One of the benefits of being a PhD student is that you have complete control over your time. You decide how to plan your days to achieve your deliverables, take care of yourself, and get involved in opportunities outside your PhD. For some people, this flexibility can be daunting – I would know, as I initially struggled with the lack of structure a PhD has relative to a master’s programme.
The important thing to remember is that there isn’t a perfect “PhD day”. Some days, you will feel like you’ve made no significant progress – maybe because you over-estimated how long a task would take, or a personal emergency came up, or because you went down a fascinating rabbit-hole of research which you’re not actually going to end up using for your project (unfortunately writing from experience).
I eventually found my rhythm – what works for me – as will you. Here is what a weekday in my PhD life looks like, working from home:
I wake from my slumber, make my bed, and put the kettle on to make my morning coffee. I greet my roommate, catch up on personal messages, and have a light breakfast.
I catch up on some emails and messages on Teams as I eat breakfast and sip my coffee, letting it wake my brain. This allows me to stay in the loop of what’s happening within the LSE, and answer any queries addressed to me. I sometimes do this whilst listening to the BBC Global News podcast to catch up on some world news.
I log out of Teams and emails to enable my focus. I get started on the PhD task I’ve set myself for the day (for instance, cleaning a dataset I will use for my analysis).
My stomach grumbles – time for lunch! As my energy levels drop in the afternoon, I usually have a light lunch and another cup of coffee to keep myself from feeling sleepy.
I log into an afternoon webinar organised by my research centre, the NIHR School for Social Care Research and/or the Care Policy and Evaluation Centre.
I return to my PhD task. I sometimes use this time to check in with deliverables for my extra-curriculars, part-time work, or academic development (eg, peer-reviewing for journals).
I usually have difficulty focusing at this time in the day, so I take a break from research to do something else – log back into my emails, clean the house, eat a snack, watch something online, chat with my roommate, or go for a short walk, etc.
I return to my PhD task.
I leave my house to get to my touch rugby game. Playing a team sport has been a blessing for my mental health, and it guarantees I’ll be active at least once per week.
Dinner and beers with my rugby team. If I have significant deadlines coming up, I usually skip the beers and head straight home.
I organise myself for the upcoming days. What I do afterwards varies – I watch Netflix, do PhD work, or work on some things outside the PhD, or just get to bed early.