How Do You Know If You’re Making Enough Progress in Your PhD?

One thing I really struggled with at the start of my PhD was a big question: am I making enough progress?

PhDs vary hugely between individuals and topics, and as such there’s no set guideline to follow. If only there was something out there which laid out exactly how much progress you should be making over time. There isn’t, and at first this left me feeling anxious and concerned – was I doing enough work?

One obvious way to measure your progress is to compare it to your peers. However, this isn’t always the best thing to do. Everyone’s PhD is different, and there are lots of different paths you can take. It may seem that some people are miles ahead of you, but don’t be discouraged; they’re just doing things a different way. Conversely, others may seem further behind than you, but that doesn’t mean that they’re not on track either.

Talking to your fellow PhD students is a great way to get inspiration and motivation, but you shouldn’t assume you have to do everything the same way as them.

There are different ways to measure your progress. Some methods will work for you, and others won’t. It’s a matter of personal preference. For example, you could:

·         Set in advance what work you want to do each week

·         Put aside a specific number of hours for working on your PhD each day

·         Make a check-list of work that needs to be done, and tick it off when you’ve completed it

·         Make regular updates on your work

·         Discuss your progress with a friend or family member

One method that I came up with to really get an idea of my progress was to keep a work diary. Every day I tracked what I’d done. I kept notes so I could easily see what work I’d done towards my PhD each day, or whether I’d worked at my part-time job, or if I’d simply taken a day off to relax (because those days are important too).  When I looked back at what I’d done each week, it made me realise I really was making progress, and that all those little pieces of work you do really add up. This also really helps with time management, so you can see if you’re taking too many days off, or working too much.

Just keep a level head and consider your progress realistically. You’ve probably done much more than you realised! If you still really think you’ve not done enough, then don’t panic. Speak to your supervisor, your mentor, a fellow student or maybe a friend or family member; whoever you feel comfortable confiding in. Then set yourself a game plan to get back on track. Remember, your supervisor should notice if your progress isn’t enough before it ever becomes a real problem.

How do you keep track of your progress? If you have any great methods, feel free to share them!

A Year Down the Line

I’ve not been very good at updating this, have I?

I’m still doing my PhD. I haven’t been blogging about it, but I’m still on track. I found other ways to keep motivated, so the blog wasn’t needed for that purpose. And I felt under-qualified to offer any advice as it was all new to me.

But now it’s a year later, and I’m older and wiser, so I’ve come back to share my new-found knowledge with the world. As such, I’ll be sharing posts with information, tips and tricks I’ve learnt in the last year.

I’ve been spurred onto this idea as I was approached by a lovely lady called Ana to help write for Warwick University’s very own blog about PhD life.

I’ll be adding any posts I write for them here, but be sure to check out their website to see the articles written by the great writers they have over there. Find them at:

Getting Started

So, I’ve just started a PhD.

Just almost certainly isn’t the right word though. I technically started at the end of September, over 3 months ago. It doesn’t feel like it. It feels like I’ve accomplished very little since then.

The whole month of December, nothing was done. I was on holiday. You shouldn’t really have such a long holiday when you’re doing a PhD, but it was already booked. I vowed to work whilst I was away. Of course, that didn’t happen. I don’t know if it is like this for everyone, but when I’m on holiday, “real” life is more or less forgotten, pushed to the dark recesses of my mind, so that I might enjoy the time I have away from it without that stress of “Oh no, I should be working. There’s so much I have to do, and I’ll never get it done. Why am I not working?”.

So December was a flop. Which hasn’t helped January’s stress.

But with a PhD you’re in it for the long haul, so even if you fall down for a moment, you just have to get back up and keep going, that’s what I aim to do.

Welcome Post

So, I’ve heard that the first post on a new blog should be a welcome post. I’m not sure whether it is for me to welcome you to my blog, or for you to welcome me to the blogging community. Nonetheless, here goes.

So the purpose of this blog is to record my adventures (and misadventures) during the course of my PhD. I will use it to track my progress, and hopefully motivate me further.

So, in all, it’s as much for my benefit as anyone else’s. Not sure if I’m meant to admit that, but there we go!

I’d like to welcome you all to read my blog if you wish. Perhaps there are others out there battling their way through a PhD who wouldn’t mind knowing they’re not the only ones going through all of this. Perhaps some people would like to offer advice/words of encouragement. Or maybe there are those who are interested in starting a PhD want to know what they’d be getting themselves into. There could just be people who want to laugh at my escapades.

Whatever the reason, feel free to join me along the way!