1: Beat your first deadline
Whatever your supervisor gives you to do first, beat the deadline by at least 24 hours.
2: Get to know people who can make things happen
You might not need them yet, but saying hello to secretaries, technicians, porters etc is a very good idea before you need a last minute favour later. Then…
3: Thank people who do things for you
Especially your PhD supervisor. It’s easy to complain if they aren’t there for you, but recognise that they are almost certainly busier than you are, and show that you value their time.
4: Get to know other people’s research
This will give you a broader knowledge base, and stop you getting too narrowly focused on your own research. You’ll learn far more (and faster) by talking to people than you will by reading.
And your colleagues are more likely to be interested in your work if you show an interest in theirs.
5: Get really, really good at one thing
Nobody knows everything. You’re not expected to. But try to get seriously good at at least one thing.
Even better if it’s something useful to other people.
6: What you write now, you won’t like in 3 years time
3 years from now, you’ll know far more than you do now. That’s the whole point of the PhD.
The value of doing a lit review now though his to learn the basics. Focus on basic concepts, and don’t let writing get in the way of starting research.
7: Downloading papers doesn’t count as reviewing the literature
I mentioned this in 17 random tips for PhD success, but it’s worth saying again. Check out this post on an easier way to review literature.
Everything you do should be working towards getting published. If your work isn’t going to be publishable, it’s not going to be worth a PhD.
9: Make contacts outside your department
Contacts are the lifeblood of your career. Get to know people at conferences, get their business card, add them on LinkedIn, and that CV you send 3 years from now won’t be coming from a stranger.
10: Write everything down
Write notes as if they are for someone else working coming in to take over your work after your shift ends. Your future self will forget!
11: Time goes faster than you think
Sometimes the days will drag, but the years will fly by. Set yourself a target for what you’re going to achieve in the first 6 months.
12: Make mistakes
If you make no mistakes, you’re not taking risks and you’re not pushing yourself.
Just make sure you learn from them, take responsibility for them, and try not to make the same mistake twice.
I know you're probably busy right now...
Would you like to receive my top 7 articles to read in your own time? These are some of the most important principles I think every PhD student (or academic) should know. Enter your name and email and I'll send you one per day for the next 7 days. You'll then have a choice whether to join the regular email list or not.