We rejoin our plucky heroine on All Hallows’ Eve….

 8.20 Rise and shine!

9.00 Respond to a few emails for the Writing Center, while I’m finishing my cup of Earl Grey tea.

9.35 Leave for work.

10.00 Arrive at my office in the Writing Center. It takes me less than ten minutes to drive to campus but I have to park a rather long walk from where university business is actually conducted. Start preparing for today’s meetings and squeeze in reading two drafts for the seminar (one on the solar radiation of soil and one on immunization refusal).

11.45 Dash out for a quick coffee break. Both while in line and when I was walking earlier, I “triage” emails on my smartphone: skimming, deleting, filing, and deciding which are most urgent.

11.50 Back in my office. My Writing Center commitments today include several different meetings: two “intake” meetings with graduate students who want individual tutoring, two meetings with students in the seminar, and a phone call with a department chair about an upcoming meeting with relevant faculty.

2.20 Finish up in the Writing Center. I ate my lunch at my desk, while writing emails. Walk back to my car.

2.45 Decide to get an overdue eyebrow shape when I remember the salon by campus owes me a free one.

3.00 Finally make it home and immediately put on sweatpants. I was originally intending to work for the rest of the afternoon in my office in the English department—both of my offices are shared, by the way—but it was imperative for any possible productivity that I put on sweatpants [British English translation = jogging/tracksuit bottoms].

4.30 Rouse myself from a brief lie down as I wasn’t feeling well and turn to further preparation for my dissertation prospectus colloquium. Write up responses to questions I received this afternoon from a departmental reviewer.

5.30 Alleviate my despair at the theoretical holes in my project by watching an episode of a Freeform show on Netflix.

6.20 Review and revise my drafted responses.

6.35 Answer emails, both for my own research activities and for the Writing Center.

6.50 Retire for the evening. Pour a beer in honor of Keats; impress my partner with my Romantic poets trivia; do some dishes.


Actual depiction of an eager graduate student trick or treating, courtesy of Shit Academics Say

I was hoping that—far from helping me to procrastinate on my work, as my dear sister suggested—tracking my time would make me more productive than usual. However, the DESPAIR of beginning a dissertation and the EXHAUSTION from a bevy of administrative meetings have defeated me today so I have decided to save my energy for the TRIAL BY COMBAT tomorrow. As you can probably tell, this evening is not an optimistic time for this academic.

Here’s hoping tomorrow brings me more energy.

P.S. Thank you to Laura for reminding me to post about total hours!

Work for Writing Center: 4 hours 35 minutes

Research time: 1 hour 25 minutes

Total: 6 hours

What do graduate students do all day?

This week a colleague directed me to Philip Nel’s series of blog posts from 2011 in which he tracked what he did for both work and play for a week. I was a little nervous to read the posts because I feared that his example would overwhelm me, that I would realize that I don’t have the work ethic I’ll need to complete my doctorate and become a professor. However, reading about his week and then—in a parallel series—Maria Nikolajeva’s week inspired me to start tracking my own time more carefully than I normally do. I’m sharing this because I wish to join in their consciousness-raising mission but also because I think that time so often gets away from me and I’d like to see where it’s going.

I’m in a curious position this academic year because I’m not filling the traditional roles of either teacher or student. Having completed my comprehensive exams this August, I’m now writing my dissertation; meanwhile, rather than acting as the instructor for a specific course, I’m the Coordinator for Graduate Writing Support at our Writing Center. Undertaking independent research and having an administrative position are new challenges for me, but also expose parts of working in academia with which fewer of us are familiar. Let’s see what this week reveals! I feel somewhat vulnerable making this information public but it may be a useful blow against pluralistic ignorance (i.e. “everyone else seems to be doing so much better than me!”). I’m also planning to use my example to inspire others who could share this information from their unique positions in the academy, especially those who have family commitments too.

(N.B. Maria recorded her day in the present tense while Phil’s notes are in the past tense. I found myself opting for the former and am happy to opine on this decision at length, if anyone is interested.)

So…. Sunday….

Morning and early afternoon: Enjoy sleeping in and being lazy after a very late night at a Halloween party. Catch up with Facebook and texts. Make brunch. Relax with my partner.

2.35 Begin reading a student draft in preparation for an individual consultation as part of the Graduate Seminar in Academic Writing I’m currently leading.

2.50 Pause to drive my partner to his car.

3.20 Resume reading. Working with students from all disciplines means I am learning a lot about topics that are far flung from my own research: in this case, genome sequencing and computer software that processes this information.

3.40 Help unpack groceries after my partner returns. Turn to another draft (this time on human rights) before preparing a lesson plan and slides for the next session of the seminar. Read and comment on an abstract for a previous seminar participant. Send emails regarding an upcoming writing retreat.

4.50 Turn to my own research, specifically preparing for the colloquium on my dissertation prospectus, which is scheduled for Tuesday. I carefully re-read the prospectus and type up responses to the questions my advisor suggested via email. The colloquium is a chance for my committee and other department representatives to weigh in on my proposed topic before I submit the proposal to the Graduate School for approval. (This means I can then apply for an extra fellowship…!)

5.30 Respond, rather belatedly, to emails from a colleague I met at a conference last weekend and from a poet whose papers I’ve been working on. (Yes, faithful readers, this is John Temple, who kindly sent me some books that just arrived in the mail.)

5.40 Draft a proposal for a conference. I also produce a one-page version of my CV to accompany this. Email draft to a colleague: I need to revise and submit it by Tuesday so this was all a bit last minute.

6.20 Back to Writing Center work. Read a blog post that the director suggested and send him a quick email with my thoughts. Make notes for an upcoming staff meeting; check emails; add reminders to my online calendar.

6.35 Help my partner finish making dinner; eat delicious Indian food and home-made naan bread; tidy up kitchen and wash dishes.

7.40 Back to my own research. Skim and make notes on Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s letters: this is part of my preparation for a dissertation chapter. I’m writing about The Prelude, a long autobiographical poem that William Wordsworth addressed to Coleridge.


Transcribing a Greek phrase so Google can translate it. The editor didn’t feel the need to gloss this, which means “know thyself.”

8.20 More tidying up before settling in to watch the World Series. I’m rooting for the underdog Cubs, who also happen to be the team without an offensive caricature of a Native American on their uniforms. Write this blog post.

9.30 Squeeze in a few more minutes of work, almost accidentally, by reading a blog post on teaching the dramatic monologue.

Work for Writing Center: 2 hours

Research time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Total: 4 hours 15 minutes

I’ll be back tomorrow, which will be much busier, of course.