The PhD and its surroundings – it’s a university and not a prison, remember that.

When doing your PhD there are two dangerous temptations – to forget the world or to forget your work. Both can catch you out in exactly the same way: by making sure you do not finish. And let’s be honest, that is the big spectre hanging over your head.

So what do I mean with forgetting the world or forgetting the phd? Well, you are at a university and there will be lots of activities to take part in – some which are compulsory and others entirely up to you. PhD students tend to fall into two categories, though the first category tends to be vastly oversubscribed. These categories are: those who resent anything outside their PhD and those who get lost in the world outside.

Now you might think the first group is the one that is least in danger not to complete and therefore there should be no trouble. Wrong. In many ways they are more in trouble. A PhD requires dedication and the ability to look at your topic both from a deep perspective – and a wide, panoramic view. You need to be able to think outside the box, and outside your discipline, something virtually impossible if you are not subjected to other views. So no, you are not better off if you are just stuck with your books and papers – aside from the fact that there is always the chance of burning out.

So, what about getting lost in other activities? Yep, always a danger. You have one your undergraduate and your masters – you know how prone you are to procrastination or how easily you escape its claws. You have already learnt to deal with it, otherwise you would not have made it that far. So true, there is a danger of getting lost but it is not one you have not dealt with before.

And then there is the purely common sense part. You will never again have the time and flexibility to arrange that time so that you can try out so many things in one place. Go do them. If you add them to your CV it might even help your job chances.