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I wanted to share a typical day as a grad student. This is my typical day and may vary significantly based on many factors. These include deadlines, your adviser, when you wake up, as well as if your lab is available to you during a certain time. Some of these factors are a bit weird but grad students understand.
I usually wake up around 7:30 AM to either my alarm or my cat, Sirius. If you are a cat owner, you understand the struggle of trying to sleep in and not being able to. Lately, Sirius has been letting me sleep longer which is kind of bad, since I do need to get up and do work. But if I do get up at 7:30, I usually have coffee, get ready and get out the door by 8:00.
I walk to campus instead of riding the bus. I found out that it takes about 10 minutes more to walk than ride the bus so it just makes sense to walk. Also, Gainesville has been absolutely beautiful this time of year, so the walks have been amazing. Walking takes about 30 minutes and I tend to listen to music or audio books on the way over. (Link to audio books that I listen to).
I will get to my office at about 8:30-8:45 and make a second cup of coffee. I really love coffee, if you guys didn’t know already (lol). So after my second cup, I am usually ready to tackle the day.
My days consist of either writing or lab work mostly. On weeks where I do lab work, I come in at really weird times. Depending on the day, I may get to lab at 7:30 AM or noon. So, for this blog, the day I am referring to is a writing day.
Around 9:00 AM, I start off with a blog post. So blogging has had many benefits, and one that I have noticed is that it warms me up for scientific writing. There are days where dissertation writing is difficult, so blogging beforehand gets me ready to do even more writing later. I have noticed that writing articles has become easier and I have blogging to thank for that. I usually am done with this writing by 10:30-11.
Lunch is at 11 and then start actually writing for the day. I try to get at least 500 to 1000 words in a day. When writing, I don’t focus on the flow of the paper, or the grammar. I mainly focus on getting the words out. If I focused so much on perfecting my writing then I would maybe get 100 words in a day. Going back over what I wrote later and correcting is way better than correcting as I go.
I usually write until about 2 PM. I do need a break, right? 2 is usually a good time to either get coffee or go on a walk. Some days I will have meetings at this time, so it’s a good time to change up the day. I will also go to my friend’s office and talk to her for a bit. PhD students don’t always work. We may complain that we do, but there is plenty down time.
I will usually get back to work around 3, after coffee, of course. From 3 to 5 PM, I usually write a bit or read some papers. My research topic doesn’t have too much to read about, so I will branch out and maybe read about physics or other engineering topics. Reading bores me easily, so in that time, there is plenty of phone time.
I will usually leave my office around 5-5:30 to go to the gym or do stadium workouts (check out my blogs about those here). My brain just shuts off at 5:30 for some reason. If I don’t get the work done by this time, it won’t get done haha. I think it is because I conditioned myself to not think of work after 5 when I was a full time civil engineer. Of course, if there is a deadline, my day does not end at 5-5:30, but those occasions only happen once in a while.
After the gym, I usually go home and hang with Sirius. Lately, I have been just playing with him for an hour to wear him out. I think this might be the reason he doesn’t get me up at 7:30 anymore. He has been sleeping a ton. I will usually make dinner at this time too and possibly catch up on email reading.
I know this isn’t too exciting, but this is a typical day for me, when writing. If it’s lab work, well that is a different story. I will probably make a blog about that one of these days. If you are just starting off and are trying to compare your day to other PhD students 1) Don’t do this because people will lie and maybe make you feel like you aren’t doing enough and 2) if you really want, look at reddit forums (here‘s a good one). Just know that a PhD is different to everyone. Some people will work constantly and other’s won’t.
I would suggest keeping a schedule that does not keep you in the lab/office forever. There is a whole life for you outside of work and it is very easy to forget that. Do not feel like you need to work on something constantly because that will burn you out faster than you know. Make time for friends and family. Join a club or sports league. Make sure the hours after 5 PM really count. You will have busy weeks but way more slow weeks. So occupy the time with things that make you happy.