Studying your PhD certainly comes in waves where you either have long days at the office and others where work demands call more from your laptop. The latter is what I like to call schedule ‘lulls’ which typically occur around the start and end of the PhD where much of the time is spent reading and writing. This is one of my FAVORITE parts of being a PhD student because your schedule becomes much more flexible.
As much as I love my space in the postgraduate room, anything can get a bit redundant sitting in the same place every day. Breaking up the long sitting periods and getting a change of scenery can be very helpful to stay productive throughout the thesis journey. Here are a few ways I like to mix up my routine.
Starting at the Café
I LOVE cafes. Starting the day with a nice cup of coffee and smashing out a few hours of writing can be a really nice way to break up the routine. You can’t throw a rock in Wellington without hitting a cool café with delicious coffee. Most cafés have free wifi and outlet access. However, sometimes it’s handy to choose a café with no wifi access to stay focused on my writing and not Facebook ;).
Frequenting a cafe is also a cool way to get to know the community and local baristas. It can be a dangerous routine for the wallet but I like to use it as a way to ‘treat myself’ for all the hard work I’ve put in. If my bank account doesn’t agree with how hard I think I’ve worked, then a good strategy is to eat a big breakfast beforehand to resist eating everything in the cabinet. I also like to mix up the atmosphere depending on my mood whether it’s a bustling background or maybe somewhere quieter if I need a little extra concentration. After a nice, productive morning I’ll usually head into Massey headquarters (the postgraduate room) for the rest of the day where I can get other work done that requires more screens and software.
Running during the Dips
PhD life also comes in handy for running during the winter. I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to stay active (it doesn’t have to be running!), especially if your job is quite sedentary like PhD work typically is. Winter can make it difficult to enjoy the outdoors because of the limited daylight before and after normal working days. However, if you’re a PhD student, that flexibility sure comes in handy! I’ve started slotting in my runs around 2-3 pm when everyone in the room is staring at their computer pretending to work and thinking about chocolate. One of my postgrad buddies and I motivate each other to go for runs during this time and I find I come back refreshed, ready to work and proud that I’ve done something good for my body.
One of the best parts about studying at Massey in Wellington is not only the close quarters to yummy cafes and bars but also the abundance of bush walks. The town belt is a series of green hills that completely surround and dissect the city. We can run to the top of Mt Victoria or out along the waterfront soaking in the scenic views of Wellington paired with our runner’s high. It’s also nice having a running buddy you work with because we tend to bounce ideas off of each other, share our successes and talk through other things that are more challenging. It is a very nice way to break up the day and get a get a moment away from work.
Surfing at Odd Hours
If you have any passed experience with regular surfing, you’ll know that the forecast can be constantly changing (especially in Wellington) and difficult to predict more than a couple days beforehand making it tricky to plan around a regular working schedule. Plus, there’s rush hour on the water before and after work and during weekends. Thus the flexibility of PhD schedule ‘lulls’ and the surfer lifestyle coincide quite nicely.
I absolutely love being able to enjoy an empty ocean with uncrowded waves during normal work hours (which is only about a 10 min drive from campus)! I like to either head out in the morning for a surf and head to Massey in the afternoon or vice versa if the swell picks up later on. Once I’ve surfed my little heart out, I have no problem spending the rest of my day at the computer. Just have to make sure to go to the computer after!!
Having a flexible schedule during the ‘lulls’ is one of the best parts of PhD life and can be done in a hundred different, creative ways! Having a work/life balance is so important to stay happy through anything you do. Just make sure to keep the balance in check and put in those regular research hours. Your future-self with thank you for it 🙂