University of Portsmouth Featured PhD Programmes
Anglia Ruskin University ARU Featured PhD Programmes

PhD Discussion Forum

The following thread is brought to you by our sister Web site If you wish to reply or post your own thread, you will be redirected to this site.

This Category: > PhD Advice / Support


What does your general daily routine or timetable look like?

User: springtime - 25 March 2021 13:17

Hi :)
Just wondering if people could give me a general idea of what your daily routines look like?
(as in academically, not your personal life)

I am looking for motivation!!!
I do a timetable up every week for myself but finding it so hard to stick to it and I am procrastinating a lot.
So said I would just see what other people do it might give me some ideas to maybe make more realistic goals and actually do something productive!!!


User: rewt - 25 March 2021 19:46

Hi springtime,

I somewhat enjoyed writing this answer, thanks for asking it.

My typical day in the lab would be approximately
08:30 Wake Up
09:30 Leave the house at the latest
10:00 Usually arrive in the lab at this time and check emails
10:30 Actually start lab work
12:00 Mid-morning smoke break then back to hard work
13:30 My self imposed cut off time for setting up any new experiment - As most of my experiments take a few hours minimum, setting a cut off time means I always leave on time and don't over stress/overwork myself trying to finish
13:30 Another smoke break then back to work
14:00 and onwards: chat with anyone I see; other PhD students, technicians, facilities staff etc. By this point I have done most of my difficult tasks and can relax a bit depending on how the morning went
15:00 Start tidying my lab area and some glassware cleaning
15:30 Another smoke break and scroll reddit
17:00 Aim to finish all experiments by now, write up lab notes, check emails (and another smoke break)
18:00 Leave the lab

That is very generalized and it will vary day to day depending on the individual experiments I am doing, but I focus on starting on time and doing less work as the day progresses. I also have a fair few smoke breaks and will have 5-10 minute chats with people whenever I can, because otherwise I would burnout.

Normally I aim to do 2-3 days "hard" work a week where I do most of my important/long experiments. The rest of the week is procrastination and bitsy work or prep work for other experiments. I would say I get most of my weeks work done in 2 only days and that gives me flexibility the rest of the time without worrying about falling behind. Granted I have been doing the same style of experiments for over 3 years now and know how long every step will take me. At the start of my PhD I was always over ambitious and got demotivated when I didn't do everything I wanted. I don't know what happened but at the end of 2nd year I found a "rhythm" where I could work hard at a pace that suited me.

I frequently use to use to-do lists but they are incredibly large and basic. Quite regularly they include "in lab by 10am", "label centrifuge tubes", "turn on machine X and let it warm up", "email supervisor" etc. I think a good to do list needs tasks that mainly take 5-10 minutes to do, as otherwise they become daunting. After a while of using the smallest unit of work method, you gain a better understanding of how long everything takes, you can organically develop a routine and you can make realistic time plans.

I hope that was useful

PS: I rarely eat lunch
PPS: There is a lot of procrastinating in that timetable but I try to do it in the afternoon - the morning is for work.

User: Nead - 26 March 2021 14:40

At the moment I am in the lab 3/4 days a week and WFH 1/2 days.
My day in the lab is :
9:00 Arrive in office/lab check emails. Write a list of what needs to be done for the week- or check the list for the day
9:30 Prep work for experiments- turn of equipment like water baths etc that need time to heat up. I usually look at the method I'm doing-have it wrote out in step and then rewrite it according to what needs to be really done first- as in if I need a water bath that's always turn on first etc.
11 Coffee -catch up with colleagues/or respond to emails.
11:30 Run experiments-sample etc
1-2 Lunch/Go for a run
2--4 Run experiments-Samples run analysis
4-5 check mails/responded to mails- write in lab book and check if anything needs to be done for the next day to make it easier

My day at home is :
9:00 coffee and check mails
9:30 analysis results (usually do 45-minute blocks -making coffee check my phone for 10 minutes and then go back at it)
12 Meeting about project/ read papers for the never-ending list
1 Lunch and housework
2 analysis results
3 work on writing methods/results etc up in a paper format

User: cucaracha - 26 March 2021 17:32

It's interesting to see the structured routines of people who work in labs. It's really hard as a social sciences PhD to structure your day! I'm definitely in need of motivation and structure too!!

At the moment I'm facing quite a few big tasks that need starting and feel overwhelming, so I'm trying to break them up into manageable chunks and tick off small bullet-point tasks...

User: emmaki - 27 March 2021 17:59

It’s been years since I graduated but I’d like to contribute to this thread....
My PhD was part-time in a UK uni and I worked full time in Greece.
So, my schedule was:
8-2: Work
2:30-3:30: Gym
4-4:30: Lunch
4:30-9:30: PhD work
9:30: Dinner
10:30ish: In bed ready to sleep.....

Almost all my weekends were kept free

User: springtime - 30 March 2021 15:50

Thanks all so interesting to see all your routines!

Glad to see I am not the only one who procrastinates a lot of the time!
I am working from home most of the time at the moment would love a balanced week with some days in the field too!
So I feel your pain Cucaracha it's hard to find the motivation but breaking goals down into smaller ones sounds like a good idea!
Fair play to you emmaki you had a very busy schedule!

User: fakename - 30 March 2021 17:10

I usually write down only a few items, things that I absolutely have to do at work like "Run a gel on sample 12-17", "Do carotenoids extraction on harvest on day so and so" - strictly lab duties. Just a few items like that really already fill up my work hours from 8 to 5 and I try not to let it "spill over".
I wish I have more disciplines to set out for gym hours like everyone here does, definitely something I should have done to get myself more motivated; I'm tired all the time.

User: AlexMad - 30 March 2021 21:49

I am a very unorganised person, I take my children to school in the morning, sleep during the day, spend time with my family from afternoon to their sleeping time and then I start working on my research. I stay up all night and sleep just around 4 am. I lost motivation many times but kept going. It's my way of life and I did not force my self to change it, instead I adapted with it.

I never stick to my timetables and plans and I lately stoped making ones. Just one goal and it was my PhD thesis.

I work on my research almost everyday with no weekend breaks but I take breaks when I feel I need to.

In January I passed the viva and my examiners were really happy with my work and defence skills and I got very very minor corrections.

So my advice is that you don't need to copy others, because everyone is different. You only need to understand your brain, sleeping and work patterns work... and just get going.

Good luck.

User: springtime - 02 April 2021 11:12

" Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible."
- My desk calendar

This is a quote from my desk calendar in March, I feel that it is really appropriate for me at the moment
and anyone else lacking motivation these days!

Thanks for your input AlexMad and fakename! :)

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2021
All rights reserved.