By Laura Harrison |

Out of all the advice that gets thrown at PhD students (and Pubs and Publications is certainly guilty of throwing a fair amount of that around), the most common one is: do not compare yourself to other PhD students.  Yet, this is the bit of advice that we never listen to.  OF COURSE we compare ourselves to everyone else, it is impossible not to.  We compare our working hours, tutorial prep time, word count completed, relationships with our supervisors, our note organisation systems, and what we eat for lunch every day.  All of this constant pressure leads to what I think is the biggest tragedy of the PhD: we are all the textbook definition of a workaholic.

One only has to attend a party full of PhD students to realise how few of us actually have any hobbies outside of our theses.  The conversation is constantly about our work, the department, the job market, or whatever gossip is currently on tap.  Even worse is when you talk to people outside the PhD world who actually have lives and interests, and you feel like a stunted mole person when they ask you what you like to do for fun.  (What kind of question is that anyway?  I find it fun to eat icing from a tub and watch Netflix documentaries…are you suddenly regretting asking the question?).

So this is my electronic slap in the face to myself, and all the PhDs out there: you are more than a PhD student, and you are more than your thesis.  You can have hobbies and adventures and work out and cook real meals, and still finish your thesis in a timely manner.  And I am not talking about ‘outside’ activities that you will really use to as evidence of your impact during future job interviews; I’m talking about activities that make you feel like you aren’t just a slowly shrivelling brain that is being carted around by a body you really only stop to consider when it starts to smell and you realise you should probably shower.  So please, find one thing you love doing and do it for at least one hour each week.  I think it would make us all much calmer, nicer, and happier humans.


Laura Harrison is the Editor-in-Chief of Pubs and Publications.  In addition to eating icing/netflix binging, she also tries to forget she is a PhD candidate by climbing, dancing, and running (away from her reading lists).  In more exciting news, Pubs and Publications is recruiting- find more info here!

(Image: (c) “Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham)