Taking a Break From Your PhD

As a PhD student you get a rather generous holiday allowance. I think I can take up to 8 weeks holiday a year. I doubt very much that I will ever get an allowance that big ever again in my working life. The generous allowance however does cause a bit of a dilemma, do I take the full allowance because it is there?

There is a temptation to take no holidays at all. I always have a list of personal deadlines to meet, a long list of work that I could be doing and as I am about to enter my final year I am beginning to enter the start of the ‘panic zone’. I believe however, that holidays are extremely important!

1) They give you a time to stop and reflect. Reflecting is important, it gives you a chance to spot if you are going down the wrong path

2) They stop you from getting bored and frustrated. Taking time out allows you to relax, recharge and refresh yourself ready to get back to work

3) Give you a chance to catch up with friends and family, spending time with these people are important as they will help support you through the rough times

4) They are fun, you are entitled to take them and shouldn’t feel guilty!

As for how many holidays you should take… that is up to you. Never let your supervisor make you feel guilty about taking a holiday. Of course you have to handle it properly, make sure you tell them in advance of the holiday and don’t schedule a holiday in the middle of an important piece of work or study (if your research demands set periods of your time).

There is a nice discussion thread here about academics and holidays. One point that is emphasised is, planning, plan well so you can take a holiday. Taking a day off does not count if you spend it at home answering emails and writing a paper or grant proposal…

Personally I will not take the whole 8 weeks as holiday. I will use some of my ‘holiday’ time to persue other interests which are ‘work related’ but not part of my PhD, such as producing Au Science Magazine (a science magazine for Aberdeen).

I have just taken 2 weeks as a proper holiday and it was fantastic. I feel ready to get back to work… but part of my mind is already starting to plan the next holiday.. which will be before the end of 2011!

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About Heather Doran

I am a PhD student at the University of Aberdeen. My PhD is Molecular Biology and Pharmacology based. I studied Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with a year in Industry at Durham University. I then went on to work in research and development in the consumer goods industry for 12 months. I decided for my long term career and for my own personal interests I wanted to pursue a PhD – so I went for it and I am enjoying (nearly) every minute! I am really passionate about science communication and I get involved in lots of different activities that are available through the University and through being a PhD student. I hope my blog will be useful for people who are thinking of doing a PhD in any subject and also for those that are studying for their PhDs at the moment.

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