One of the biggest challenges that I have faced while working on my PhD thus far (and also on my MA before it) was to find ways to maintain that work-life balance. Being able to stay sane over the long haul is essential to be able to come through with a final product that reflects the ridiculous amount of work that needs to be done.
I’m a huge fan of blogs that post short lists so I’m going to post the occasional list, starting with my 5 ways to stay sane while completing a PhD.
This list was inspired by the fact that my AFL team, Hawthorn, have qualified for the Grand Final this week. I love going to the football, and I use sports as a way to escape the rigid logical mindset that I apply in my work. It serves as an escape from having to continually worry about research or my latest draft. I also spend far too much time watching TV but I’ll save that for another post…
2. Have a social life outside of academia
This one is linked to number one, as I often attend AFL or A-League games with mates who I hang out with before and after. I am also lucky to have my girlfriend Gaby who keeps my sane by taking me out to dinner or to a movie. That ability to escape is crucial to staying the course over the years of a PhD.
3. Have a social life within academia
While I love hanging out with my friends, very few (if any) of them can really relate to what I’m going through with my thesis. I’m also lucky then to have a good group of friends in my department, where we discuss, or more accurately complain, about the problems of writing a thesis while teaching or expressing our frustration at our inability to get that chapter draft done.
4. Read outside your research area
As a history PhD, the amount of primary and secondary reading that I have to do is ridiculous. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just reading about stuff that is relevant to your work. Reading novels helps keep me sane, and also helps to expose me to other writing techniques. Reading the news also acts as a kind of escape and can sometimes help with putting my work into contemporary perspective.
I’m pretty sporadic with my exercise, but it is really important. One thing I’ve started doing recently is walking first thing in the morning and listening to interesting podcasts while I do it. There are some great ones that make the whole process interesting, such as the In Our Time podcast. Not only does this make you feel better but also it helps with the mental side of things.
Is there anything you guys do to stay sane while also trying to work on your PhD?