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Q&A: Time to study daily for the PhD

I recently received an interesting reader question(edited for anonymity):

Assalamu alaikum (Peace be upon you). Greeting from Far Away.

Thank you Dr Eva for your valuable blog. I am going to start my PhD abroad soon. I need to know the minimum amount of time must/should I study daily. Taking in consideration that I work 7 hours daily (5 days/week) and it takes me around 1 hour from my home to workplace, and another hour from workplace to home.

In this case how long should I study per day? Also taking in consideration family and other commitments.

Looking forward to receiving your advice.

Thank you again.

My reply was:

Dear XX,
Thank you for reaching out to me through my blog!
With regard to your question, I would say – it really depends on your planning. While many people who work a split shift aim for 1-2 hours of work in the evening, this may not serve the research tasks you need to carry out.

Since you are working full-time, I can imagine that you are in a longer PhD trajectory. From that perspective, I think you should more think in terms of what you want to achieve for your research every week, and plan accordingly. You can think in terms of 1-2 hours blocks in the evening, with short tasks associated to that (or, if you are so inclined, blocks in the early morning before you go to your day job). You can also set aside longer blocks of time on the weekends to get through more complex tasks.

You may also want to ask in your day job if you can work a bit longer some days, so that you can take up a few free hours another day to get a longer block of time available to work on your PhD. It all depends on the tasks you have at hand. If you need to go to a lab to do tests, you may need a full afternoon, and the lab staff may not be available on the weekend.
My recommendation would be: plan well, set clear expectations with your PhD supervisor, and see at your day job what can be arranged for you.
Good luck!

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