Top tips for PhD success if you’re a PhD Student
- Whether you are having a great day or a really lousy day – remember you choose your response. Go back to your strengths and motivation for the work and try to approach the day using one or more of your natural skills and talents.
- Strengthen your support mechanisms (i.e., relationships) with people across all Grid™ quadrants.
- Do a Day Grid™ if you notice that your balance is slipping (reactive correcting action) and to maintain/improve mental, emotional and physical health (proactive positive self-management).
- To help structure work, develop clarity about your short-term agenda in relation to your long term goals. Grid™ helps put an end to procrastination by integrating big picture with everyday execution linking Year, Monthly, Weekly and Day Grid™ activity. But you can benefit by doing any of them to a large extent so do what works for you but do something!
- Set your vision and goals. You can do that with our free Year Grid™ template. Ensure you have your own criteria for success and focus on doing your work well. Avoid getting caught in reacting and panic mode.
- Monitor your stress levels on a regular basis either via an App or paper. Ask for help early. For specific activities to aid you be well and productive check out our Get Productive! book which has 36 exercises designed to help you get things done, improve your communication, prepare for interview and even help clarify your purpose.
3 tips for research group leaders (PIs), Heads of Department or those with student well-being remit
- Get curious! Students may be reluctant to ask for help in a culture where one expects to just “suck it up and get on with it”. Keep in mind that talking about feelings is a skill one has to learn and practice. Assuming everything is fine is a risky policy. Pay attention to people’s faces and see if their eyes are smiling. This is the surest sign the nervous system is safe and well resourced. Not sure what this is or how it affects performance? Talk to us!
- Don’t assume everyone has a very supportive or experienced supervisor. The majority of student surveys suggest that supervisors lack skills and time to help even if they come with good intentions. Ideally PIs and students should be supported in learning more about how to nurture talent. We can help you help your students succeed in their PhD studies.
- Ensure you yourself are supported also. We can’t give others what we lack ourselves. Stay curious. Inquire. Sign up to our monthly newsletter where we always focus on teaching how minds, hearts, bodies and spirit work collectively to help us do well and what happens when they are in conflict with each other.
From Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier, Grid™ Inventor and MTC Founder
During my PhD at Caltech, USA, I developed many productivity skills which helped me complete my PhD on time, produce a strong thesis and make a significant contribution to my field. This happened because apart from being super excited by brains and developmental neurobiology, I loved self-improvement books. During my PhD I also experienced bullying, emotional and mental difficulties. It took me many years and a career-change to realize these experiences were, to a large extent, avoidable.
Over the last decade, I combined my learning as a consultant and coach with theory and practice of being an engineer at heart to develop a unique approach to talent nurturing and leadership development. I also developed an arsenal of practical tools for PhD success that I wish someone taught me when I was a PhD student. Today I share these through workshops, talent development programmes and being a coach/metor/advisor to scientists and institutional leaders.
Grid™ is a powerful method, tool and practice that can help students organize their time, work and studies as well as their life in a way that creates a healthy buffer against many of the challenges that come with undertaking a PhD.
Grid™ practice also conditions an incredibly useful set of productivity habits key for success in life. These include clarity making, focus, organisation, balance, and energy management. These skills are core to successful PhD completion as much as success beyond it, whether one continues in academia, becomes an entrepreneur, or a young professional.
Grid™ is a naturally pro-active self-management tool and can really boost the chances of PhD success. To improve you have to get engaged in it. As each career and life stage bring new levels of complexity, once you get your head around the Grid™ framework you have a life-long protective mindset and practice as well as a tool to keep yourself safe and in good form. One of the key breakthroughs in medicine was a low technological invention of hand-washing. It went on to be a key transformational change for the future of patient safety and the health and wellbeing of medics. My hope is that Grid™ can help do the same for how we live, self-care, work and grow so that we thrive! Here’s why?
Conclusion: PhD is the perfect time to hone-in effective work-life balance habits
A PhD is really experiential leadership development. A hero goes on a quest of intellectual growth and a path of uncertainty. This demands physical, emotional and mental stamina from the PhD student and a world that supports him or her.
As this case study shows, Grid™ can help students on the road to PhD success:
- Start out well by helping them establish strong foundations and get their heads around what this experience entails.
- Maintain healthy work-life habits mid-way through the PhD journey when healthy balance often goes out the window as pressure intensifies.
- Successfully complete the PhD work and prepare for what’s next. Balancing completing final experiments with writing up the thesis can be very demanding not to mention having to think about the next career step.
We look forward to learning more with further case studies with more students and academic institutions.
Take steps to aid PhD success
- Get on your path to explore the Grid™ with us in a step by step manner here.
- Commission a workshop in your institution or discuss a potential collaboration directly.
- Share our work with others who may find it useful either by e-mailing them this page or using the social media links below.
If you are a researcher who studies productivity, well-being and workplace culture or mental health I’d love to connect with you. Please get in touch via LinkedIn.
Thank you for reading.