FOO Blog Hop: a day (week) in the life

After reading everyones’ “day in the life”s, I was a little sad that I couldn’t share mine because I don’t have a really typical day.  But then B&BS shared her days, and inspired me to share mine too!  As a graduate student, every day is a little bit different for me, and that schedule changes every three months when a new quarter rolls around and I adopt a new teaching schedule.  There is one rule I always must follow, though.

I must work on my thesis for at least 2 hours before heading to the barn on any given day (or have hours accrued from the previous night)

This one rule makes sure I don’t go to the barn, get all endorphinated and happy from my time there, and forget to do any work on my actual thesis.  This is something I’ve discovered about myself in graduate school: I do fantastically with hard deadlines, day-to-day routines, and data collection.  But leave me to my own devices with soft deadlines and I am a professional procrastinator.

So here’s what two different days in my week look like, so you can see how cushy yet totally punishing and crazy it is to be a graduate student.


sometime between 4:30 and 6:00 — Kitten wakes up. He plays with my hands and feet, scratches me, and generally makes a nuisance of himself while I try to go back to sleep.

IMG_7571Play with me!

7:15 — Alarm goes off.  I snooze it once.  Milo comes back into bed and snuggles with me while I sleep through the snooze.

7:25 — Snooze alarm again.  Roll over and play with Milo some more, interwebz on the phone.

7:35 — Crawl out of bed.  Immediately boil water, grind coffee, prepare pourover.  First things first, people.

7:50 — Fresh coffee and emails. Delete almost everything from SmartPak, Dover, and Horze.  I can’t buy anything new right now anyway.  Cave and check the websites.  Sulk about things I can’t buy.  Delete lots of emails and read blogs.

8:30 — Pack backpack for my morning: a meeting and the office.  Laptop, charger, remaining coffee in a mason jar.  I don’t really do breakfast, but if I’m hungry I’ll make toast with vegemite and butter or nutella.  More often than not vegemite.

8:35 — Can’t find my headphones. Desperately need headphones for biking.

8:38 — Find headphones. Cue podcast.  Can’t find keys.

8:43 — Found keys!! Run out door.

8:45 — Bike bike bike bike bike to school.

8:58 — Park bike in front of building.

9:00 — Climb to the third floor.  Refuse to take the elevators, even though I always do to my 4th floor office.

9:02 —  Scamper into meeting right as boss is starting things.  Grimace apologetically in excellent subordinate-monkey fashion.  This is the weekly TA meeting that gets everyone up to speed on what’s coming up for the week (exams, changed lab activities, quizzes), and pitfalls to avoid during lab.  Go over grading for the past week’s homework.

9:40-10:00 — Meeting ends and I either head home to work or to the office.  More often to the office, these days.  Once I get there, I can check emails, read blogs, etc. until 10.  Then it’s to work.

10:00 — Time to work!  Depending on what I’m up to, I’m either processing my data (turning it into a measure that can actually be analysed, making sure I have the right columns in my spreadsheet, error-checking my data, writing and rewriting queries), analysing my data (run all the models! open R! write scripts! regression for dayz!), or creating figures that explain my data.  I have to do everything twice because inevitably when I check it I learn that I did it wrong, but at least I learned how to do it!

11:27 — I’m starting to hunger. This could be a problem for working. Get a big glass of water to stave off hunger until at least my two hours are complete.

12:00 — Yes! I can go home and eat and then go play with my pony! Bike home.

12:14 — Storm into the house, grab whatever food is available in the fridge, and sit on the couch.  Milo typically meets me at the door and sits on my shoulder for this process, then tries to steal my lunch.

1:30 — Barn time!

1:52 — At the barn!  Hooray!  Murray is inside because he gets night turnout.


3:00 — Finally on. Don’t judge how long it takes me to groom and tack up.

3:45ish — Cool down, walk back into barn, prep Murray’s bucket.

4:20 — Yes, somehow I am not leaving the barn until 4:20.  The barn takes up three hours of my time, generally regardless of what I’m doing.

4:46 — Home again. Cook dinner.  Grade pre-lab and post-lab assignments for my students. Update grades.

6:00 — Dinner. I eat early like an old lady.  Mostly because I get hungry early.  If I have time, I’ll get creative with dinner.  Often I’ll make something big so that I have leftovers for Wednesdays.

7:30 — Done with dinner, finish up any of the last few lab-things I have to do.  Write blogs, do more thesis work, watch TV, clean the house.

8:30 — Chores around the house for reals. Make sure the kitchen is clean.

9:00 — Return to the couch to snuggle with Milo, read more blogs, write more things.  Thesis related, or school related, or work related.  Or whatever.

10:30 — Head to bed. Usually lights out by 11.


sometime between 4:30 and 6:00 — Kitten wakes up. He plays with my hands and feet, scratches me, and generally makes a nuisance of himself while I try to go back to sleep.


7:15 — Alarm goes off.  I snooze it once.  Milo comes back into bed and snuggles with me while I sleep through the snooze.

7:25 — Jump out of bed, much to Milo’s dismay.  Put the kettle on again, grind coffee, and get dressed for school.  This is hard, because it’s not breeches and a tee shirt and a belt. I have to wear real clothes, respectable clothes.  And I only have so many sweaters.  And I don’t like to duplicate outfits because I feel like my students will notice.  And I only have ugg boots for waterproof shoes, or little flats that don’t feel good walking on them all day.

7:40 — Coffee’s ready, toast is ready (with vegemite!), laptop on the table and I get to read one blog while I get ready to leave for the lab.  Teaching necessitates the power of vegemite.

8:00 — Pack for school, pack a lunch, get ready to leave.  Last minute makeup, but more often than not no facepaint.

8:15 — Where are my keys?!

8:17 — On the bike and headed to school!  Back in January my eyelashes froze in the fog on one of these rides.

8:35 — Walk into my lab room.  Make sure all the activities are ready to go, fill in the board, unlock the door, wait for students.

9:00 — Teach 24 undergraduates about the tree of life, phylogenetics, and systematics.  Answer lots of questions.  Be mean.  Be funny.  Be mean again.

This week we’re learning about plants!

12:00 — Free of the hellbeasts!  Lunch with my bestie in the next lab room, where she teaches simulcast with me.

12:55 — Back to my room to let my second session of hellbeasts in.

1:10 — More undergrads!  Phylogenetics, systematics, tree of life.  Second session is always easier than the first, but my voice starts to hurt.

4:00 — Hellbeasts leave.  Pack up lab room, clean board, make sure everything is ready to go for the next TA.  Answer lingering student questions, check email one more time, head home.

4:40 — Home with my own little hellbeast.  Fix some dinner, work on my thesis for a few hours.  Do this without the TV on, for TV = epic distractions.

7:00 — Fervently check texts for one from my DVM riding buddy who I am meeting at the barn late.  Leave for the barn.  Hope she is still meeting me.

7:40 — At the barn, and pony is somehow magically tacked up in ten minutes! This isn’t possible, did I move in super speed?

7:50 — Ride!  Always dressage this late at night.

8:30ish — Usually done with my ride in 40 minutes on late nights.  Since Murray already ate his bucket, I just blanket and get his pasture buddy out from her stall.  I walk Murray and Pippa out to their pasture in the pitch black, or by moonlight, if I’m lucky.

9:00 — Home.  Magical fastest barn trip ever.  Feel super good about watching TV in bed.

If you’re wondering at the lack of showers in this schedule…. I don’t shower much.  There! I said it!  I’m not big on showers.  I think they waste water and most days I don’t smell that bad anyway.  Also, California is in a drought.

Also, I know it doesn’t seem like I work my thesis much.  Part of this is because… I don’t.  However, part of it is my work routine/philosophy.  I could sit at a desk and “work” on my thesis all day.  I’ve done that type of work before.  Somehow, I don’t make more progress than when I take 2-3 hours a day and work really hard with no distractions.  So instead of wasting my day at the desk, I work hard for 2-3 hours, and get to take the rest of my day.  After that, any additional work I do is just icing on the cake.