I just wanted to ask what a typical daily workload/schedule looks like for other PhD students? Would be particularly helpful to hear from PhD students who work mostly from home, like myself. Sometimes, not unlike many PhD students I'm sure, I worry about how much work I'm doing/ should be doing, or what research activities to be doing on a daily basis (particularly at the pre-fieldwork stage) from home, and whether this may differ if I worked from my office in university. In between writing/submitting documents (summaries of literature consulted etc), I sometimes wonder what other tasks/how much I should be getting on with. I think I'm just over worrying really, but would be nice to get some reassurance from others in a similar position!


I had a similar question. I just started my PhD 3 months ago and have only been educating myself on the literature, taking some notes on things I've read, sent a couple rock samples (I'm studying geology) to be made into thin sections, and had some meetings with people who will be helping me with future analyses. On a day to day basis, I try to keep myself busy by reading papers and I decided I should start writing up a sort of literature review to summarize what I've found. From my Master's, I learned that it is best to start writing as early as possible. Nevertheless, I feel like I can't read papers all day without going crazy but just have nothing else to do. I see other PhD students (albeit they are much further into their degrees than I am) working before and after I arrive and leave work. I get the sense that I'm doing something wrong or am not doing enough. Is this normal? I always read about how much work PhD's have but I feel like I have to constantly search for things to do.


Having experience of working from home doing the whole PhD, I think the best things you can do is to regularly seek feedback from supervisors and find other academics who can give you feedback on your work as well maybe in the same university or hopefully experts in your field at other universities. Getting feedback on your work is a big motivator I found when you are just working by yourself most of the time. The worst thing is sitting for months at home with no good feedback. You need to create as much interaction as possible with academic colleagues even if by email, phone calls etc and hopefully regular face to face meetings as well. Do talk to other PhD students as well about what they are reading and what they are doing. If you don't have many students working on similar things to you in your department, postgrad conferences are a good way to find similar PhD students who you can share what you are reading with, the kind of tasks they're doing etc - obviously this will differ between topics and disciplines.


Thanks nearlyfinished. How would you recommend asking for feedback? I thought that as a PhD who has already done previous graduate work, I am expected to be largely independent. As a result, I don't want to appear insecure or worse, incapable, to my supervisor. Do you have recommendations on how to establish a good communication/feedback relationship?


I worked mostly from home during my PhD, so I shared a lot of your worries, particularly at the beginning! When you first start, I think it is perfectly normal to require a fair bit of support from your supervisor, regardless of how much graduate study/research you have done previously. I tried to show my face at uni as often as possible in the first year, and I had regular fortnightly meetings with my sup to check my progress/ask for advice, as well as regular email contact inbetween if needed. If you feel you want to be more independent, then that is fine, but I think regular monthly meetings should be the norm at the very least (even if just over the phone rather than face to face). By my final year, I barely had any contact with my supervisors at all, and once went over 6 months without even speaking to one of them!
During the first few months, most of my time was spent reading the literature and generating ideas of where I wanted my research to go. I also spent some time shadowing people in the lab to learn techniques that I would be using later on. It was only once I got to about 6 months in that I started doing any actual 'research'.


Hi Emma,

I started my PhD in November and I am asking myself these questions as well. I basically tried to do everything at once when I started - reading as much as I can, writing everything down in different places and beginning some volunteering. I ended up being quite anxious and overwhelmed, while other seem to have all the time in the world ("I am going on a one month travel next week, don't think I am doing much then...") My supervisor told me that I don't have to write my PhD within the first weeks, and others are starting off being rather relaxed, since they say they have enough to do in later years anyway.

I think we need to find our way and our balance - every PhD is individual. In contrast to my previous work life no-one seems to look at the time I spend doing work. You might use some time to reset your mind and work on broad ideas. Anyway, I am going to go home early today - no need to stress out at this stage ;)

All the best.