PhD Diary: “Working” from Home

Not all researchers have the luxury of choice, but if you are among the lucky ones, working from home can be a treat and a nice change to your routine. It can also be a complete waste of time, if you’re bad at it like me…

 07:30 08:30 09:15

I set the alarm optimistically (read: unrealistically) early the night before. The alarm went off and I got up. Almost two hours later, but not to worry, I’ve saved so much time by not commuting and running around campus. Besides, it’s been ages since I last had a lie in. I’ll just quickly have some breakfast and crack on with my work.

10:15

Ok, I’ve checked all the social media; best to get that out of the way, their claws are deep in, I would have succumbed later anyway. There were some urgent work emails I’ve dealt with as well, I like to keep a neat inbox and people who don’t reply to emails are just the worst (well, not as bad as those who don’t put their trolleys back after shopping). Anyhow, I’ve made a nice pot of coffee, opened the documents and there’s no way this chapter won’t get edited.

12:00

The postman came with a blender I forgot I ordered, and I’ve realised only now I’m still in my pajamas. I don’t think the hoodie I threw on fooled anyone (probably didn’t help it was inside out), but if fashion nonchalance is the price of productivity, I’ll happily sport nightwear anytime. I did address a grand total of seven of my supervisor’s comments, so it must be working. Slowly, but working.

12:20

I know I’m risking a snacking vortex, very much similar to one described in this article, but I’m feeling hungry-ish. My breakfast was late and so will be my dinner, therefore, it’s too early for lunch. The serendipitous delivery of the blender leaves me no choice – I must search all of the Internet for smoothie recipe.

Update: Well, I’ve bookmarked a lot of pages, but lacked ingredients for almost every recipe. The one I was able to make didn’t taste nice, so I had a biscuit (okay, two and a half biscuits).

14:25

I’ve finally had my lunch, did the dishes, did my housemates’ dishes, and cleaned the stove. Then I’ve tried working, but the book I’ve need to consult was in fact somewhere in my office (at least I hope so?), so I ended up hovering the kitchen. And living room. I’ve stopped half-way up the stairs. Back at my laptop now, downloading some other papers. All crucial for my project, of course.

15:30

The chair felt oddly uncomfortable and I couldn’t get the lighting to work with screen, I moved my work station to kitchen. Three more comments implemented (current total: twelve; total of social media breaks taken: don’t ask!). I was feeling this draft (and draft is dangerous!) and I brought fleece blanket to keep me warm and typing. Finally, it’s probably best if work in my bed, it’s so cosy. I’ll take my coffee with me, work hard and finish everything in time for gym. It will be great!

18:00

Swear word, swear word, swear word!! I accidentally fell asleep and woke up with just enough time to run to the gym. I’ve missed the warm-up and I’m pretty sure something bad happened to my foot during the training, but I’m marching home determined to turn the tables. Winners never quit!

19:10

Just got some minor interference out of the way but, dear chapter, I’m all yours now. ❤

00:50

I think the time on my laptop wrong, surely it’s not later than 9 or 10 pm? Even though I had dinner and two desserts and drank whole a jug of coffee, these only seemed to have fuelled a YouTube video marathon (I just tried to find a software tutorial, honestly…), wardrobe re-organisation and production of minutely detailed to-do lists. Little PhD work occurred, as is true of the whole day.

Epilogue

Working from home can be nice change. I can work from home too, sure thing. However, I’ve discovered this happens only in situations when I have a non-negotiable deadline and all other options/venues failed. I sleep at home, I relax, I read, I cook and clean, I laze around. I guess my brain struggles to perceive the location as working environment, and on most days I’m not disciplined enough to change that.

With the effort I’ve put into commuting, wearing proper clothes and planning my lunch, the stakes are higher, so I’m more inclined to maximise the benefits. Also, seeing people around me working is wonderfully motivating.

All in all, thesis is not a guest I’d like to host often.

What about you? Have managed to house-train you thesis? Share your tips in comments. 🙂

Ana Kedveš  (@anakedves)

Image credits: ouisch_420CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

18 thoughts on “PhD Diary: “Working” from Home

  1. I did my entire write up from home.

    My tip would be assign a four hour block from 9am – 1am for work. Don’t take any breaks. No emails. Not even social media. Work through the whole 4 hours. Then take the afternoon off or spend the afternoon replying to emails and doing lighter work.

    I was part time and a baby/toddler which meant I knew after the 4 hours I did not have time to work!

    • That’s a great tip, Salma! Treating this slot like an appointment seems like helpful approach, and it certainly got you to the finish line! 🙂

      Consistency is what I lack as well… I’ve realised get more things done in a 2 hour gap between meetings/events than during a whole day spent home.

      Ana

      • I wrote my above comment whilst playing with toddler (it’s my day off) so I forgot to say that I really enjoyed reading above, I got a glimpse into your life 🙂 I do think most people who work from home probably have that type of schedule.

        Before I went on maternity leave, I used to rent an office so that I would have a workplace and a clear work/life divide; after maternity leave I did not need a separate office, my daughter ensured that the divide was as clear as day light 🙂 If you had told me four years ago that I would have happily completed my PhD from my bedroom (yes my desk/workplace is in my bedroom!), I would have said no way, but it did happen, and it seems although motherhood is hard work, it comes with some unexpected perks! 😉

      • Yaay for day off! 🙂
        Luckily, days like that are now rare, 90% of the time I’m running around campus doing things and talking/writing to people (amazingly accurate description of all my jobs :D). Last term’s Tuesday timetable wouldn’t be for the faint-hearted! But moving and buzz is when I’m at my best, and it reflects on the PhD as well.

        Ha, it’s amazing how adaptable we are, isn’t it? 🙂 Big changes are not always entirely pleasant, but they do help us put thing in perspective.

  2. Thanks for sharing this post. I felt more human and less upset at myself! After you had posted a run-down of your day, I analysed mine and was shocked to see that I only spent like 1.5 hours doing work — from home! I hope to change that and am looking forward to some insights. p.s. I shared your post on my blog and also a breakdown of my day. Thank you for inspiring me to analyse mine!

    • Thank you for the comment. I’ve read your diary, and realised how much more you actually get done – and you’re raising a new human on top of that! 🙂
      I’m sure that, if need be, you extend the time a bit and squeeze in a bit more work.

      Good luck with your project!
      Ana

  3. Pingback: Working from Home – academia mama

  4. Thanks for the post!
    I feel I’m not the only one procrastinating when ‘working’ from home! And it’s true I just can really work from home when I have a strict deadline, otherwise I waste my time playing with my dog, eating, sleeping, cleaning…
    It amazes me how some people are so disciplined they decide to work from home with a schedule and then they do it! Haha, not me!
    Thanks again, I’m not alone in my non-disciplined way 😉

    • Haha, glad to hear I was of help. 😀 I do think sometimes that I would live in a horrible mess if I didn’t bring home some work (and then avoided it by cleaning).

      I guess it’s a matter of habit, and mine has become to work elsewhere. Give me a few pomodoros and a library/office chair, and I’ll get the job done!

      Ana

  5. I know how easy it is to get distracted by emails and social media. But when I had a 6-week hard deadline to complete (rewrite almost from scratch after a particularly frustrating meeting with my supervisor — why don’t they tell you a year ago what they tell you 6 weeks from completion?) my thesis I worked at home from 7am till at least 6pm 6 days a week. I actually submitted before my deadline.

    I was fuelled by walnuts, dates and Ribena :). I lost weight. But I think having a short time to rewrite everything helped to pull it together into a logical whole better than if I’d written bits of it over a period of months/years. So when I don’t have a deadline then Facebook beckons, but give me a deadline and I can concentrate. I recommend this approach to others, but obviously only if there’s someone to look after you and the rest of the household.

    • Wow, I hope you had a nice holiday after such intense writing period. 🙂

      I function the same way when it comes to deadlines, but now rarely have the luxury to take several days off. Perhaps it’s better too, as such stints drained me, physically and mentally.

      Ana

    • Haha, I’m sure we all have days like that – it’s hard to be superproductive everyday. Does being in a library/office help at all? 🙂

      Ana (PhD Life)

      • Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t (in my office I sit next to one of my best friends, we can’t stop chatting 😉 It’s good to know that I’m not alone though!

  6. So reassuring to read this post! Except that for me almost every day ends up like that… Do you have any posts about or might you consider writing one on how to be more productive when you entirely left to your own devices? Thank you!

    • Hi Laura! It’s so common to feel as though you’re getting zero work done when left to your own devices! Organisation is key to having a productive workday from home. Have a look at these previous posts on successful planning parts one and two. We also have an entire tag for posts on productivity. I’ll also have a brainstorm and think about a working from home post. Best of luck beating procrastination! – Jessica

  7. Thank you for writing this! as academia_mama said, indeed it made me feel human.
    I am having this issue almost everyday. I always preferred working from home, even back when I did my undergrad in architecture, drawing/designing from the comfort of my own room helped. fast forward 8 years now, I find myself wasting my time when working from home more that I ever thought I would. Nowadays a coffee shop statically located halfway between my home and my daughters school is my saviour though not much of a bank-friendly approach.

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