Thursday, March 13, 2014

My PhD schedule

I recently got the following question, on which I'd like to expand here.

Could you share your PhD schedule?

Throughout my PhD, I consistently started my day around 8am, which was often the starting time of my experiments, and which is the time at which my daily supervisor would also arrive to university. Since I was mostly working together with a technician in the lab (who starts at 7:45 am) and my daily supervisor, I would make sure to be in my office around 8am. I've been experimenting with morning routines quite some during my PhD, so at some point I was arriving a little earlier and having breakfast in my office, while at another point I'd be working through my emails during breakfast at home. But on average, I always started around 8am. Now that I am working as an assistant professor, I am starting between 7am and 8am. The early bird catches the worm.

Throughout the day, I'd typically take a coffee break in the morning. Sometimes we'd have a birthday, and then we would all eat cake together (one more reason to go and do research in the Netherlands, I tell you). Most of the days I'd have a 15 minute coffee break in the morning with some of my colleagues to have a snack, a cup of tea and catch up with eachother.

Then, at noon, I'd go for lunch with my colleagues. I'd usually go to the cafeteria around 11:45 already to be earlier than everyone else who'd be using the microwaves, and thus not need to stand in line to warm up my food. Our lunchbreaks were about 30 minutes. Sometimes I'd go into the lab after lunch and check out new developments on my setup with my technician colleague.

Most days, I'd leave my office some time between 5pm and 6pm, and make sure I'd have an activity scheduled for the evening so that I really had to leave my office. If I didn't have an activity scheduled, I'd often be tempted to stay until 10pm - which is simply too much for me.

On Mondays, I used to go to the gym around 6:00pm or 6:30pm for a class, then go home, prepare my food for the next day, shower, and write CD reviews or for my blog.
On Tuesdays, I used to do my groceries and batch-cook food for the rest of the week. I'd often watch online lectures in the mean time, or listen to podcasts to learn something new.
On Wednesdays, I used to go to choir practice, or -once I got fired from the choir from missing too many rehearsals because of my busy conference schedule- I'd go to the gym and then make time to read or study an online course.
On Thursdays, I would practice yoga at home, and make time for relaxation, such as reading a book in my bath tub.
On Fridays, I would spend 2 hours to either clean the kitchen or bathroom, and then clean my room as well.
On Saturdays, I would take care of all my pending errands, take time to study online courses, blog and read or watch a movie.
On Sundays, I would start my day in the gym, often followed by time in the sauna, and then work all through the afternoon, often until 9pm.

In the final year of my PhD, I tried to sleep earlier than the previous years, and would often be in bed by 9:30pm or 10pm, to make sure I get all the rest I need.

That's what my schedule looked like during my PhD years. I'm currently very much trying to get a schedule that works for me now that I am an assistant professor, but so far, I haven't found my best schedule yet. It always takes time for me to find a schedule that works...

What does your schedule look like? Do you have fixed working hours?

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing! I'm going to start my PhD this autumn and I'm determined to try scheduling from the very beginning. It's nice to find someone who actually took their evenings off. Most of the PhD students I come across lack a schedule and work late into the night/whole weekends - this is a bit scary, as I don't think I can sustain my focus for 15 hrs/day.

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  2. Thanks for this post, it was very interesting! I'm definitely guilty of ending up spending too many evenings at work and like you, I've found that scheduling things to do at night (usually exercise/dance classes for me) really helps force me to stop working by a fixed time and to be more productive during the rest of the day.

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  3. Thanks for your comments! I just really *need* my downtime, otherwise I'll get sick a few weeks/months down the road...

    If you schedule, don't try to put activities for more than 6 hours in your planning - there is always "stuff" that creeps up during the day and eats away your time...

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  4. Thanks for sharing in detail. This painful guilt for doing anything that is not research is a killer. This guilt takes away the enjoyment from everything. (Of course, as the existence of this comment shows, I transgress anyway.) It helps to read here that perhaps it's not such a crime. Btw, your list sounds very familiar -- cooking with podcasts and various online lectures (and audiobooks!) plus some exercise.

    Question: does/did it feel depressing to plan your life?

    Much advice suggests planning as the panacea against the ills of procrastination and a sure promise of a high quality of life, but... isn't there something sad about allocating time in a planner for 'non-business' activities -- 'from 7-8pm on Wednesdays I read novel X'? Do you find a life that's regimented like this depressing or not at all? More broadly, self-help literature focuses on how to get yourself to a particular ideal, but is that ideal appealing? Would you agree that that ideal is at odds with the joy of life? Or, are freedom and spontaneity values for the weak among us? Your thoughts would be much appreciated.

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    1. That's an excellent question - and something I've been musing about for some time.

      Sometimes, I reach the point where I feel like I *have to* go to the gym, and *have to* journal and all that. Most of the times, however, I like having a plan for my evening, because otherwise I'll just end up browsing the internet and then feeling as if my time just slipped through my fingers.

      However, from time to time, I try to stop and think: "What would feel really good now? What do I crave?". I'm a linear thinker and a planner, but I need to connect more often to my body and feminine energy and think of what would feel just right in this very moment.

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  5. * To me, it sounds like you have it all figured out so well... that it almost depressing to read for someone who is not able to meet her own plannings ;-) (and yes, I do make lists for evenings etc. too, but I can't always put them into reality)...
    Even my supervisors now think that I will not mee the goal (only have three months left to finish my PhD)...

    So any hints for more productivity and sticking with lists?

    Or how to deal with it when you have another view on the planning than your supervisors?

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    Replies
    1. Though question - and I'll expand on it in a post (need to think a little deeper about that!).

      But - one of the things that helps, is to cut out all the "crap". Try to really stick to what matters in terms of replying your research question.

      And experiment with different productivity tricks to see what works for you. We all have different learning styles, so it takes some trying out to see what works for yourself (although I understand you're pretty pressed for time!)

      (Oh, and BTW, I HAD things figured out when I was a PhD student. Now that I'm a fresh assistant professor, I'm again trying to get it all together)

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