3 Tips to Thrive in a Doctoral Program

By Samuel Sprague

Animated image of research

Pursuing a Doctorate program is a rigorous commitment for learners, who typically earn their degree while working full-time over the course of several years. PhD, EdD and DBA programs are all research-oriented curriculums that require attention to detail and long-term endurance. The following three tips will help you as a learner thrive throughout the completion of your program.

Work/Life Balance

Maintaining a balance between academic, professional and private life is crucial to success in a doctorate program. This balance will look different for every learner, but a successful work/life balance should incorporate streamlined routines, scheduling and a healthy mix of set breaks.

Streamlining your routine involves tracking the activities you perform in your daily life and the time it takes to complete them. Keeping this catalogue of activities allows learners to determine where they need to change their routine to save time (such as planning meals ahead of time).

Scheduling effectively involves setting time aside for certain activities. As a research program, you will need to be reading and writing consistently over time. Rather than randomly filling the open space in your schedule, make sure that reading happens on certain days for a specific amount of time. This will both keep your academic work on track and make it easier to enjoy free time.

Free time can be constrained by unexpected family situations and professional demands, so scheduling in breaks is an important way to keep the mind and body prepared for continuous work.


Good sleeping habits is part of a work/life balance, but the consequences of poor sleep make it a separate responsibility. Consistency is the most important step to good sleep hygiene. Set a time to sleep and wake up, and stick to it. A good rule is to prioritize sleep over assignments and other obligations when possible.


The time you spend preparing for your program will help set your mind at ease. Research your institutional review board (IRB), which is responsible for ensuring that all research is high quality and ethical. At Grand Canyon University, all doctoral learners are required to receive training in research ethics and receive IRB approval before research may begin.

The heavy emphasis on research and writing in doctorate programs means that you will benefit from seeking out reliable editors. The resources available to learners will vary with every institution, but it is important to make full use of them. Have an idea of what it will take to apply for and earn research grants, whether your institution has channels for publishing research, and other questions that may pertain to your research before you enroll.

Resources at Grand Canyon University

At Grand Canyon University, there are a number of resources available to help learners thrive in their doctoral journey. Some resources are incorporated into each curriculum, such as the two five-day residencies conducted on GCU’s Phoenix Campus and required research training.

Other resources like “The Path to a Successful Doctoral Experience” are available to help learners succeed throughout their program. The Center for Innovation in Research and Teaching (CIRT) is committed to helping learners prepare to conduct and publish research.

Are you ready to pursue a rewarding challenge, develop innovative research and advance your career? Learn more about what Grand Canyon University College of Doctoral Studies has to offer you by visiting our website or clicking on the Request More Information button on this page.

Written by Samuel Sprague, a public policy major at Grand Canyon University.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.

Scroll back to top