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James Hayton: How to get through your PhD without going insane (complete lecture), Edinburgh 2013


James Hayton: How to get through your PhD without going insane (complete lecture), Edinburgh 2013


There is no shortage of PhD advice out there; how to be more organised, how to procrastinate less, how to sort your data and so on... And yet there is no shortage of stressed PhD students either.

Is the advice flawed? Or are the students just not working hard enough? Neither; the problem is that the advice generally given consists of tactics, while most students are still trying to figure out the rules of the game.

If you don't know how the system works or what you have to achieve, then being more organised or working harder simply won't work... you'll just end up going insane!

In this talk, you will learn the fundamental principles every PhD student needs to know in order to succeed.

Dr. James Hayton: "How to get through your PhD without going insane"

Stress is so common among PhD students that it's often seen as an inevitable or necessary part of the process. It's true that some stress is inevitable - because it's a near-universal truth that research never goes exactly according to plan - and it's true that some stress can be beneficial, because it's only by stepping out of your comfort zone that you can improve as a researcher.

But what if your stress grows to the point of despair; To the point where you can't think straight, where no matter how hard you work you don't seem to make progress? In that situation, saying that stress is inevitable, that it's something all PhD students go through and that you have to just get through it, is not helpful.

So what can you do to stop stress becoming desperation? In this I'll share my own experience as a struggling PhD student, why I almost quit, and how I changed both the way I worked and the way I thought about the work. We will also cover some general principles developed through working with PhD students worldwide, including:

- Some common misconceptions about PhD research, and how they can add to your stress
- Why productivity and time management techniques don't always work (and why they sometimes do)
- Why creativity and skill are crucial, and how to develop them
- How to plan your work, and how to respond when things go wrong

James Hayton is a former physicist and author of PhD: an uncommon guide to research, writing & PhD life

This talk was organised by the Saudi Students Society in Leeds.

"How to get through your PhD without going insane" by James Hayton (PART 1)

5 things every PhD student needs to know.

How to get through your PhD without going insane by James Hayton (PART 2)

5 things every PhD student needs to know.

How to get through your PhD without going insane by James Hayton (PART 3)

5 things every PhD student needs to know.

How to get through your PhD without going insane by James Hayton (PART 4)

5 things every PhD student needs to know.

Day 14: How to tell good research from bad | James Hayton PhD

A few days ago, I talked about filtering the literature. There are 3 main criteria for this; quality of research, relevance to your work and influence on the field.

But how can you judge the quality of the work? How can you tell good work from bad?

You have to get experience doing your own research. Without this, the only experience you have is what other people have said.

Start getting practical experience of research and analysis as early as possible.

How to get through your PhD without going insane by James Hayton (PART 5)

5 things every PhD student needs to know

7 Steps to a Positive Relationship with your PhD Supervisor

Professor James Arvanitakis talks about 7 steps you can take to develop a positive and effective relationship with your PhD supervisor.

Have you got any of your own tips for other PhD candidates? Tell us about it in the comments!

Some steps to building a strong relationship with your PhD supervisor include:
1. Set expectations early in your candidature.
2. Set regular meetings going forward.
3. Send an agenda and update to your supervisor before you meet.
4. Don't cancel scheduled meetings.
5. Don't take feedback personally.
6. Remember to send a summary of your meetings.
7. Don't be afraid to raise concerns.

For more information about studying a research degree at Western Sydney University, visit:

Day 26: How do you react when things go wrong in your PhD?

It's inevitable that things will go wrong throughout your PhD. How you react when this happens is possibly even more important than how you plan or organize your research.

Do you avoid the problem by checking email, or switch to working on something else to stay busy? Or do you slow down and take some time to think?

Building your PhD skills

A PhD is a beginners qualification


Stop waiting for conditions to be perfect | James Hayton

A short video on perfectionism. Unedited and with a load of background noise. Terrible framing, too. Conditions don't need to be perfect!

What is a PhD, anyway?

PhD Essentials Podcast Episode 10: Escaping Online Procrastination

A quick tip to help escape online procrastination. You can download freedom at (no affiliation, I recommend it because I use it)

The (brief) Story of My PhD

Advice to A Young PhD Me

The last of the end-of-grad school videos. These are just some of the things I had to learn in grad school, some things I wish I could go back and talk with myself about when I was just starting out. It would have helped her a lot, I think, and I hope some of these things can help you too. I'm not claiming that I have all the answers, but maybe one or two of these things will be helpful to you.

IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTE: DO NOT FILM AND DRIVE. I shouldn't have to say this, but it's real dumb! For the timelapse shots I used a mount on the far side of my dashboard so that my small camera was not blocking my field of vision (I even looked up the CA laws for where I could place it!) and also I couldn't reach it so I was forced to park somewhere safely to start it, end it, or change settings. Be smart, people! Also I shouldn't have to say this either, but wear your seatbelt! I was not wearing it in parked shots but I wear it EVERY SINGLE TIME while driving and you should too! No drive is too short! Always always always wear your seatbelt.

Another giant thank you to my Patreon supporters, including my amazing ribosomes:
Marcel Ward
Dave Moore
Christopher Miles
Ben Krasnow
Mathieu Moog
Palle Helenius
Phiroze Dalal
Tim Rhodes
Peter Cook
Edgar Romero
Diane & George Dainis
Thomas Davis
Alexandra Daly
Don Burlone
Tim McNally
Jose Cruz
Brandon C.
William Pilkington
Kevin Hardesty
Nick Ramos

Okay so this next part of the description always *used* to say: Trying to document grad school one YouTube video at a time, from lab equipment to genetics lessons to interviews with other scientists! Each video is a new view into life as a grad student, and the rollercoaster that is getting a PhD. But now I have my PhD. I'm not a grad student anymore! On to new adventures...

Twitter: @AlexDainis
Instagram: Alex.Dainis

(All thoughts and opinions are my own and do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of my institution.)

Ex-Boxer by Riot
Fender Bender by Bad Snacks
Lullaby by Yung Logos
I Miss You by Text Me Records / Leviathe
Pixelated Autumn Leaves by Jeremy Blake

Thank you to DCMP for captioning!

5 Things To Think About Before Starting a PhD

What do you need to know before you start a PhD? Professor James Arvanitakis talks us through five important things to think about before you decide to embark on your PhD journey.

1. The first thing to do is find something you are really interested in researching, because you are going to be doing this for the next three years of your life.

2. Next, you'll need to find the right supervisors to support you in your PhD - their guidance and support is crucial to your success.

3. Thirdly, what is your long term plan and where do you want your PhD to take you in the future. Are you doing this for the right reasons?

4. The fourth thing is to consider the journey - this might be more important than the end point of finishing your thesis. What do you want to achieve along the way?

5. Finally, you need to work out if you are really prepared for the time and effort it will take to complete your PhD. Finishing your research degree will not be an easy process and you need to be ready for the challenge.

Professor James Arvanitakis is the Dean of the Graduate Research School at Western Sydney University.

If you would like to find out more about pursuing a Master of Research or PhD with Western Sydney University, please visit our website at

Dr James Hayton ( - 'tips every PhD needs to know' (Nov, 2013)

LAIBS in association with GRADSoc welcomes Dr James Hayton in to the Harvard suite here at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge to talk about the key principles every PhD must be aware of during the doctoral process.

Tips for PhD students | What I've learned in my second year

Last year I completed the second year of my PhD and learned one or two things along the way. Here I share my humble advice for getting through a PhD successfully.

I just wanted to see your smile - Broken Elegance


I am Chantel Elston, a third year marine biology PhD student. Join me on my journey as I discover our wonderful oceans and try to survive PhD life.



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