The Stress-Free PhD2023-11-03T14:44:10+00:00

The Stress-Free PhD Programme

The Stress-Free PhD Programme is the programme I wish I’d had when I was writing my PhD. It will teach you everything I learnt about PhD productivity when I had to finish my PhD in only a couple of hours a day. In six weeks we’ll transform your PhD life from stuck or struggling to writing your PhD (almost) effortlessly. If you’re in a rut, we’ll get you out!

Imagine you could write your PhD without the struggle. Without the daily struggle to start writing and keep writing, without the struggle of fear and self-doubt, without the struggle of feeling overwhelmed and feeling behind. Without the struggle of forever doubting your work is ‘good enough’. What if being focused on your PhD when you want to work on it, and not being worried about it outside of ‘work hours’ would be a possibility? What if PhD guilt were a thing of the past?

I believe there is only one struggle that should be at the heart of the PhD: the intellectual one. There is an inherent tension in doing research, an inherent striving and coming up against edges. Yet as I know from my own experience, the intellectual struggle often isn’t the struggle that causes us headaches. It is the rest of it.

In this programme I will help you deal with ‘the rest of it’: from creating a work routine that is as effective as it is sustainable, to improving focus, to getting out of overwhelm and fear, to communicating effectively with your supervisor, to staying motivated.

The tools and strategies I teach – the method, if you like – I learnt the hard way. I had to finish my PhD in difficult circumstances, and as a result was forced to work far more efficiently than I did before. It was a process of trial and error: finding out what worked and what didn’t. During the programme you’ll go on a similar journey, with my guidance, and you will find your own answers. As a result, you’ll be more in control of your PhD and you will have a deeper understanding of what you need to thrive and be well. It’s what I love about the programme: you will learn to be formidably effective, while being fiercely and unapologetically gentle with yourself. There is no contradiction, there does not have to be! That is what the programme will show you.

What you’ll get from the programme:

  • Your PhD writing back on track
  • A new work and writing routine, which will allow you to work shorter, more effective workdays
  • Feel better, with fewer PhD worries
  • Self-care habits firmly in place
  • A more enjoyable and inspired PhD process, in which you can be focused as well as kind to yourself during the more difficult stretches

This programme includes:

  • Access to the Stress-Free PhD website and course materials
  • Daily emails to help you implement the course tools. I will guide you through the course step by step. Pep talk and encouragement are included!

The programme materials are scientifically solid. I give academic references where appropriate, and have based the modules on different strands of the stress-management and psychology literature.

The programme materials are sprinkled with personal anecdotes. I will tell you all the behind-the-scenes PhD stories, and will share about the mistakes I made when I was writing my PhD. I am honest and open about how I messed up at times, so you can avoid doing the same!

The Stress-Free PhD Programme + Coaching

Includes 1:1 coaching

Fee: €979,-

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The Stress-Free PhD Programme + Strategy Call

Includes a 1:1 strategy call

Fee: €285,-

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The Stress-Free PhD Programme Self-Study

The DIY version of the course, without coaching or feedback

Fee: €199,-

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The Stress-Free PhD Programme Curriculum

Oh Academia!
The foundation of better performance is one of understanding how academia works, and why academic work can become such a struggle, even when we’re capable (even though you may be doubting that at the minute). You will realise it’s not just you: the structural features of academia are such that they are likely to produce feelings of stress, discouragement and failure, at some point or continuously when you are writing a PhD. With that understanding, it is possible to tackle these issues, which is exactly what the rest of the course is designed to do.

Lower Stress
During the first two weeks of the programme you’ll be building a self-care routine, which will allow you to feel better and work better. I will guide you day-by-day, until it has become a routine you don’t even have to think about. You’ll have more energy, your ability to focus and academic performance will improve, and your worries will ease. Meditation is part of this routine (if it appeals) and so is exercise.

A Happy PhD
The rest of the modules focus on four core themes: productivity, writing, supervision and motivation. There will be course materials – audio and written materials –  covering these topics from different angles. The course is aimed at improving the whole of your PhD experience, including creating a work routine that works for you, dealing with difficult supervisors, dealing with thesis anxiety, overcoming procrastination and getting your chapters/ papers written.

WEEK BY WEEK

Week 1

Stress in Academia

In the first week of the course we explore why academia is such a high-stress environment, and how this affects your performance and wellbeing. We will cover how to deal with perfectionism and overcommitment in a competitive environment. You’ll learn to identify your personal stress cycle.

Week 2

Brain Power Routine

In week 2 we’ll discuss how to build a self-care routine as your best ally against PhD stress. This week is all about meditation and exercise, and other self-care habits. We will cover how to shift from focus during work hours, to getting out of your head at the end of the day.

Week 3

Productivity: Work in Waves

The third week of the course focuses on productivity. You will learn how to ‘work in waves’ and manage your mental energy. The tools of this week allowed me to finish my PhD in only a couple of hours a day. I will teach you how to do the same.

Week 4

Let’s Write!

Building a writing routine is the focus of week four. In this week we bring together all the tools of the previous weeks to create your personal integrated work, writing and self-care routine. It is by this week that you can expect a real shift in how your work is going.

Week 5

Corner Your Supervisor

Supervision! It is the source of many PhD nightmares. This week we focus on this major PhD stressor. The aim of this week’s material is to empower you in your relationship with your supervisor, and to prevent you from unwittingly becoming the victim of your PhD.

Week 6

Write a Happy PhD

The final week is about finding joy and satisfaction in your PhD life. It is about connecting with that vital part of yourself that is driven by curiosity and passion for your project. Your will learn how to use your strengths and desires to create a prolific and fulfilling PhD life.

Feedback

The course really helped me get unstuck and it was amazing how by removing the fear and self-destructive thoughts that were ruling me, I was able to write a paper (that I had been dreading for 2 years) in less than 2 weeks. The course really helped me quickly build a ‘can do’ attitude that made all the difference. The paper still needs a lot of work, but putting words on paper already felt like such a great achievement.
I am very happy I took the course. It provided the regiment, the material, the motivation and I felt supported and understood every morning when I read the daily lessons. I found the course effective. Great course Amber!
3rd year PhD Candidate, University of Oxford, England

Thank you so much for the course. It has been such a great experience and I really learned a lot. It changed the approach to my PhD and I am much more relaxed and positive. I would never have thought I would start to meditate, but you made me do it and it really works and makes me feel so much better. I also like your authentic approach as your course comes from your own experience. Thank you so much for this great experience. I am already missing getting an e-mail from you almost every day.
Part-time PhD Candidate, Justus-Liebig University, Giessen, Germany

The course has definitely helped me. I am more at peace, and I am kinder to myself, because I now realize that many of the fears and frustrations I was struggling with are inherent to the job. I allow myself to have shorter workdays, and I don’t feel as guilty about it. I am more productive in a workday that ends at 3 or 4 in the afternoon, than I was in the long days I used to work before.
4th year PhD Candidate, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Questions and Answers

Who is the Stress-Free PhD Programme for?
The Stress-Free PhD Programme is for you if you’re writing a PhD. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what your topic or field is, and it doesn’t matter whether you are in your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th (or 5th or 6th or 7th) year. The programme teaches general tools and skills, applicable at any stage of writing a PhD.

What is the difference between the three versions of the programme?

Stress-Free PhD programme with Coaching
The 1:1 coaching version of the programme (recommended) includes 8 one-hour coaching sessions, spaced out over 2 – 3 months to help make sure the change you desire in your stress levels and productivity are lasting ones. These sessions will give us the opportunity to fine-tune the programme tools, ideas and strategies to fit your specific situation and circumstances, and will help with accountability. They are a place for you to be heard, understood and supported. Change is easier and more sustainable when you have support.

Stress-Free PhD Programme +  Strategy Session
In this version of the course, we meet for one 1:1 session over Zoom or in Amsterdam. During this session we will map out a personalised strategy based on your specific situation (I’ll send you a questionnaire to complete so I can read up, and have a think before the session). I am adept at tuning into what might help you most based on my coaching experience over the years, as well as my intuition and analytical skills. The session will help you reach your goals efficiently if the programme with coaching isn’t an option.

Stress-Free PhD Programme Self-Study
If you prefer a self-guided version of the programme without coaching support or feedback, this is the version of the programme to choose. The programme materials are exactly the same.

I would like to take the course with coaching, but it is expensive for me?
Do ask your university whether they would consider covering the costs: most universities have funds to cover training programmes for their PhD students. More so than in the past, mental health and the wellbeing of PhDs is a priority for universities and it is also in the university’s and your supervisor’s interest that you finish your PhD, preferably within the set time frame. Ask for support. You deserve it.

If you are paying for the programme yourself I have payment options available, contact me about these.

Where / how do the coaching calls take place?
The coaching calls take place via Zoom or in-person in Amsterdam. I’ll be in touch within 24 hours of you signing up for the programme to schedule the first coaching call.

When does the Stress-Free PhD Programme start?
When you sign up for the programme, you get immediate access to the programme website and materials.

What’s the time commitment for the programme?
It will take about twenty minutes to half an hour five days a week to get the most out of the programme, a bit more if you include your new self-care routine.

Do I keep access to the materials after I have completed the course?
Yes. You keep access. There is no end date. You can revisit the material whenever you want.

I am really busy/ overwhelmed right now. Is this the right time for me to take the course?
If you can carve out 20 minutes or so a day: yes! I’d say it is better to devote some time to build better work routines now, rather than later.

If I change my mind about taking the course after I sign up, can I get a refund?
No, I’m sorry. I have a no refund policy. Please contact me before signing up for the programme if you have any questions: it’s important to me that The Stress-Free PhD Programme is right for you.

Are you a psychotherapist? 
I have a long list of degrees but I am not a psychotherapist. If you are suffering with anxiety or depression please contact your university’s wellbeing service, or your doctor. Help is available! I have worked with people who are also receiving therapy for work-related mental health concerns, and they tell me that combining therapy and my PhD-specific coaching sessions and programme has been very effective for them.

Feedback

Working with Amber has been such a revelation for me. At the time I started working with her I had not worked on my PhD for about a year, and even before that, I struggled with procrastination issues. Amber was very effective, in a compassionate and insightful way, in getting down to the root of my issues – her kindness and understanding made me feel comfortable immediately and I was able to open up to her and get the issues that hindered my progress out in the open. She’s also very open and funny which made me love our conversations!! With her guidance, I was able to resume working on my PhD and produce and publish a concrete piece of work – the reworking of an article which had been gathering dust for months on end. Amber also introduced me to a tailor-made working schedule that tackled my procrastination and gave me the ability to produce quite a lot of work in a brief, yet concentrated amount of time. I’ll be forever indebted to her for jump-starting my productivity after a very long time of standing still, and providing me with the necessary tools for a whole new way of working. Thanks so much Amber!!
PhD Candidate, TU Delft, The Netherlands

I did your PhD programme last summer and we had a coaching call, maybe you remember. I am actually quite well at the moment, the PhD is going better and I feel good, still excercising, meditating and taking some time off to relax. Just as a feedback: I really think these three things are crucial. While I already did excercise and meditate before I did the programme, I think I really learned the relaxation part. I can say that after the programme, for the first time (in my life?) I really took “working hours” seriously and allowed myself to also do other things with joy. The result is: I work less than ever, but I also achieve much more (more then ever when it comes to my PhD for sure). So thank you for the insights.
PhD Candidate, Hamburg University, Germany

I had just run out of funding for my PhD, and needed to combine full-time work with a lot of thesis work left. I was really stressed and a bit upset, so I simply googled “Why did I ever decide to do a PhD”. Haha! Then I ended up on depressing discussion forums of people who had either decided to give up their PhD and complained about all the horrible things they had gone through or those who had finished and really were not happy and regretted spending years of their life in “hell” or similar (this is true!). Then I thought “Heeey, I don’t want to be really depressed about this, I want to finish with enjoying it”. Then I googled something like “happy Phd”, “how to not stress about the PhD”, and found Amber’s website. What a relief! First I took the free course on how to work shorter hours – great in combination with another full-time job. Then I decided to take her course with live sessions. I really recommend this course, Amber writes and produces excellent course material which is easy to read, and also research based. The course really helped me change my attitude towards the PhD and for the process to be more enjoyable by appreciating every single, small step.  I am still stressed at times, but less now as I have simple tools to use if I feel overwhelmed. And somehow, I see that I am moving forward and more happy with the PhD – and life in general.
PhD Candidate, University of Oslo, Norway
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