Take a Timeout

PhD is a long process which requires focus, commitment, and dedication. It mainly consists of reading research literature, collecting data, doing analysis, writing and editing. This whole process is sometimes energy-draining and makes one demotivated. Here, Sajad comes up with some of his tips on how to relax, motivate and energize on your PhD journey.

Whilst conducting PhD research, it is common for scholars to spend days in departments, labs or libraries. This often leads to a lack of self-care with very little time to relax and falling ill. It is ironic that researchers focus on big sets of data while forgetting to reflect on their own bodies that need time to rest and recharge. Interestingly, before writing this post, I was reading a fantastic productivity book “5 am Club” by Robin Sharma, who is a Canadian motivational speaker, author and leadership expert. He emphasises that it is a misconception that rest is a waste of time because taking regular breaks during the day actually increases productivity and focus. So, if you want to achieve more and complete your to-do list, it would be better to take conscious rest.

Here, I will provide some relaxation techniques which I use for my energy rejuvenation and motivation pump. I hope you will find them useful.

1. Exercise

It is one of the best relaxation techniques as it makes one physically and mentally fit. There are several research studies which showed that exercise improves mood. This is why I regularly go to the morning walk and do some stretching afterwards. I also go to the gym three times a week to keep my body in shape. What I have been experiencing so far is feeling more positive, self-confident and fulfilled with a sense of achievement after exercising. You can do it too! Perhaps you can start with stretching immediately after waking up, then walking from your accommodation to the department, and jogging on Sundays. I recommend to every PhD candidate to exercise at least 20 minutes per day. This will help you win PhD battle.

2. Have a cup of tea

As I am from Kashmir province, tea is a necessity. In the place where I come from, we have Kahwa (Kashmiri Green Tea) after dinner and on special occasions like Eid (Muslim religious festival) or marriage ceremonies. I also have it on weekends when I have more spare time for Kahwa making, washing clothes, cleaning my room, playing cricket, and going to the supermarket. Of course, you can have any green tea. You will benefit from a drink rich with antioxidants and polyphenols. It’s famous for making memory sharp and preventing ageing, so give it a go.

3. Watch motivational videos

It works for me every time. Whenever I feel a lack of energy, I go to YouTube and look for Qasim Ali Shah’s videos. He is a counselling practitioner and an influential motivational speaker from  Pakistan with expertise in Iqbal studies and Sufism. His speeches, mainly in Urdu, encourage me to do better, to achieve my goals, and to become more. He says that “if you can change your thinking, you can change your destiny”. Quotes like this one give me an adrenaline rush and take my energy to the next level. For English speaking researchers, I would recommend listening to the powerful speeches of Tony Robbins, Las Brown, and Robin Sharma. In short, watching motivational videos refreshes and improves mood. Moreover, it is an excellent cure for lethargy and boredom.

4. Read self-improvement books

This technique is my personal favourite. I am an avid reader of self-help literature. This is both my hobby and an anti-stress strategy. I always have at least one book with me, whether it is self-help, psychology or biography book. I read whenever I feel bored or I am not in a mood to study. 15 minutes later, my lethargy and procrastination vibes fade away. I recommend my fellow scholars to adopt this activity as a lifelong habit. Its benefits are countless, and they include self-improvement, motivation, problem-solving, maturity, intellectual wisdom and many more.

Finally, I would like to say: please take rest seriously and consciously utilize your relaxation time for your overall benefit. I am going to be very happy if you can adopt any one of my listed strategies so that you can make your PhD journey smoother and more fulfilling experience.


Do you have any strategies for relaxation and recharging? How do you spend your timeout? Tweet us at @ResearchEx, email us at libraryblogs@warwick.ac.uk, or leave a comment below.


Sajad Ahmad Rather is a first-year PhD scholar in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Pondicherry University, India. He is an Artificial Intelligence researcher studying Nature-Inspired Algorithms such as Particle swarm optimization (PSO) and Genetic Algorithm (GA). His background is in Teaching, Publishing, and Leadership. Apart from his research, Sajad is passionate about creative writing, making academic YouTube videos and programming. You can find him on Twitter.


Cover image: Finding peace over a lake / kalenemsley / CC0 1.0

Image 1: people on the bridge / curtismacnewton / CC0 1.0

Image 2: a cup of tea / nastyabogdanova / CC0 1.0

Image 3: inspiration / petefogden / CC0 1.0

Image 4: close up book shot / aaronburden / CC0 1.0

2 thoughts on “Take a Timeout

  1. I found this article very much informative as far as the Ph.D. journey is concerned, specifically two points were interesting for me namely Exercise and motivational videos.
    Thank you Mr. Sajad for this wonderful article.

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