17 random tips for PhD success

  1. Don’t wait for the one big research idea. Try something out. The best ideas evolve out of failed ones.
  2. Eat well, get enough sleep.
  3. The internet doesn’t count as a break. Get away from the desk.
  4. You have a life outside the lab or library. Decide what’s important to you and make time for it.
  5. Decide what you’re going to work on before you turn on the computer.
  6. Be interested in other people’s work
  7. Get to know the people who can make things happen.
  8. You’ll probably get most of your results near the end, because you’ll be better at what you do than you used to be.
  9. Hours at the desk don’t count as work. Set targets, achieve them, go home.
  10. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. You just need to be good at what you’re doing.
  11. Downloading papers, printing them, then leaving them on your desk doesn’t count as reviewing the literature.
  12. When you just can’t get going, turn everything off, and think about what needs to be done.
  13. Simplify it all to a to-do list of just one thing
  14. It’s much easier to write a chapter once you know how it ends.
  15. If it’s not working, do it differently.
  16. Don’t use perfection as an excuse. A competently finished thesis beats an imaginary perfect one.
  17. Writing your thesis is not the hardest thing you’ll ever do.


  1. Gift Clumsywarrior says

    Great list!! I see so many people clocking hours and hours in their offices. I try to do that, but that method never works for me. How do people get a lot of serious works and thinking done for 8 hours straight anyway. My head spins after 1 hour. lol Now I just be more effective and set time aside for my life outside PhD. I feel much happier, more in control, and hence also more productive!

  2. says

    Great, I especially like number 11! I’ve certainly done that before. 17 is good as well. It does feel like the hardest thing in the world but it’s important to get some perspective. This is getting tweeted and facebook shared right away!

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