Life & Everything

Total Social: 9 to 5

June 24, 2014 | No comments


One of the things I love about the internet and the world of bloggers is that it brings together people from all over the world and from all stages of life. In ‘real life’ the most likely place you would meet new people is the workplace. Internet gives you a chance to meet people whose daily life might be completely different from yours.

Let me tell you about my typical 9 to 5 workday. First of all, my 9 to 5 is never actually 9 to 5. (And some people might even argue that my work day is not really work.)

I am a PhD student. I live in the academic bubble and in the limbo land between being a student and having a ‘real’ job. I’m employed by the university as a graduate research assistant for 20 hours a week. The remaining time, I’m a student. In graduate school, especially when you’re done with any class requirements your program has for your degree, the ‘student hours’ are in fact work hours too. In reality, this means that I work 60-80 hours a week but only get paid for 20. No one ever said being a graduate student was glamorous.

Being in graduate school has it’s perks. I get to spend the days doing what I love (researching awesome volcanoes) and I get paid to do it. (Lets face it, crappy salary is still salary.) As a state employee, I have some benefits like good health insurance. I get to travel the world to do field work, and to attend conferences and meet with other like-minded people. I can attend weekly seminars if I want to and I am constantly exposed to new science and learning new things.

My advisor (and thesis committee) sets larger deadlines but I’m in charge of my own daily schedule. I have two meetings per week that are fixed: a group research meeting on Monday mornings and an individual meeting with my main advisor on Friday mornings, but other than that, I can set my schedule however I please. Because I’m a creature of habit, and works best with set routines, most of my days follows the same pattern. I usually get into the office between 6 and 6:30 am, I read the newspaper/blogs while eating breakfast and start working by 7 am. Between 7 and noon, I usually work on whatever data processing I have to do, we have lunch at noon, and after lunch I normally work on either writing manuscripts, preparing for whatever presentations I have coming up, do more data processing, or am in the lab if I need a break from the computer. Normally, my days end sometime between 5 and 8 pm (depending on how much I have to do that day).

I really like the freedom of setting my own schedule. If I don’t feel like being in front of the computer one day, I can spend that day in the lab. If I have a lot of data processing to do, I might spend the entire day doing that. Some days I just feel like working from home, sitting on the couch reading papers all day, and then I can do that.

Some of my tasks are extremely tedious and repetitive, others change from week to week and from project to project. Some tasks I know months in advance that I need to do, other have to be completed in much shorter times. Some weeks I have a million things to do, others are more relaxed. Graduate school never gets boring.

The one thing that is constant from week to week is how I plan my work. I always start Monday morning by making a to-do-list with tasks that need to be accomplished that week. My PhD research consists of 5 different sub-projects so a detailed list for the week is the only way I can make sure I get tasks done on time. Depending on my mood, and what I have to do, I sometimes switch between sub-projects during the course of the day and sometimes I focus on one project per day.

How does your 9 to 5 day look like?

Read about other people’s days through Total Social, a linkup hosted by Helene and Sarah.

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