I’m currently only about ten months into my PhD, but I’ve already learnt a number of valuable lessons that I thought it would be useful to share:
Manage your Responsibilities and Commitments
As a PhD student, you will find yourself in a setting rich with opportunities. These range from organising and running events to attending conferences and teaching. While it can be tempting (particularly at the start of your studies) to really throw yourself into everything, I would advocate taking a more strategic approach. In other words, seek out and take opportunities that are presented to you but be sure not to spread yourself too thinly. Remember that quality of experience is often better than quantity of experience.
Don’t compare what you are doing and achieving with what others are doing and achieving (or at least what you think they are doing and achieving). No two people’s PhD journeys are the same so all comparing does is cause unnecessary anxiety and upset. You need to learn as soon as possible to have one focus and one focus only – yourself.
When you are working at the boundaries of knowledge and looking to make an original contribution, you have to be prepared for there to be uncertainty. For some people, myself included, this is difficult but it comes with the territory at this stage and the sooner you can embrace it, the better.
A PhD is a marathon, not a race. This means that you should neither slack off and leave everything until the end nor burn yourself out at the start. If you can properly pace yourself you should find that you are well equipped to not only survive, but thrive, in research.
This list will inevitably grow as my PhD progresses but I hope it may already have provided some useful advice!