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My Ph D was in the social sciences in an interdisciplinary field of water and environmental governance.I was fortunate to have great and supportive supervisors, although overall, I felt that my research was of little interest both in my department and the university as a whole.My reason for doing this is to firstly show how surprisingly variable this pattern can be, and secondly, to argue that doing things beyond your core Ph D work can be extremely important and beneficial. In Australia the common length of Ph D is around 3.5 to 4 years – mine was 3 years and 9 months. I know this might seem strange, but in a previous job I needed to log my work, and I liked the way it helped keep track of where I spent my time.
Overall though, the hours I worked really went up and down week, which seems to be a normal thing, but often something we beat ourselves up over.
It’s important to situate my experience a little though.
Firstly, I don’t think it would have been possible to hurry the work and ideas much more than I did – these things just need time to a certain extent.
Ideas develop sporadically (sometimes slow and grinding, and sometimes in ‘aha moments’), and I don’t think it’s possible to ‘speed up’ the process of good ideas past a certain degree of effort and commitment.
My career path post-Ph D has been quite unpredictable, but I trace my current postdoctoral role in Europe back to professional activities during my Ph D.
In 2011 (a year or so into my Ph D) I applied to attend a training workshop for early career researchers.It’s a question we all struggle with, even when the Ph D is done.James Patterson completed his Ph D at the University of Queensland, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo, Canada.Hence I had no income for the last 3-4 months of my candidature (and afterwards).Does this mean that I should not have done as many professional activities and finished on time?Academic work can be largely autonomous, so how should you spend your Ph D time?What activities are going to give you the best ‘bang for buck’?This is how I spent my time overall: The data categories are: The average time split between these different tasks is shown in the pie chart and table below. The time split between these categories is quite variable both week-to-week and over the whole duration.In these numbers I have accounted for annual leave (assuming 3 weeks per year not 4 as allocated), public holidays (approx. There are sustained busy periods leading up to milestones, but also periods where work dropped off due to life events, holidays, or other random reasons.Secondly, the professional activities (especially collaborative side-projects) were really valuable for feeding back into the ideas of my research and getting informal feedback and personal support in my work.Thirdly, many of the professional activities helped me build skills on my CV, build my research network and make important contacts, and led to extremely important career opportunities.