We have all said this at the beginning of an academic year; “This time I will work very hard on my studies and I will be very successful“. Well, from experience, I can tell you that achieving that goal can be worse than not achieving it. The problem is that you can end up spending a lot of time and energy wondering how to do it and doing it without asking yourself first if you should.
As a PhD student it is undeniable that you will have to spend a lot of time on your studies. However, it is very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that an excessive amount of hard work will equal building a better future. That is a complete lie. Discipline in your studies will definitely get you in a good position, but discipline does not mean giving all your life to your work. An obsession with perfection in your studies/work may end up making you lose a valuable friendship or a beloved hobby, but definitely many interesting opportunities in your life. So at the end of your degree you may end up with an interesting academic curriculum, but maybe at the cost of a future that will actually make you happy.
Moreover, an excessive amount of work can hinder your performance in your studies. For instance, sometimes the motivation to study/work comes from the passion that you have for your subject, but sometimes it can only be provided by your friends, your physical health, your extra-curricular activities, or the time spent with your family. You will definitely need refreshment in your academic life that can’t be found in the workplace.
The key to achieving a good balance is to understand and apply discipline. This means to be focused and productive while you are working, but knowing when to stop and do something else. Yes, it is true that sometimes deadlines will make this impossible, but if you start with this routine from the outset the deadlines will not be as “deadly” as they usually are.
In the year that I’ve been doing a PhD, I can confidently say that I have enjoyed my experience of studying and researching at a more advanced level. And I can only be thankful to have been given this opportunity. But a big part of that great experience is down to the fact that I also took the time to enjoy the city, my family, my friends, and life outside my studies. So, the best advice that I could give to anyone considering doing a postgraduate degree is to know that it is not only fair to balance your work with your life, but it is compulsory to make your studies worthy of being done.
Gabriel Perez, PhD researcher (Chemical and Biological Engineering)