Not enough to do?

posted
16-Jan-18, 19:34
Avatar for rubygloommel
posted about 1 year ago
I've on my fourth month of my PhD, and due to some technicalities I'm finding myself at a bit of a loss for what to do with my time. I'm doing a lab-based PhD but it's taking ages to get through all the paperwork necessary to get the tissue samples we require, so I can't do anything practical until that happens (we have done some practice with the methods, but we've used all the spare tissues we had available for that now). I mostly spent the first three months doing reading and writing my literature review, but now I've submitted that I feel a bit stuck. I am still reading but there's only so much of that you can do day-in day-out, and all the other bits-and-bobs (admin, health & safety, lab meetings, presentations & outside lectures, etc) just don't fill up the hours.

I feel like I should be in every day doing full days and essentially treating my PhD as a job, but I feel like I end up sitting there not really knowing what to do with myself quite often. Does anyone have suggestions for when they had quiet periods during their PhD what sort of extra or other things they found to do? I don't want to waste my time, I'd like to do something productive with it while it's quiet and I have the chance. It's maddening not having things to do! I'd ask my supervisor but he's away for a month in New Zealand at the moment (and I also feel a bit nervous kind of admitting that I'm spending a lot of time not really getting much done). Any advice is appreciated! :)
posted
17-Jan-18, 10:12
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for cloudofash
posted about 1 year ago
If you are already not a great programmer, I would start working on your programming skills. R is great for statistics (and can make beautiful figures) and python (or other language) in general. Great skill to have.
posted
17-Jan-18, 13:44
Avatar for rubygloommel
posted about 1 year ago
That's a really great idea - do you know any resources where I could get started with something like that at all?
posted
17-Jan-18, 15:20
edited about 22 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 year ago
Argh I remember that feeling! And if I could turn back the time I would do something relevant and interesting for a couple hours a day (e.g., in my case read some broadly relevant book chapters that will feed in to my work later - in your case - maybe work on the programming skills as cloudofash suggests). And then, I would spend the rest of my time chilling and relaxing. I so wish I had done this instead of being miserable/stressed because I didn't seem to have much to do but always felt I should be doing something! Now I'm in my final and just chilling isn't often an option!

All the best
Tudor
posted
17-Jan-18, 18:19
edited about 11 seconds later
Avatar for rubygloommel
posted about 1 year ago
Thanks for the advice Tudor. It seems really paranoid, but do you think anyone would mind my doing that? Just focusing on background reading/programming/etc. for some time during the day but not always being in? Half of me feels like I'm expected to be in all the time and the other half thinks that people really won't notice or mind all that much if there's not any specific things I'm meant to be doing.
posted
17-Jan-18, 20:07
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 year ago
It's really hard to say... by the sounds of it there may be a bit of an expectation for you to be at your desk during the working day? In that case, I would go in a little later if you can (10?), and leave a little earlier (like 3 instead of 5). If you can't get away with doing that, then I guess you'll have to just hang around... :/ In my case, I was free to work at home (and still do spend most of my time at home working). But if you have to be seen to be at your desk then I guess you could just take your work at a slower pace. It will get busier later and it is normal for it to feel a bit slow at the start in some cases - so don't worry! : )
posted
17-Jan-18, 23:08
edited about 24 seconds later
Avatar for rubygloommel
posted about 1 year ago
I guess the expectation is one I'm kind of making up in my head - it's never been said as such that I should be in all day, I just feel like that's what I'm supposed to do! It probably doesn't help that there's not many other PhDs around me to gauge by. Maybe I'm just overthinking it! I think the ideas people have given here have been good ones, I think I'll try those and try not worry about sitting at my desk unless someone actually tells me it's a problem.
posted
18-Jan-18, 08:11
edited about 2 seconds later
Avatar for chickpea
posted about 1 year ago
I did most of my PhD work from home too, and definitely didn't put in full days in the early stages. Maybe you could say to your supervisor you are going to do some reading from home a couple of days a week, as you find that a better environment for concentrating? Or if there is a pressure to be seen to be in, you could go in, leave some stuff on your desk and disappear to the library or wherever for a while! Other than that, it might be worth looking for interesting workshops and events you can go to, either at your own uni or other ones - you have the time in the early stages to do this kind of thing.
posted
18-Jan-18, 08:54
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 year ago
Those are really good ideas! It's worth saying/doing something like Chickpea suggests just in case that expectation is there. I know some of my PhD student peers who do have situations like this - and if they are not in the office people want to know why. Good luck and enjoy some leisure time (even if it is in the guise of heavy PC-work whilst watching Netflix!)
posted
19-Jan-18, 17:12
Avatar for rubygloommel
posted about 1 year ago
Thanks for the advice everyone, it's all very helpful - I think I have enough ideas to tide me over until the lab work starts.
posted
21-Jan-18, 18:22
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 year ago
Wow - these are cool!

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