How do you all do it? Kudos and confusion.


Hello all.
I think this is honestly a bit of a rant- a defeatist rant at that! I have so much respect for everyone who can work, do lots of work everyday. Sometimes I am writing a few hundred every day and even then that's not everyday.
I'm one of these people who find it difficult to work without a thumping big deadline kicking me up the backside, even at masters level I was a night before kind of person and worryingly it got me through and got me through well. Now in the third year of my PhD, im blessed with a wonderfully talented and supportive supervisor and I just know I'm not doing myself any favours by not being as focused and driven as I should be, by not submitting what I promise her I will.
I just can't seem to summon up the energy or the drive a lot of the time to do it. I dont know, a lot of my friends seem to think its something which is born out of feeling its not possible and so It becomes too big a task.
I dont know. Sometimes Im really calm about the whole thing, Sometimes Im very far from it. Im in a department which I live quite far away from so Im not in everyday and I work at home. The other PhD student in my year is a mature one and frequently regales me with how much work they have done and I just feel pretty useless about the whole thing.
I think im the worst PhD student ever. I don't think I have met a worse one in my whole time, and although I know when I sit down to do some work and i start analysis when I find a new way in I get really really enthusiastic it just doesn't seem to be enough to get me being regular with my work!
I feel like I have really disappointed my supervisor and even though I have had international conference success I just can't seem to fathom how to deal with the world of academia.
Very rambling entry I know, I think it was more of a cathartic purge for me. But I would love any comments


I'm often like that, I wish I could work regularly each day but it doesn't happen like that, even with a deadline looming....I didn't get started until after dinner today which is a bit pathetic with a Tuesday deadline, but I just couldn't muster any enthusiasm for methodology somehow. Not that it's very exciting at the best of times! I think sometimes it's a bit deadly being a night before sort of person, especially with a PhD as there's so much to do that you can't afford to be like that really. My worst example of that was during my BA when I was still writing an essay the day before the actual exam that I was supposed to be revising for, but I coasted through ok, though not doing myself justice really. Do you think it's a personality thing, that you know you can do it anyway so you don't try as hard as regular plodders? Sounds like you can obviously do your work well, maybe you've got high standards and just need a bit more faith in your abilities.

You know, if you still get enthusiastic about your work sometimes, then maybe that's ok because that's how you work and you shouldn't compare yourself to that other student who says she does loads all the time, people like that are guaranteed to make you anxious on a bad day! If you actually meet your deadlines, that sounds ok. Is your supervisor pleased with your work? You could always speak to them if you're worried about it though, but maybe you're doing fine really and it's a just a temporary lapse of confidence or something.... PhDs are great for inducing them!!

I think the worst students ever are ones who are rude, demanding and arrogant, think they know everything already which includes knowing more than their supervisors, are really bad at both writing and talking about their work and don't actually care about that, as they think they should still get a PhD anyway. So you don't sound like a student from hell, if you don't mind me saying so! Well this isn't much of a reply really is it, sorry about that. I probably should get some sleep or tomorrow will be a dead loss, workwise...


I dont think im particularly good actually, my supervisor although happy probably could be happier. But its a discipline thing. Its just good to hear im not the only one who seems to not be a 9 to 5 disciplined person. I agree though Ruby its hard for us last minuters doing PhDs because they cant just be knocked off like an ordinary paper. But we will have to just soldier on!!!


It is hard, I think it's a temperament thing with me. Maybe some people live life on the edge by going bungee jumping, and some of us do it by cutting our deadlines a bit fine! It was useful seeing Lara work towards her submission a little while back as it sounded so horrendous and last minute that I thought... I'll never do that!! I try to stave it off and be sensible and work regularly, but it doesn't always happen. Annoying as I've got a great subject, a dream team of supervisors and am supposed to be very good, if that doesn't sound too bigheaded, so am really trying to do myself justice academically... It would be so annoying to get to the end and wish I'd done more, but maybe that will always be the case however much one does... Perhaps there are different sorts of PhD people, ones who do the 9 to 5 thing, and ones who work in sporadic bursts accompanied by fits of guilt about not doing more. Well, I'll never be a 9 to 5 person so I'll never know any different!


I'm another one who tends to go to the wire - I start with such good intentions, I'm NOT going to run it too close again, I AM going to work sensible hours, but somehow it always ends up with last minute panics - I was working until gone 3am the morning of the submission of my MA dissertation - I had planned to have it finished 3 days before - sigh. Its not that I don't work, I do, I work very hard and a lot of hours, but I'm sure that I'm not as productive as I could be and way too easily distracted. I've always been the same though - I would do my homework on the train on the way to school, revised on the stage outside the gym for O levels prior to going in etc etc. I think maybe time managment is my issue, but then again I do try to do that too - it just never seems to work out.
I do think that maybe you are one of those people who can do it or you aren't. I do make my deadlines, but I need those deadlines to get me into shape - it does worry me a little (no, a lot) with the structure of the Phd that they will be few and far between. I have to write my lit review, methodology and results of my pilot study for my first supervisory board to be handed in by 19th Jan - I hope I'll make it - but then its so far away that the lazy moo part of me thinks hmmmmmm, start writing after Christmas - doh - nope, maybe better to start sooner than that!!!!
I do like the comparison with bungee jumping - I'm sure that there is no greater adrenaline rush that trying to meet a deadline - especially as when I was doing the BA they introduced zero tolerance - if not in by 4pm on the deadline day 0 marks - that focussed the mind somewhat!
I'm interested to find out who those that are much further ahead do manage to keep it going without a set deadline if you are a deadline driven sort of person.


Hi Liminal place, and everyone, my home lappy does not let me press reply either here or on FB or anything else, so am writing fewer things these days (from school)...hmmm...what works pretty well i think is to write "thoughts"...It sounds so foolish, i know, but just write them. I actually call them thoughts and pl believe me, they have travelled from being disjointed paras to 3000 essays through my masters till the start of my PHD.

in 10 mins i have a supervision, where i shall be reading out 6 mins of fact a 1500 word works, seriously...i tried putting them together all refs added...i wont say i am too unhappy woth the 10,000 words produced in the last 6 weeks or so...

best to all, p'bug :)


Ooh Stressed, I'm so glad you're another one! I do wonder if our expectations of how we are supposed to work for a PhD are a bit too rigid and that's why sporadic workers get anxious about not being up to scratch some of the time. Having said that, the 9 to 5-ers at college look very industrious and stride in each day in a very purposeful manner, but sometimes I notice that they're surfing the internet, chatting for hours and going off for long tea breaks. They're the ones that say, oh no, I don't work in the evenings, I treat it like a day job! We all seem to get it done in the end though, in our own ways.

It probably sounds stupid, but I didn't realise that's the way I worked until about a year ago. Since then, it's been loads better having lots of regular deadlines set my my supervisor. It's still hellish getting stuff done, but it's far better to have lots of mini last-minute stints than one huge and possibly unachievable one right at the end. Maybe you could do that with your supervisor, get more deadlines agreed? I know mine hasn't read everything I've sent as it comes in, she's left several chapters to read in one go, but at least it made me get them done at regular intervals. I'm part time and was pretty much left to my own devices most of the way through, but in retrospect I think I'd have got more finished earlier if I'd been working in this way for longer. I'm just really glad I've found a reasonable way of working before it's all got too near the end!


I've always been last-minute deadline-driven. I worked all through the night up to submission for my MPhil. The PhD has been really tough in that regard. I have no deadlines - I didn't even do a first yar report. I'm about to put through the paperwork to delay submission from Jan to March. Still no deadlines - my sup never asks about it. From time to time I ask for an audience to look at draft chapters. I really feel I'm being especially unproductive right now as though the looming ultimate deadline has me paralysed. I just feel lost at sea and I dont' feel anyone has checked my work thoroughly. I definitey should be working harder but this is probably the least motivated I've been so far.


Ignore what the other PhD student in your department says about the amount of work they do. It's so destructive - I do it all the time myself. There are three of us in 3rd year in my office and I am consumed by jealousy when they have a good day of writing or finish a chapter even though I know we are all roughly at the same stage in our work. Accept that you have a particular way of working and try to make the most of it. I'm terribly lazy and really bad at 'putting my mind' to something. So my supervisors and I have agreed that they will set me a deadline for a chapter but if, halfway through writing, I have an idea for another chapter or feel an urge to go and revise a previous chapter, I do that instead. If I miss the deadline as a result, it doesn't matter because the whole thesis needs writing eventually, so what difference does it make what you are working on at any specific moment in time. I do realise that it's wonderful to be dedicated and have sticking power when working on a task but, on the other hand, writing a thesis is like no other task you will ever do in your life - anyone who can determinedly work away in a consistent and productive manner for 3 years solid is superhuman, in my opinion!

Good luck with your thesis - and hold on to the moments of enthusiasm/inspiration. And don't assume you have disappointed your supervisor - has she ever actually said this to you?


Thanks for such brilliant comments everyone Im so glad we have found our own wee niche of non 9 to 5ers! Perhaps we should all continue to post on this thread and give each other some support or show the silent particpants who are also doing their PhD's that being a non 9 to 5 is ok as well. Its so great to hear that it isnt just me!
In reply to the question though, no she has never said she is disappointed or anything, in fact she is very kind and enusiastic, I always feel very driven after I see her (although recently I have been avoiding her because I feel I dont have enough to show her) what am I like!!!
Oh Smilodon I know the feeling, infact I think I read all of those posts and related in some way, I'll deffo keep a wee eye on this one and maybe we can all giv each other some support.
I know what you mean about the last minute thing though everyone, I remember finishing my MA thesis about 2 hours before it was due and finishing my MA on the Friday and starting my PhD on the Monday -can anyone say Glutton for punishment???



what a useful thread! Liminalplace, I think that a lot of us look around at our fellow PhDers and think that we are THE worst of the lot. I certainly thought that, but my friend from another university claimed that they were THE worst, and now you think so too, so we can't all be the worst!
I am just like you, and I think it's not a time management issue. Or that's only the symptom, not the cause. I started researching a little about the psychology of procrastination, and it can have all sorts of underlying causes which affect not just time-management but decision making, confidence etc. I still haven't found a way to conquer it, but acknowledging the problem is half the battle, right? I can be a bit easier on myself. I think it must affect the quality of my work though, and it certainly affects my quality of life, so that is rather troubling, even if I always produce something in the end.
Well, back to work! And 11.30am in the morning...not too bad right?


I've worked part-time during my PhD so there's no way I could have done 9-5.

These are my top 5 motivational tricks:
- set a target at the weekly level, not the daily level: in my second year I wrote 1000 words a week, every week, and put a star on my giant wallchart for every 1000 words.
- find somewhere to work without wifi. I work in a room where I can access the internet on a uni computer, but my laptop has no wifi. I tot up 10 things I need to look up online and then go on the internet.
- for night-time working at home I have leechblock set up.
- just sit down and work for ten minutes even if I don't want to. I know Lara uses a timer for this!
- exercise. Seriously: makes me feel really efficient and more awake all day.

I don't ever feel bad about other people having done more work than me: I'm handing in next month and I'm so happy I haven't had to delete and edit loads of words out, which is what people who wrote much more have to do.


This is a particularly reassuring thread. I get so cross with myself at how lazy and undisciplined I can be, especially after having received funding and switching to full time study. I'm not going to offer tips, as we've all got this far knowing how things should be done, but thanks to the person who started this with their candid confession (i could have written it myself).


I don't think any of us can be lazy and undisciplined, or we'd never have got this far. We'll have become full-time couch potatoes after leaving school, and we obviously haven't... maybe slightly part-time ones, but that's ok in the circumstances, we all have to take it easy sometimes! And it's not a complete lack of ambition either, at least on my part, because there are loads of things I want to do, and I probably will end up doing them eventually. But sometimes (like today) it's just really hard to squeeze the flipping writing out of my brain and onto the computer. It's full of contradictions, this PhD business - I love it sometimes and can't imagine doing anything else, but at other times it's a struggle. :-s


Hello all!

Wow what great comments, I think its great that you have recognised some of yourselves in some of my meandering narrative.
Some great tips as well from you all, I think Im gonna start giving myself gold stars! My 1000 words a day (at whatever time of the day)is going quite well so far, but im a bit knackered tonight from non PhD work on business analysis so I may leave it to later on tonight.
Really interesting about the procrastination research Im relating to that, for me I think its a lack of confidence in my ability, and I think thats the case for a lot of us who feel like frauds almost. I keep saying to my friends that im waiting for the no talent police to turn up and question how I got this far!

Its great though that so many of you have posted here. Lets keep it going and talk about a different way of doing PhD that isn't 9 to 5 but is ok. Afterall there is a great piece of advice that says its OUR PhD and we should do it however we want to do it. I know this is hard with people trying to bend you to suit their working models but I know when im productive! I work best when I feel relaxed so my 1000 words a day is the way forward for me. Im going for the slow and steady approach!

Keep going my fellow non conformists!!!(up)