A Day in the Life: A Typical Day as a PhD Student
Welcome back! I really enjoyed taking a break over Easter, and although there are only three posts this month, I’ve tried to make my content as casual as possible, as I know lots of people are finishing dissertations or starting exams right about now. In my Q&A posted last month, I had a few people ask what a typical day as a PhD candidate looks like, and to be honest it varies day-by-day. My research is an evolving project, and I have several part-time jobs on the go as well, so no day is ever the same. However, I thought I’d share what an average Wednesday looks like for me on campus.
I try and wake up between 7am and 8am, and that again depends on what I’m doing that day. My brain doesn’t really get working until 10am, so there’s no point me getting up any earlier than 7am as it doesn’t take me long to get ready.
It usually takes me about an hour to get out of the door, and sometimes I’ll do some laundry or cleaning on a Wednesday, as every alternate week I have a PhD meeting with the rest of my research group. If this is the case, I don’t tend to go onto campus until after the meeting, as it’s interactive and I’d rather do it at home.
When there’s no meeting I’m usually on campus by this time. At the moment I’ve been doing lots of research, including a lot of secondary reading that I need the library for, so I usually head there first. I prefer researching on the silent floor, so I’ll go and check to see whether there’s a seat. If not, I’ll find somewhere in one of the quiet areas.
I use the Forest App to time my reading sessions, especially when I’m spending lots of time in front of my laptop. Screen-glare gives me really bad headaches, so I try and work in 45-minute blocks before taking a break. One tip I have is that if you’re reading a mixture of hard-copy and E-book sources, try and alternate between them as you research as it gives your eyes a break.
If I’m staying at home that Wednesday, I’ll do my cleaning and laundry and do some cooking. I make massive meals which I freeze, and it’s easier to do batch cooking when no-one else needs to use the kitchen. When I’m done with my adult responsibilities, I’ll catch-up on some TV or YouTube. I often can’t be bothered to watch anything in the evenings, so catching up in the day makes a nice change.
When I have my meeting, we’ll spend an hour or so on Teams. Sometimes we just chat about our research, and other times we will present things or sort out events or deadlines. It’s a really relaxed time and I look forward to it. I’ll note down anything in my diary that needs attending to, and just enjoy the meeting.
On campus, by this time I need a break, so I’ll finish up anything that’s pressing and move locations. The library is still cold on windy and wet days due to increased ventilation, and I’ll usually want a snack by that point. I usually head to the office and take a break, or sit in one of the study spaces designated in our department. The undergraduate resource room is criminally underused, and I usually spend time on admin while I’m giving my brain a rest.
After some lunch, Wednesdays can go one of two ways. I’ll often go food shopping in the afternoon, combining it with a trip to the cinema with Dan or some general browsing. I food shop roughly twice a month, and I only buy what I know I’ll use. An afternoon out midweek can be a nice way for Dan and I to spend some time together without having to go into Reading at the weekends when it’s busier, especially during the school holidays.
Alternatively, I’ll pop onto campus to get me focused, or remain there and get some more work done. Wednesday afternoons are a great time for meetings since there is less teaching, so my afternoons tend to be full of housekeeping things or organising my life.
I’ll go home if I haven’t already, usually making a stop at the library to drop off any books I don’t need. I do have a habit of collecting books, so I try and take a few back at a time when I remember. There’s usually some washing to fold or admin that needs to be done, so I’ll get all that finished and reset for the next day, which includes packing my bag and making my lunch.
I don’t tend to do anything particularly thrilling in the evening, and I don’t do much academic writing or research then either. I like to take some time out to relax, but anything urgent is taken care of before I officially ‘log off’.
Every day is different, but I have a similar “timetable” most weeks as I find it gives me some much-needed structure, especially if I don’t feel particularly motivated. I’ll probably do an updated one of these next year when I’ve (hopefully) taken on some teaching, as it’ll be interesting to compare when I’ve taken on more responsibilities. I also want to note that I have a part-time research job, and this takes up random times of my week, as there’s not a particular day I use to work on it. Outside of that, I have several other part-time ventures which vary in frequency, so Wednesday afternoons are a great time to pick up paid work or complete any tasks related to my various jobs.
Anyway, it’s great to be back, and I hope to catch you on my Instagram, @tibbotttalks_study very soon. I’m continuing with regular posting until the end of June, where I’m thinking of dropping back my posting schedule in June and July to give me a break whilst I sort out some life stuff. More to say on that soon when I’ve decided.