Enjoy your research! There is no doubt that at the beginning of the PhD, it is exciting! But, as the years go by, there is a possibility that you lose sight of the love you once had for the research. If this happens, think back to why you started the PhD – why are you doing this? I sometimes have to remind myself that I am extremely lucky to have the opportunity to be doing something that I am passionate about. And, whilst my research is of a serious and difficult nature, I can still enjoy what I am doing. I enjoy trying to answer difficult questions, and I enjoy all of the wonderful things that come with doing the PhD – attending workshops or conferences around the world (bonus: choosing family holidays dependent on where conferences are being held has always been a win-win situation for me!) Take time for holidays. Take time for days out. Make time for family. Have fun whilst you study!
It is so so important to find the right work-life balance, but it has to be one that works for you. My supervisor always reminds me not to compare myself to other PhD students, especially if those around you don’t have the same family commitments. I sometimes look at those PhD students that were around at the start of my journey and realise that most of them have now graduated – and where am I? Why haven’t I got as far? When I’m feeling behind, I have to remind myself of the other things I have achieved since starting my PhD (namely, 2 PhD-babies!).
The PhD is no doubt important, not only for the research itself, but to (hopefully) provide for my family. In the past, when I started to feel behind in terms of my work, I remember being told “don’t stress… family is more important”, and I now know they are right. When we have children, at least for me, our priorities change. My work is unquestionably important to me, and always will be, but my outlook on life has completely altered. Stanley comes first (as will the little lady when she arrives!), and especially whilst he is young. Precious moments when your children are small simply cannot be replaced. Do not miss out on those big moments in their lives because they whizz by so quickly. The PhD will get done, when it gets done!
It can be difficult finding the right balance between work and family, but I think one of the most helpful tips I received was to treat the PhD as much like a 9-5 job as you can. This is what I have always strived to do, whenever possible. For me, evenings and weekends are purely family time. Of course, I occasionally have deadlines I need to meet where things spill over, and there are times when I feel terribly guilty for not working into the early hours of the morning and getting as much work done as my colleagues. But, for me, sticking to this motto has so far worked out well. Have fun whilst you can, and remind yourself to enjoy the PhD journey!