There’s a common belief in academic circles in general and PhD circles in particular that the key to success and reaching milestones is working as much as possible. This fetishisation of over-work and struggle is destructive, not just because it can breed unhealthy expectations about what is required to achieve goals, but also because it is largely ineffective. 

Whilst there are inevitably times when you need to work late or put extra hours in, there is no need to make this the norm. The only thing that results from routinely over-working is exhaustion, burnout and, perversely, lower productivity. 

As you continue to work you get more and more tired, at which point you become less efficient and less effective. It is at this stage that you’re doing yourself a dis-service. Your tiredness, stress and exhaustion are becoming your enemy, as they undermine the quality of your outputs. 

A better strategy is to work smarter, not harder. Everyone has a sweet spot, beyond which tiredness sets in and motivation decreases. Mine is five hours. Find yours, and aim to use those hours productively and without distraction. Five hours, say, of efficient, productive work, free from distractions and directed at achieving pre-defined outcomes is a more effective strategy than working aimlessly for ten hours and being constantly plagued by distractions. 

You’ll be surprised at how much you achieve, and in the long run you’ll be less exhausted and less stressed, and therefore working more effectively, more of the time. 

Good luck and have a good week. 


Hello, Doctor…

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