I’m rather certain I’ve used that subject word before, but not this year. PhD students are aces at procrastinating. If anyone ever tells you a Humanities PhD is a full-time job, what they mean to say is that we spend about 40% of our time doing work on our thesis and 60% procrastinating by doing work on any number of other things. Most of those other things are valid (job, responsibilities in department, conferences, etc.) but not always. From everyone I have talked to (including myself), us PhDs go through periods of hard work and periods of very little work at all. I know, for example, that pretty much everyone I am friends with has had a least a few weeks sometime in their PhD where they did nothing. After first year, you learn not to apologise for this. It happens. It can also be written off as needed rest to keep the insanity at bay. You cannot go for 365 days a year for 3+ years without taking some time for yourself.
For me, I usually go for an intense week of work and then don’t do much on my thesis for the next 3 weeks, because of all my other responsibilities. That was January, at least. I worked hard the first week and then did a lot of other (needed, non-thesis) work the rest of it. That will not be the next few months, however. I have just started my new round of field work, so I have lots of interviews and museum research for the next 3 months, with a pile of books to research from when I am not at a museum. As well, the 2013 PhD conference is getting going, so I have weekly work on that to fit in. And the gym, definitely the gym. This week that did not happen owing to about 10 meetings on various days (one more this afternoon) and on account of getting my exercise rushing between them! Next week will be more of a routine, which I need right now. January was certainly hectic!
I think every student develops what works for them. Some students do actually find that working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is okay. Most of us can’t stand the thought of doing research for that long. Some people develop set schedules of work/play time and keep to them. The rest of us just do what we feel like. And that’s exactly what I do. What I feel like. If I don’t feel like reading a book, I’m not going to force myself to, because I won’t concentrate on what I’m reading. If I don’t want to write, I can try, but I’ll stare at a blank Word document until blood forms on my forehead before I can write something. However, seemingly, I always want to do my ‘other’ work. I think because I actually quite enjoy how varied and different it all is, and how nothing really takes more than an hour at a time, which makes for nice simple tea breaks. And it’s all very good work experience, whereas critiquing a book is less useful for my career path.
Unfortunately, there’s about 20 books I have to read (+ articles) in the next two months and take notes that will be used in my thesis from. Yikes! Meanwhile, I’ve spent most of the last week catching up on telly.