Working Alongside the PhD

The first year is a tough one. It can involve moving house, quitting jobs, inductions, new routines, and a fair bit of travel. Working alongside all that can be daunting. Have a little blog post on what it’s been like for me, and how I’ve balanced things.

New town, who dis?

When you start the PhD it can seem like there’s plenty of time to get things done, and there sort of is. You have a full year to read up on your subject, pursue some experimental areas in your research, see what kinds of methods fit and don’t, and play around with the routine of writing that suits you.

But it is important to make time for other things. Not just the self-care routine that’s become so important a feature of this blog, but also the necessities of life. We all have a complex set of things going on around the PhD which means, for me, that I have to take on some extra work around my thesis research.

Working more than one job is always tough to juggle, especially if, like me, you’re less than an organisational genius. Pile on top of that the deadlines, constant need to self-evaluate, networking and events that a PhD brings with it, and it’s even tougher.

Sometimes working alongside the PhD can give your motivation a boost, though. If I’ve had a difficult research week, sometimes a shift at work can stimulate my brain and get some original ideas flowing again. It’s quite odd, but it seems to work!

Having said that, I’ve definitely found myself having to turn shifts down this year. Especially when deadlines are looming it can be good to know that someone is willing to swap shifts with you or take a couple off you. It’s not easy to say no to work, especially when you’re working with people you like, but I’ve managed to learn how! At times I’ve had to juggle three jobs, which stressed me out initially, but I’m getting way better at making them work for me now.

My job tends to only give me a week or two notice before rotas go live, so I have to keep track of PhD events and put them in the calendar as far ahead as possible. Thankfully Stirling and SGSAH are both very good for that, in fact SGSAH often has events advertised months in advance! This really helps me to avoid clashes with any teaching, supervisory, or development events in the PhD. These can usually be arranged in advance, or are advertised by the university or individual departments, so check up on that.

Getting the calendar working has been very useful. I’ve started using the one on my mobile and it’s been an absolute revelation! You can link it with other people, keep them posted on it, and share events with others, which can be very handy for family events or partners who work as well.

Oh, and make sure your supervisors are aware of your work. They’re there to help, and if they know you’re under additional pressure they might have some sage advice for you.

We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Jimmy via email at or connect with the blog on Twitter

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