Maybe you've done a PhD too or academic study of any kind, and, possibly, you can relate to what I'm saying about this process of learning? If so, let us know in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.
As for me... well, here goes.
 I like coffee.
 I'm no longer a 'night person'.
 I really am 'Procrasti-Nathan'.
 Taking notes is essential.
 It's OK to lose interest now and then.
 Whilst we're on the subject: Passion is really important.
 I have friends and family who love me.
 Boil it Down, and Sum it Up.
Second, summing it up - composing a document which itemises the flow of your argument, one that concisely summarises each important premise and detail in the correct order. Look, I know this sounds like the confessions of an OCD sufferer. But that's only partly right. This is actually a hugely helpful process. Once again, it helps you identify what you're actually saying, but it also highlights those links in the argumentative 'chain' that aren't working. It also constitutes a quick 'go-to' guide when you need to remember what you've written. (Very useful when it comes to Viva Prep.)
 Write a 'real world' précis, too.
Specifically speaking: How is it going to help serve the Church? Who will it benefit? What might it contribute not just to the 'academic consensus' (whatever the blazes that is), but to the so-called 'real world'? How could it affect old Elsie on the back pew, even if through several degrees of separation?
This suggestion is not (just) born of some pious suspicion of academia. There's genuine utility here. Studying for nearly half a decade is worth diddly squat if all it achieves is [a] getting you a job; and [b] making your bookshelf look 'badass'. Your intelligence is given to you. It's a gift. Freely you have been given, so freely give. By all means write an academic précis of your thesis, but remember also to compose a 'real world' summary. It'll furnish you with focus and it will help cultivate a submitted discernment.
 Be different. Make a stand. It's worth it.
This would usually apply to those doctoral candidates who happen to be 'conservatively minded'. Because, let's face it, being different from the academic norm now tends to mean being distinct from the various liberal/progressive consensuses of higher education. However, well... it's actually a little bit more complicated than this.
On the one hand - I totally understand why the vast majority of UK academia is left-leaning. (Which is sort of an understatement, if we're honest). I know that, in part at least, it's left-leaning because the University is a forum in which all thoughts are subjected to scrutiny. Without exception. Traditional modes of thinking, once so dominant but also sometimes abusive, have been deconstructed and then usually rejected in favour of a broad spectrum of liberal assumptions. In this light, it's easy to understand why some would regard taking a stand against academic 'liberalism' not as brave, but contrarian and ignorant.
On the other hand - you simply cannot deny the fact that liberal assumptions dominate the academic consensus (for good or ill), at least in the UK. Take theology as an example. If you're a conservative theologian, you are in the minority. Oh, and, don't you know it. I've heard evangelicalism snobbishly derided, fellow postgrad students promise to make trouble at a local UCCF event, and the local conservative charismatic Church being mocked. It simply isn't pleasant. Another example: Owen and I recently wrote a paper for an academic conference, on the subject of complementarianism. Don't worry if you're not familiar with what that entails, suffice to say it's a conservative perspective that many academic theologians dislike. In the feedback that followed the paper, it was publicly said - as a result of our views - that our wives must not be very intelligent, and that they are to be pitied for having us as husbands.
Of course it's more complicated than just being told to 'make a stand'. It's important to understand why academia assumes a more left-leaning consensus. After all, that's what makes a good scholar. However, also understand that it will sometimes cost you to disagree with the academics around you. Trust us, it's worth it. It's all part of the vocation.
 Be boring.
I was (and probably still am) dreadful at this. In terms of writing about theology, I 'cut my teeth' in Christian apologetics when I was about 17. That particular sub-culture encourages rhetorical modes of writing and dramatic flourishes. (See Alastair Roberts' superb article about the modern theologian being an ad man.) When I started my undergraduate degree in theology, I wrote my assignments as if every essay were my very own Gettysburg Address. It's horrendously embarrassing reading my old essays now, for this exact reason. One of my old tutors, a lovely and kind man, once used the word "florid" to describe my writing. I think that was indeed just his kindness talking. The worst thing is that it took a long, long time to get out of this habit. In the first year of my PhD my supervisor wrote in the margin, in big bold capital letters, "GET A BOOK OF GRAMMAR". So I did. I bought two or three, in fact, and consumed them over the course of a week. When my supervisors read my next piece they were, thankfully, impressed. It seemed that I had kicked the habit.
But again, the temptation still arises. Good writing is a lifetime's skill and it took my PhD to make me take this seriously.
 It's not as scary as you think.
So it should be of no surprise that I approached my PhD with a little trepidation. But then... it was fine. Like secondary school all those years ago, it hasn't always been easy, and some of my fears were there because some stuff is just genuinely difficult. But it's nowhere near as scary or as intimidating in real life. I then had exactly the same fears manifest when I was told I would be leading some seminars with undergrads. And when I was instructed to do some lecturing, and even teach an entire module, or go to my first conference.
This isn't me saying some trite nonsense like "it'll be fine don't worry about it". Because of course you're going to worry. Unknown things scare us and that's ok. Sometimes big things demand all of our energy and fear is just a good way to get us to concentrate. But I am going to say, if you're a prospective PhD student: you can do it.
 Love your students.
 Don't be a jerk.
If you were ever one of my students and I did this to you: I'm sorry. Genuinely sorry. It said more about me than it did about you, and I didn't have the right to belittle you like that. No one does.
This cuts especially deep if one happens to be a theologian. I've written elsewhere about how the theologian's vocation is to serve in a self-sacrificial capacity. It is not to pride oneself in esoteric knowledge. To be honest, the Christian academic's vocation is not really different. There must be a different way to treat your students. There must be a different way to react to terrible work. There must be a Christ-likeness in how we model truth-seeking to our students.
 Church is SO important.
I know all that with my head. With my 'mind', so to speak. But to know it in real terms, to know it in the heart, by experience (to 'know it in your Noah' as certain members of my Church are wont to say) - this is a different thing altogether. I didn't come to Church easily. I sporadically attended (and I use the word attended deliberately) when I was a kid and then I just didn't really go at all again until I was 16/17. When I left for University, although I 'knew' the importance of Church, it had never really found its way in. Why would it? It had no opportunity to.
And so I spent the majority of my undergrad days not really committing to an awesome, lovely, friendly and familial Church in Chester, doing youth group but often turning up late to the actual services, never really investing. And then I did my MA, and I found sleep sometimes more tempting than Church. (Again, this is despite having a lovely Church to go to.) And then I started my PhD and I went to another, lovely Church - but, again, didn't commit.
It wasn't until 2010 that I committed to the Church I belong to now. (And I use the word belong deliberately.) The same Church I got married in. The same Church that, in the last 12 months, has poured out its love and kindness towards myself and my wife even though we've gone through the hardest time of marriage so far. I've often described finally committing to Church as one of the two best decisions I've ever made. The other is marrying Jo. It's really that important. It's certainly that important to God, I believe, and I now know (in my Noah) why. I could not have finished my PhD without it. Not just for fun theological and scriptural reasons, but because it's filled with people who became Christ to me, and let me become Christ to them. If I say my PhD has grown me as a person, this is what I'd describe what I'm growing into.
Till next time :)