Doing a PhD from home

This blog is about me doing my PhD from home, and well basically doing everything else at home.

When I say home, I mean a good friend’s place in London. Deciding to temporarily move here was a great decision and I’ve been able to quickly adapt into a routine. I am living in her spare room and have a good temporary workspace set up.

1. Routine

The move made me quite anxious at the beginning and the most important thing I noticed I needed to do was to help my body maintain the routine I had before I moved here. I used to go into my office at the university Monday to Friday, 9 to 6pm and I very rarely or never worked on my PhD during weekends. Now, I am up and ready in ‘office wear’ or just basically anything other than home wear or pyjamas, to be at my desk for 9am with a nice cup of tea. During the week, I used to balance PhD and other work such as teaching assistance, reading or submissions for any taught modules, archery club stuff and so on. I still do the same. Except the only thing different is, there are lesser things on my calendar and although most of the things I’ve had to do are now done online anyway, I feel like my workload is a lot lesser now as I am doing all of the work sat at one place instead of having to rush between the buildings or lecture rooms at the university. Basically more like a 9-5 office job. This makes me more focused and most days I tend to be quite productive even if it’s sometimes just enjoying writing a blog or doing my expenses.

When online discussions or virtual classrooms have lesser attendance and engagements, It gives me an opportunity to quickly catch up on other things such as checking my emails, maybe going online or twitter if I’m in the mood to process more news, or even just reorganise my PhD folders.

2. PhD

Coming to think about my PhD, I seem to be doing quite well in managing remote-working where my meetings with my supervisors are done online. I had another pilot study to conduct and have now managed to schedule an online interview for next week. This worked out really well for me as I now get to test if conducting online video interviews of people at their homes is a better method for collecting my data anyway instead of interviewing in person at their place which would have been much harder to arrange. I was aware that the university would not be receiving ethics application over the Easter break and now this gives a good number of weeks to finish piloting and write up my application ready to be sent off for the end of easter.

Compared to before, my schedule for each day of the week varies slightly and I’ve let it be so I am free to do the work that I have the mind-space for. During quiet hours, I tend to do some marking. When it gets busier, I listen to music and do some PhD writing. When I’m overly distracted, I just read or watch some things that might help me later on like recipes for dinner, archery home training videos, or just funny videos online. When I feel stressed, I try to do some instant-meditation with Google Fit Breathe on my sports watch.

3. Online peer support

A bunch of us Psychology PGRs started a research group for all PGRs at the university on equality called PIER. We won a bid from the Doctoral College to host an event for PGRs which is now unfortunately postponed. However, we are now forced to think about creatives ways to engage people who’ve signed up online until we can actually host an event, making me think how we can use some of these online tools for our own PhDs and other personal interests. In addition to hosting online meetings to discuss organising some activities under PIER, we also do group video calls now and then to see how each of us is doing and share a couple of good things that have happened to us in the day 🙂

4. Physical and Mental exercises

Now that I am working from home and do not really take a lot of time trying to get to my ‘office’, I have some time in the morning to finally be able to go for a walk or a run. This is great as I would have come back from a walk had a quick shower and prepared a breakfast bowl to go with me to my ‘office’ at 9am. The only thing different is having to eat whilst I work for the first half-hour which hopefully would change as I get comfortable with the new routine, although I have to say there were many early starts at uni where I’ve had to eat simply-fresh bakery stuff at my desk. As long as there are no new stricter restrictions on movements, I aim to go for a run all weekdays. My first week here, I went for a walk. Just to relax and enjoy the air, the sun and the open spaces. But as I work more at home, and surprisingly eat more, there’s so much energy in me that needs to be burnt off – away from home, and running helps.

Sometimes, I need a break from the routine. Just yesterday I had a slow start, didn’t feel like a run so did quick yoga to start my day. It was a rather slow day and instead of pushing myself to be strict with the routine, I took it easy and had a long lunch hour with some icecream, prioritised some of the things on my to-do list and spent two hours in the evening back on the yoga mat doing slow stretches and meditation (very poorly anyway). Also managed to do some home-training exercises for archery. I really miss doing archery. And It’s important I allow myself to be sad about it for a while. Perhaps with more icecream? More importantly, I spend most lunch hours and evenings with my friend and her partner. We cook together sometimes, enjoy meals, watch movies and series or play games after dinner, go out once a week for groceries, go for a quick hike together or do some DIY work in the house during weekends and support each other in whatever way we can!

All in all, I’d say a good start to being at home. It surely will change no doubt, but I feel confident that we can manage it together.

Take care and make the best of the times!