Just After Submission

At submission, a PhD candidate won’t typically know when their viva is going to be. There’s a period when they’ll wait to find out the date and time for their viva. In the UK it’s common for the viva to be anywhere from six weeks to three months after thesis submission.

A candidate might feel pressure to do something just after submission – from nerves, wondering or hoping – but there’s generally not a great need to start preparing immediately. Viva prep is a different kind of work to what one does to get a thesis finished. The wait after submission can be useful as a break or gear change – a boundary between submission and prep.

Perhaps all you need just after submission is to take a moment. Deep breath. Make a few notes. What will you do for your prep? How will you do it? Sketch a simple plan. Then put it into action when you know your viva date.

After submission, generally, you can relax a little. The hardest work is done. You could be busy – it’s unlikely that your PhD is your only responsibility in life – but at least, for a short time, maybe you can put your research to one side and do something to help yourself rest.

Have A Break

Have a break when you submit your thesis. Give yourself space to rest.

Have a break now and then when you prepare for your viva. You don’t need to cram everything into one hectic period of activity.

Have a break during your viva if you need one or if you’re offered. Take your time to make sure you keep performing at your best.

No-one else is going to make sure that you look after yourself or check you’re working at your best. There’s more you can do, but at a minimum have a break!

Down Time

You can afford a little break at submission. In most instances, even if a candidate has an idea of their viva date, it won’t be confirmed at the time they submit their thesis.

When you submit you have time. Plenty of time to get ready, but also plenty of time to relax. Rest. Take time away from the work you’ve been doing to get your research finished and your thesis ready.

Pause, for your own sake. You have to look after yourself so that you can get ready.

A little down time will help in the final days and weeks leading to your viva.

Breaks & Breakthroughs

Take breaks, make breakthroughs.

Dr Kay Guccione was the first person I saw share this sentiment on Twitter. It’s a phrase I’ve kept in mind for years now.

Breaks are a necessary part of a working life. Breaks are needed to get work done. Relax and recover. Rest the mind. Find a balance for oneself.

I’ve spent most of the last month taking a break as it’s been my daughter’s summer holiday time. That doesn’t mean that it’s always been relaxing(!) but it has been a chance to rest from regular Zoom meetings, reflect on how I’ve been doing them for a little over two years now and what I can do to continue to build on that practice. I’ve taken some time off from writing as well – which has been really odd but also really good.

I’m ready for some breakthroughs in the coming weeks!


Remember, a break before the viva can help you breakthrough so many things. Breakthrough worries and find your confidence. Breakthrough doubts and talk to your examiners.

At submission take a break so you can make a breakthrough.

A Week Off

Today is the start of my daughter’s school half term break, so I’m taking a week off! No webinar delivery, no sitting down to write, no admin or prep; I’ll check my email every other day perhaps just in case there’s something that can’t wait, but otherwise it’s family time for me.

The blog will continue to be published though. I planned ahead. Actually, I plan a long time ahead for this blog. I have a system in place so that if I was sick and had to take time off it would still keep going fine, for a while at least. The same with my business. I planned ahead, in the long term, to make sure nothing was in my diary for this week. I planned in the short term to make sure that things were finished last Friday or left in a good state for picking up next week.

A week off could be just what you need when you submit your thesis. A chance to pause, step back, rest, relax, clear your mind and do something for yourself, before you have to pick up your thesis and start to get ready for the viva.

A week off takes a little prep. Looking ahead, planning, finding good stopping points for projects, or sketching out how you start going again. Time off helps you work well when it’s time to be on. Make sure you take the time you need to help yourself be at your best.

Worn Away

You have time to press pause before you prep. You can put your completed thesis to one side and come back to it when you have had time to restore yourself. You can’t help yourself get ready for the viva if you don’t help yourself into a good condition more generally.

It’s general viva prep advice to pause and rest at submission, but essential if you reach submission and are tired by all you’ve had to do. If you feel worn down then a single day off is not going to help you get in the right frame of mind to read your thesis or prepare for a mock viva. Rest and take the time you need to get ready to prepare.

Take A Day

It’s a Bank Holiday in the UK, which is always a good reminder to take time off. It might not be today for you: it may be that your situation means you have to work, research or do something that doesn’t allow for a significant element of rest or relaxation.

But you need it.

If your viva is somewhere on the horizon, taking a day off to do something else entirely can be helpful. Take a day for you, before you do anything for your viva. Pause, relax your thinking, rest your mind, leave – for now – all the prep and hustle that still needs to happen.

You have time to do all of that later and a need to look after yourself now. Take time for yourself as part of getting ready for your viva.

The Parts of Ready

You need to read your thesis, write some notes, rehearse for the viva and so on. You need to prepare for your viva, but preparation is only a part of getting ready.

You need to build your confidence for the viva; that can be based partly on your practical preparations, but is also done by reflecting on your progress, your success and your talent.

You also need to rest. You need to recharge. You need to relax. Making time to read and reflect can already feel tricky, but you still need a break too. You need time to just be yourself.

Plan your prep. Build your confidence. Rest and recharge.

Prep & Rest

Viva prep is better if it is planned a little. There’s no universal “best way” to get the work done, but the following questions could help:

  • How busy are you?
  • When could be a good time to start?
  • How much time can you commit regularly?
  • What tasks seem most helpful to you?
  • Who can provide support when you need it?

Exploring these questions can help set boundaries and ideas of what to do, when to do it and so on.

Rest is a key element to getting ready for the viva too, but is often overlooked. So use the following questions, adapted from above, to help:

  • How busy are you? And how much rest do you need to help recharge yourself?
  • When could be good times for you to rest?
  • How much time will you give yourself regularly?
  • What restful activities seem most helpful to you?
  • Who can help you to rest when you need support?

Prep helps before the viva. Rest helps before the viva. Ask yourself some questions if you’re struggling with either.