? Afternoons? Late nights?)
  • Where do you work best? (Office/lab? Home office? Library?)
  • Do you prefer working many short focused sessions through a day or just 1-2 long ones?
2 Remember your why

Shift from thinking of your PhD as a chore or a drudgery that you ‘have to’ do…

… to remembering your initial motivations, your WHY for doing this research in the first place.

Instead of approaching your work week and your tasks as a chore that you have to just ‘get through’, look forward to the exciting research and activities you GET TO do in service of that big, juicy why.

3 Distinguish ‘routine’ from ‘ritual’

Don’t get stuck following work routines and work practices that you dislike and which don’t work for you (even if it seems like it’s what ‘everyone else’ is doing and recommending).

Most PhDs have the flexibility to design your days so you have more of the freedom to design your working practices, space and ‘routines’ into something that feels sacred, joyful and enriching – like a ritual.

4 Joy up your physical space

We don’t talk enough about the power of our physical spaces and its impact on our work mindset. But this is part of ‘ritualising’ your work week and creating an environment that will be inviting and special – even if the work you might be doing feels ‘ordinary’.

Curate and love on your physical space so it’s light, inspiring, fun and generates the energy that you’d like to experience each day.

For example:

  • incorporate your favourite photos
  • include lush plants around you
  • have your preferred scents in that space (aromatherapy, candles, room diffusers)
  • include favourite colours in your space (e.g. the stationery you use)

5 Build in rest and play

When planning your work days/weeks, don’t only list out the heavy, serious work stuff.

Include rest, rewards, play, social and family time into your schedule and to-dos. This is about building balance and fun into your plans, and reminding yourself that self-care is as integral as work.

6 Let yourself flow

When you’ve found a routine that works, remember that you don’t have to stick with it forever.

Give yourself the flexibility and flow to adjust practices/routines as other things come up and as commitments change. That’s totally okay. There’s no timetable police!

7 Just do one thing fully at a time

Multitasking is so 1980s corporate life and so out. Instead, set clear boundaries and focus with each separate thing you’re doing, in each moment.

So, when you’re reading a journal article / writing a chapter / preparing for a conference, go all in and give it your full attention.

And then, when you’re resting, do that 100% too and not have half a mind on your work.

That half-in-half-out thing usually means that nothing ever gets fully done – or enjoyed.

8 Look back in celebration

Don’t just fixate on your ‘to-dos’ and unfinished business at the end of the day or week – that lists never ends!

Instead, also make time to take stock of your daily and weekly wins. Write them down, review, feel proud and celebrate! It’ll spur you on to hit the next goal and keep things feeling energetically fresh and in flow.

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