I'm curious about how many hours excellent PhD students work per day, especially in science.

Are there any theoretical or empirical studies on the relationship between number of hours worked and success in a science PhD?

closed as primarily opinion-based by PsySp, Roland, louic, scaaahu, Solar Mike Jun 15 '18 at 10:05

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 7
    Three to nine hours. – henning Jun 15 '18 at 9:02
  • 3
    Define "work". I didn't switch my brain off when I went home. I usually spent between 40 and 50 hours per week at the institute when I was a PhD student and sometimes came in for a short time at weekends to do measurements and adjustments on my long-running experiments. The culture in other countries and disciplines can be very different and some supervisors expect crazy hours. – Roland Jun 15 '18 at 9:03
  • 5
    It's way too subjective - Stephen Hawking said he was working 1 hr/day during his PhD studies. I claim to work 24 hrs/day, everyday - like Roland say, I never switch off my brain. About being at the office - I have collegues that come 5 times a week for solid 8 hrs/day. I also have colleagues that come once in two weeks for a 2-hr meeting. – corey979 Jun 15 '18 at 9:20
  • 1
    All of them? :-) – Peter K. Jun 15 '18 at 11:49
  • 1
    Academia doesn’t really accept ‘hours worked’ as a currency, but it does reward availability, visibility, and effort. You want to be known, have interesting conversations with other professors and students, and do good work. You spend the time it takes, which for some is 6 hours/day and others 15. Sometimes it’s 6 on Tuesday and 15 on Wednesday. Let it work itself out naturally. – HEITZ Jun 16 '18 at 5:12

Uri Alon has a lot to say on this subject. See from 6:00 onwards in this video, the whole of this video, and the first 2 or 3 minutes of this video (they are all from one talk broken into separate videos).

The way he once described it to me is this: According to the parento principle, you get 80% of the benefit for the the first 20% of the effort. But productivity doesn't just keep increasing if you work more. If you do 0 work, you will fail. If you work 100% of the time you will also fail, because you will die. Thus there must be a curve with a peak in between 0% and 100%. Because its a peak there will be two x values (time spent) that give each y value (productivity): working slightly less that the optimal time will give you the same amount of productivity as being slightly to the right.

Thus it is always better to be slightly to the left of the peak as you get the same productivity with less effort. Where that peak is will be different for different people, and you will have to find your own peak, but many people stop working harder when they realize that putting more effort in is making things worst rather than better, and thus are on the right of the curve.

The other reason for being on the left is that if you are on the left of the curve, you wll have to reserves to give a little extra for a short term boost when its needed.

I don't know where your peak is, but for many people its probably at 40 hours or less a week. Remember this is actually time doing your work, not just being present in the office. Just make sure you are working for those hours you think you are working, and you are taking proper time off in the hours you are not.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.