Do people really work this much?


This is a question for people who say they work 10-12 hours per day on their thesis. Do you actually properly work this many hours? Or is it a case of a few hours work and a few hours non work making cups of tea etc?

I can work for 5 hours (as in constant concentration, no breaks at all) and then after that I am so exhausted I can't do any more! I find it amazing that some people can work day in, day out 10-12 hours per day. It kind of worries me because this might mean it is going to take me about 7 years to write up!

How many hours productive work do you do per day on your thesis?


I'm at the other extreme. I was averaging 5 hours total per WEEK on my part-time PhD. But I submitted within 6 years. And I'm humanities, so had to produce quite a long thesis.

My husband also worked working hours on his full-time PhD: Monday-Friday 9-5, with lunch breaks, and coffee breaks, and no work at the weekends. So on average 7 hours a day in the week.

So it is doable on smaller hours.


About 3-4 hourse per day of "proper" writing, plus time spent on emails, conference abstracts, journal work and tea. I find that my work gets done in reasonable time, as long as I'm consistently putting in a few productive hours every afternoon.


Slowmo - its not the time, its the quality. If you feel that you are getting work done, how bad! There will be slow days and good days, but I'd reckon a good barometer is actual writing ... if you can get a page or two done for every day, it will soon add up.

Don't compare yourself to other people. But in saying that, if you are working 5 hours, that is great. Just so long at the end of that 5 hours, you can have even a one page of notes and know where that fits into the bigger scheme, that is excellent. Being honest, if you even spent one hour each day adding to your PhD, that's progress.

Me, because of circumstances, I would be 10 hours at least ... but then I usually take one day off to get stuff sorted at home (I commute and at the moment am looking for work). Anyone saying that they work 10-12 hours on their PhD constant are either finishing, adding other work into that equation or on Class A drugs. There are exceptions but pacing yourself and taking note of progress is much better in the long run.


I can do 10 to 12 hours a day if I really, really, really have to. Otherwise, it tends to be about 8 hours a day. As Bonzo says, it's quality and not quantity, so sometimes you might get an awful lot achieved in a hour and other times virtually nothing in 3 hours. I suppose it depends on mood, focus and concentration span. Generally, I'll work for half and hour, make a brew, work for half an hour, go to the loo, work for half an hour, procrastinate on the internet and so forth. Things do get done, but often not within the time scale that I'd like.


I'm so glad someone has asked this question as I was beginning to feel a combination between a total slacker and a no hoper who should really get her backside into gear lol! I 'can' do those kind of hours, and sometimes when writing up a board paper or something I will be (although its not constant - Wal has just described my day lol). Generally though some days I'll do sweet nothing, very little, other days I'll work significantly more hours, but like you describe Slowmo, after about 5 or so hours of being sat here constantly I'm so exhausted that I just can't physically carry on full stop. I'm collecting data at the moment and the majority of my current work involves reading handwritten documents from the mid 19th century from an online source and making notes - that is a total killer - some is nice and easy, the reproduction is clear and the handwriting good, others its enough to make your eyes cross, almost indeciferable! I'm not 'writing' as such, but I'm making graphs each day, and I suppose as I'm going through I'm getting a clearer and clearer idea of the issues I have to address with this particular section and the theories I intend to put forward. In that respect I guess that yes, I am making progress, although if I worked more I'd make more, but then would I? I find after working for 6 or 7 hours at this, even with breaks and a bit of internet procrastination time, that I am starting to make mistakes so maybe that's my limit?

I wish that I did have the self discipline to sit here and work the hours described - it would make it all go so much faster - but then I also have to have a life - I have a family, a home, a p/t job, pets, livestock, etc etc and they have to be as much a part of my life as my thesis. I suppose that if that means that I take 6 months longer at this, then so be it, but at least I have a semblance of a life at times - although we all know the life of a PhD student isn't really one lol lol lol - do you know, some people go out sometimes.... fascinating - someone should do a study on it ;-)


Recently I've been in the office for about 10 hours a day plus time at weekends, but I don't want or expect it to continue for the rest of my PhD (pretty please). I use mytomatoes so every 25 minutes I have a 5 minute break and then now and again I might take a longer break, so that's probably an hour and a half off the 10 hours already. So yes I work long hours but it is paced, and if I'm getting tired I'll switch to some menial job like adding books to EndNote. I could never work for 5 hours in a row with no break!!


Well 10-12 hours of productive work in a session is probably unrealistic but when needing to get my thesis finished I would often do it and rotate the tasks. So in terms of productive written work it might only be 4-5 hours, a few hours of various breaks, and then the rest doing formatting etc so making tables from data, adding entries to the bibliography I might have missed. I did a maths based PhD so I had to format my thesis in LaTeX which is challenging in its own right sometimes. But I certainly didn't do days that long every single day, it's just not necessary and counterproductive (in my opinion).


I suppose I work quite long hours, often 9-7pm or later sometimes, but I'm out testing participants a lot and it's often a good drive away too, so it's not as though I'm sitting at my desk all day. I could complete my PhD on fewer hours, but I suppose it's the things like publications and conferences and teaching that take up all the additional hours. There is another girl doing a full time PhD on the same team as me, who puts in just a few hours per day and takes huge long holidays several times per year, and she'll probably pass her PhD but she won't have any publications, conference presentations, teaching experience etc, basically the things you need to do to progress in academia (well, in our subject area anyway, I appreciate it is probably different in different areas). My flatmate spends at least 12 hours per day in her office (usually 7am-8pm) and always whinges about how much work she has, but I suspect she spends an awful long time chatting to people, having coffee breaks, shopping in town etc, so her hours of work are probably a lot lower than the 12 hours she spends in her office! I guess it's about finding the balance that works for you- if you can work really well for 5 solid hours and you get a lot done then that's just as good as someone who goes to the office for 8 hours but spends loads of time having breaks and chatting etc. So don't stress- just find out what works for you and stick with it! Best, KB

Avatar for sneaks

somedays I work quite long - I seem to be doing that a lot more recently. But sometimes I spend entire days watching twilight and new moon on dvd :$ or reading books I started - fiction books, not horrible PhD books! But I always seem to have some devil on my shoulder that encourages me to do these things, and then I end up working flat out to meet the deadline that was set.

It depends what you call 'work' I know some people who faff about on email all day, and I would do that anyway, so I don't see it as work really.


======= Date Modified 27 Mar 2010 20:51:27 =======
I'm usually in my office from 8am-7/8pm Monday to Friday (I also sometimes go in for a day at the weekend if I have deadlines) , but I'd say that I spend only 5 or 6 hours on productive PhD work but I'm making good progress for first year. The rest is spent taking classes (I'm on a fully structured credited programme), on teaching/marking undergrads, working as a research assistant on a large departmental project, having meetings/conservational chats with (overly talkative!) supervisor, chatting to my office mate and making coffee :p I guess it all depends on how much work you have to do outside of your PhD.


I should really admire you all here. As I have never had constantly 3 productive hours given I have been trying very hard. For me, writing is the most difficult task so whenever I start writing. I become extremely exhausted after 1 hour. It also takes me 10 hours on study desk whether at home or in office. I don't chat with any body or surf the internet. Many times when I got stuck, the only thing I can do is to calm down and try to find out something. I am not sure with you all, but for me writing a thesis is unknown. I mean, it is not always, I have an idea to write down in my PhD time. I would have to spend a day to find out an idea to write. That's why I am doing very slowly


Hi Slowmo

I spend about 10-12 hours a day on my thesis, most days. I'm writing up, so have to do this much so I can submit in a reasonable time frame. I do about 5 hours solidly before lunch, when my brain works best, then will do a few more hours after lunch, and if I'm tired I'll do easier tasks. Then it's the gym/dog walk and a break, dinner and another couple of focused hours after dinner.

But others are right - don't compare yourself to other people, it doesn't help. Find your own rhythm and patterns and work to your own routine. I also think the ability to focus for longer periods takes time to build up - I have done a lot of postgrad work, and so am used to being able to concentrate for long and sustained periods.

Avatar for Batfink27

I agree, it's all about finding your own pace and the working method that suits you. I can be really slack sometimes, intending to work all day then finding it's 2pm and I haven't started but just not being able to get going, or deciding at the last minute that I need a day off to do laundry or food shopping or housework or to just watch DVDs. On other days I get the early train (I commute to university in another city) and am at my desk on campus by 8.15 am, and work through to 7pm, only taking occasional short breaks to surf the web or eat a sandwich. Those are really productive days when I feel I'm making real progress, but I've never done more than about three or four of those in a row before I hit a wall of tiredness and have an unproductive day. Some weekends I do no work at all, but other weekends (like this one!) I'm working towards a deadline so treat it just like an ordinary weekday.

I find it's easy to get stressed by comparing myself to other students - even when I arrive on campus at 8.15 am, there are people already at their desks, and at first that freaked me out, made me feel lazy, but I've come to realise that everyone works differently, and we just have to adjust our own pace to our own working methods and the particular stage we're at in the process.


======= Date Modified 28 Mar 2010 20:12:26 =======
Thanks for all the replies!

I am writing up at the moment (11 months to go!) I guess i'll stick with my 4-5 hour productive bursts and hope for the best. I think it's right that everyone has different styles and whilst working 10 hours per day might be important for some people, for others it might be less productive. I hope so anyway!