At a social occasion, people always ask me "So, what do you do?". When I answer "Oh, I'm a PhD student.", most of the time, they say "You are smart." or "You really like studying". But they are not exactly true. What is really required to survive (and complete) as a PhD student is "being persistent" and "being multitask". Today, I want to show you how multitasking goes on and never ends as we pursuit our life as a PhD student and a researcher afterward.
Basics: Heavy class loads
PhD students usually start from completing classes required for the degree. Even though you have 11+ credits in a semester, you still can focus on class work (although we already fell overwhelmed...). Just simple.
Most PhD students work part-time or full-time, which usually covers tuition, insurance and life costs. Being a teaching assistant often takes up lots of your time.
Keeping constant history of publication is very important.
+ conference presentation
Keeping a constant history of conference presentation is also important.
+ preparation for preliminary exams
You need to find time to study to prepare for preliminary exams in a timely manner.
+ social life
You don't want to just keep studying. Of course you need a social life, too!
+ private (family) life
4+ years (sometimes 7+ years) as a PhD student is a long period in your life. Many PhD students get married and starting their family during the program. Then your life just gets sooo busy...
If your work is not related to your dissertation, your life gets busy more.
+ paper review
As you publish your papers, you will be asked to review manuscripts from the journal. You could say "No", but you are theoretically supposed to contribute to the research field by reviewing other folks' manuscripts.
+ service work
As you advance, you may want to be involved in service work for your task, for your interest, for your resume or whatever...
The point is that you HAVE TO be multitask if you want to complete the PhD degree. That also means that being organized is a necessary quality to be a researcher.
Please don't take this massage in a wrong way. It is not negative. As a comment from a prefessor I work with ("It will never end and keep getting more and more. You will be amazed how much work you can handle at the same time!"), you will keep growing and someday, realize you are VERY multitask.
Interestingly, some people can be very multitask and organized at work, but not in their private lives. For example, my husband (former PhD student) is very multitask at work, but he can't even drive a car and talk at the same time...or eat dinner and watch TV at the same time.