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Finding 3600 hours for a PhD

(The second in a series of posts baring some hard-won lessons about being a PhD student, freelance worker and mom)



Maybe you have the luxury of being able to devote yourself full-time to your studies. More likely you’re juggling career, kids, marriage or partnership, friends and family. Oh, and your own sanity and health. I typically managed fifteen hours a week on my thesis. I had some great weeks of forty plus hours and some rubbish ones of nothing at all but on average it evened out to fifteen. Given that a thesis takes 3600 hours, that’s 240 weeks of studying, which when you knock off some time for holidays (the school ones – which equate to a definite reduction in productivity), sickness (yours and theirs), lost lunch money and extra mural dramas then 240 weeks works out at six years, which is pretty much what it took me. So it all figures.

You might think that fifteen hours a week is not that much and that you could easily find it in evenings, study leave and weekends, but I don’t mean fifteen hours drifting around campus looking scholarly, or flipping through Wikipedia while the microwave does its job, I mean fifteen good solid hours. In practice, then, this is more like 20 hours per week nominally devoted to your thesis over six years. Can you find the time? If so, how? And where? And what will you have to say “no” to, so that you can say “yes” to your thesis? It’s really worth giving that set of numbers a bit of thought earlier rather than later.

(Thanks, by the way, to Ann McMaster at for posing the sage yes/no question before I reached crisis!)

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