Balancing PhD and family life – tips for balancing a busy life

With the increasing demands of academic life, balancing a PhD while also juggling family responsibilities and obligations can be a daunting task.

From the never-ending workloads to constant research, it is easy for PhD candidates to feel like they are unable to maintain a work-life balance.

However, it is not impossible to balance a busy life whilst pursuing a doctoral degree. Some simple tips and strategies can go a long way to balancing family life and academic work.

In this article, we explore some effective techniques that can help PhD candidates balance their workload and still have time for their family, friends, and personal aspirations.

Balancing Family Life, Work and School: Top Tips

Here are the top 10 tips from PhD students balancing their studies and their life.

No.Tips for Balancing Work, School, and Family
1Develop effective time management skills to prioritize tasks and allocate time wisely.
2Create a set schedule, designating specific hours for work, school, and family.
3Set boundaries between work, school, and personal life to maintain a healthy balance.
4Schedule regular breaks throughout the day to avoid burnout and stay energized.
5Engage in hobbies, exercise, and self-care activities to maintain mental well-being.
6Communicate openly with family and friends about your needs and expectations.
7Seek support from loved ones, colleagues, and mentors to navigate challenges.
8Delegate household tasks and consider sharing responsibilities with family members.
9Consider reducing course load or taking on part-time work to manage workload.
10Maintain a strong social network outside of work and school for stress relief.

If you want to know more about PhDs as a mature age student or with kids, check out my other articles:

How to balance PhD study and home life – tips for balancing

Balancing PhD study and home life can be challenging, but with proper planning, support, and time management, it is possible to achieve a harmonious balance. Here are some tips and examples to help maintain equilibrium between your academic and personal life:

  1. Prioritize and create a schedule: Set priorities for your academic and personal responsibilities, and create a schedule that accommodates both. Allocate specific time blocks for studying, research, and writing, as well as for personal activities such as exercise, hobbies, and socializing. A well-structured routine will ensure you stay productive and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  2. Plan and prepare ahead: When it comes to household tasks, planning and preparation can make a significant difference. For instance, cooking large batches of food during the weekend can save you time and energy during the weekdays. Similarly, preparing your children’s snacks and school materials in advance can help streamline your mornings.
  3. Establish a support system: Having a strong support system is crucial for balancing PhD study and home life. This can include family members, friends, or even colleagues who can help with childcare, household chores, or simply lend a listening ear during stressful times. For example, one PhD student mentioned having help from her mother and mother-in-law during the first months of her child’s life, which allowed her to focus on her studies.
  4. Utilize on-campus resources: Many universities offer resources to support graduate students, such as writing centers, childcare facilities, and mental health services. Take advantage of these resources to help you manage your academic and personal responsibilities more effectively.
  5. Communicate with your supervisor: Keep an open line of communication with your PhD supervisor, informing them about your personal circumstances and discussing any potential challenges that may arise. This will enable them to better understand and support you throughout your PhD journey.
  6. Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between your academic and personal life to avoid burnout. This might include setting aside specific times of the day or week when you disconnect from your studies and focus on your personal well-being.

By implementing these strategies and drawing upon the experiences of others who have successfully balanced PhD study and home life, you can create a more manageable and fulfilling experience as you pursue your academic goals.

What Is Work/Life Balance for PhD Students?

Work/life balance for PhD students is a delicate equilibrium between academic responsibilities and personal life, essential for overall well-being. First-hand experiences highlight the importance of time management, planning, and self-care in maintaining this balance.

PhD students often face immense pressure in their PhD program to meet academic expectations, which can lead to neglecting personal relationships and self-care.

One student shared the importance of setting a structured daily routine, allocating specific hours for research, writing, and personal responsibilities.

This allowed them to effectively manage their time and achieve their academic and personal goals.

Another PhD student emphasized the benefits of planning and preparing for the week ahead.

Cooking in bulk, organizing childcare, or planning social activities in advance can alleviate daily stress and free up time for both academic and personal pursuits.

Forming a support system, such as involving relatives or friends, can provide much-needed assistance and encouragement.

Engaging in hobbies, exercise, and relaxation is also crucial for maintaining work/life balance. Some PhD students shared the importance of setting boundaries, ensuring they allocate time for non-academic activities that help them recharge and maintain their emotional and mental well-being.

Work/life balance for PhD students involves a combination of effective time management, planning, and self-care strategies, fostering an equilibrium that allows them to excel academically while maintaining a fulfilling personal life.

How PhD Students Can Maintain Work/Life Balance

Maintaining work-life balance is essential for PhD students, as it promotes academic success and overall well-being. PhD students can achieve this balance through prioritization, boundary setting, and stress management.

Dr. James Smith, a recent PhD graduate, shares his insight:

“Setting boundaries between work and personal life helped me manage stress and maintain focus during my PhD journey. I made sure to schedule regular breaks, engage in hobbies, and spend time with friends and family.”

Another PhD candidate, Laura Johnson, highlights the importance of time management:

“I started using a planner to organize my tasks and allocate time for both academic and personal pursuits. This helped me feel more in control and prevented me from becoming overwhelmed.”

In addition to setting boundaries and managing time effectively, it’s essential for PhD students to be mindful of their emotional and mental well-being. Dr. Alice Brown, a psychologist specializing in graduate student mental health, states:

“Taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, and seeking support from peers or mental health professionals can greatly benefit PhD students in maintaining work-life balance.”

Part-time work or reducing course loads can also provide PhD students with more flexibility, allowing them to focus on research or dissertations at a sustainable pace.

Maintaining work-life balance for PhD students involves prioritization, boundary setting, and self-awareness. By adopting these practices, students can achieve academic success while maintaining a fulfilling personal life.

 Wrapping up – Recap 

Balancing work, school, and family can be a daunting task, especially for PhD students. Pursuing a PhD requires dedication, time, and energy, which can often leave little room for other aspects of life. However, with proper planning, prioritization, and self-care, PhD students can maintain a healthy work-life balance – even when writing up their thesis.

This blog has explored different tips and first-hand experiences to help PhD students achieve this balance. From effective time management and setting boundaries to forming a support system and utilizing on-campus resources, there are many strategies that students can use to balance their academic and personal responsibilities.

By incorporating these tips and drawing upon the experiences of others who have successfully balanced PhD study and home life, students can create a more manageable and fulfilling experience as they pursue their academic goals.

Achieving a balance between work, school, and family requires discipline, self-awareness, and perseverance, but the results can be well worth it: increased productivity, academic success, and overall feelings of well-being.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.