I was very fortunate to be in a good financial position with an Australian Government scholarship, a state government top-up scholarship, and an operating expenses grant.
However, even with the benefits/privileges available, I still exceeded the basic expectation of 3.5 years duration to complete my Ph D (most scholarships in Australia only run for a maximum of 3-3.5 years, after which you’re on your own).
Overall though, the hours I worked really went up and down week, which seems to be a normal thing, but often something we beat ourselves up over.
It’s important to situate my experience a little though.
This implies that stuff beyond your core Ph D work matters.
In fact, I firmly believe that as Ph D students we should think and act far beyond our core Ph D work, use the opportunity to develop a wide range of professional skills, and contribute to building healthier research cultures in our organisations (e.g., more collaborative, supportive, and empowering for early career researchers). But none of this would have happened if not for all the seemingly incidental steps along the way, all of which were beyond my ‘core’ Ph D work. A visit from the procrastination fairy Academic on the inside?So in this case trying to save time in the short-term by cutting out a seemingly extraneous activity would have been completely unproductive in the long-term. My reason for doing this is to firstly show how surprisingly variable this pattern can be, and secondly, to argue that doing things beyond your core Ph D work can be extremely important and beneficial. In Australia the common length of Ph D is around 3.5 to 4 years – mine was 3 years and 9 months. I know this might seem strange, but in a previous job I needed to log my work, and I liked the way it helped keep track of where I spent my time.I thought I’d forget it pretty quickly, but to my surprise I actually kept going for the entire time.It’s a question we all struggle with, even when the Ph D is done.James Patterson completed his Ph D at the University of Queensland, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Waterloo, Canada.Firstly, I don’t think it would have been possible to hurry the work and ideas much more than I did – these things just need time to a certain extent.Ideas develop sporadically (sometimes slow and grinding, and sometimes in ‘aha moments’), and I don’t think it’s possible to ‘speed up’ the process of good ideas past a certain degree of effort and commitment.I was in some ways fortunate to be a position that was flexible regarding long hours, and without anyone relying on me.I began my Ph D when I was 26 and finished when I was 29, was not married, and don’t have a family.