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Six tips for a successful PhD. And work in general.

Isn't it interesting that some of us feel distinctly uncomfortable telling people about our success? I personally worry that I will end up looking like a little child, yearning to be recognised because they made a poo. I worry that the people I tell will take my success as their failure and will find a way to cut me down. So I try to avoid the cut down. If someone mentions something good that I do, I feel compelled to lower my eyes, thank them kindly, and promptly change the subject.

I turn a rather attractive shade of "oh god" when people sing praises I don't think I deserve. I am proud of myself for having the grit to get a PhD done in such a challenging environment, but I look around and see other PhD dealing with situations so much harder than mine. Maybe my PhD was easier or maybe I set myself up well. Either way, here are the things I attribute my success to:

1. Set the tone of your day early.

I stream Buddha radio or SBS chill while I work on papers. It puts my mind at ease, and keeps me focused. It also helps me in blocking out distractions. It's the first thing I open when I start up my PC.

2. Have email blackout times.

In my email signature I have a caveat - 

"Please note that I typically check my email between 10-11am and 4-5pm Tuesday to Friday. If your enquiry is urgent please call my mobile".

This allows me the freedom to close my email outside these times and focus on paper writing, while knowing that if anything urgent come up I'll get a call.

3. Have joyful hobbies outside of work.

This is where it was easier for me than other students. Going into my PhD, I already lived in Canberra so had a strong network of friends and a few hobbies. My hobbies include:

- coaching local sports teams

- singing in a band

- building a smartphone application

- learning Italian

These are things I happily do for nothing other than the pleasure of doing them. It keeps the balance in my life, because if the PhD is hard, I will find joy or success in something else to keep me going.

4. Have your down time, whenever that is.

With a focused mind, I am more productive. In order to focus, I know I need regular down time. Because I train in the evenings my down time is in the mornings, usually watching cartoons over breakfast. I try to leave ample time for my breakfast rituals. This means that some mornings I get into the AIS after 11am. This arrival time may be later than the normal 9am start of the public sector, but it hasn't compromised my work rate. On the contrary, I feel that having that down time makes me more focused when I arrive, because I am relaxed and ready to get things done.

5. Sleeping well and often.

I aim to get at least 9 hours sleep a night, which can mean work > training > home > dinner > bed. Sometimes there's no down time at night, hence my morning breakky rituals. My bedtime rituals help me sleep and keep a measure of consistency in my days. They are

- do Duolingo (Italian practice)

- read a few pages of a book (Terry Pratchett/Robin Hobb or similar)

I read every night, regardless of how late it is because it makes me sleepy and takes my mind off the days events.

6. Exercise, especially in the middle of the day.

Generally, exercise improves brain function, and for me it also improves productivity. I do the following physical activities every week:

- Yoga

- Judo

- Gym work

If I feel like crap, I go and train. Spending 30 mins doing some gym work leaves me more focused and productive than sitting at my desk trying to grind through my work. If I am tempted to procrastinate, I'll ask myself if I would feel better procrastinating in the gym.

So they are my six tips. I hope in reading them you find something you'd like to try and maybe you can let me know how you go!

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