Hello there bloggies! It’s time for another round of Trainee Tuesday!

Being a trainee can put you in an odd position in relation to your friends. Most of your friends are starting their careers and jobs in the real world, while you are still labeled as a student or an apprentice. These labels can affect how you approach your research since your work is part of school and not necessarily your job.

But, such a perspective is not necessarily the best for PhD students and postdocs. During graduate school, I made an important decision. Instead of viewing my PhD as another round of school, I chose to view my PhD and all of my research as a job. This mindset was a major reason why I made it through my dissertation successfully.

Just like all of my friends in the real world, I tried to set regular weekday working hours. That meant I would make myself get up into lab at a reasonable time, usually between 8-9AM, and then leave lab at relatively normal time (maybe around 6PM). No rolling into the lab around noon and staying until 11PM for me. Weekends in the lab were more common, though I tried to limit it to ½-1 day of the weekend (though this was somewhat dictated by experimental protocols). Fixing the amount of time I spent in lab forced me to become far more efficient with my time and efforts. I would need to prioritize what needed to be done and when as well as limit my distractions like buzzfeed, twitter, instagram, and youtube. The latter was harder than anticipated!

I also tried to view my labmates/collaborators as co-workers and my PI as my boss. Sure, friendships eventually did grow, but in the lab, our main purpose and focus were on the science and research. Such a focus allowed us to work hard on our projects without fear of personal relationships influencing our work. We all exercised a degree of professionalism to ensure that our work got done and done well. It was fantastic practice and a good learning experience before going into the real world.

Viewing my doctoral research as a job was massively critical not only for the successful completion of my dissertation, but also the maintenance of my own mental well-being. Most importantly, doing so allowed me to draw a solid line between my PhD research and have some semblance of a life.

Sure, research tended to take up most of the room in my life and my mental energy. But instead of it taking over every aspect of my life, I was able to carve out time when I would entirely block out science and be able to focus on my family, friends, and hobbies. It also meant that I was able to continue with some of my hobbies like tennis and travelling as well as get to do simple things like grab a drink with friends on occasion. Without doing so, I would have become entirely overwhelmed by the PhD process and likely become burned out.

For me, deciding to view my PhD research as a job was vital to my completion of my degree. It forced me to instill structure and discipline into my work, and was what allowed me to graduate from my program in 5 years. Not only that, but it allowed me to hold onto some semblance of sanity while gaining incredible research and professional experience.

Thank you for stopping by this edition of Trainee Tuesday! Do you have a specific mindset that allows you to be a better grad student or postdoc? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you all later!

-Dr. F

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