Insider Insight: Doing a PhD in Computer Science Online (Day in the Life)

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Are you thinking of doing a PhD but not sure what it’s like at the moment with everything going on in the world? Or, are you a current grad school student looking for some motivation to work from home? In this article, I’ll go through a day in my life as a remote PhD student doing a PhD in computer science, pandemic-style. I’ve also got an article on a more ‘normal’ week in the life, which you can read here.

So What Does a Day as a PhD Candidate Doing a PhD In Computer Science Look Like?

Editorial credit: Chay_Tee / Shutterstock.

As with all days in the life that you’ll read online, every day is different. Some days I work super long hours, some days I only do a few hours of work. Some days I have a lot of meetings, some days I just focus on my own work.

Waking Up

First of all, when do I wake up every day? This varies quite a bit and depends how late I worked the night before! Usually, I try to wake up around 8:30, but, some weeks if my partner or I are super busy, we wake up around 7:30. Other weeks, if I’m working super late, I’ll sleep in, until as late as 9:30 or so.

However, if you’re not working in a lab, depending on your supervisors or any TA-ing commitments or lectures, you can really wake up whenever you want. My flatmate pretty often sleeps until 11 or 12 so, if you’re a night owl, rejoice!

I generally find that keeping regular-ish hours helps me get more done, though and I work best in the morning. For more info on how I manage my time, check out this article.

Once I wake up, check my emails, news, social media, etc., I get ready for the day. These days, that only takes me about 15 minutes. I grab a cup of STRONG coffee and I’m ready to get down to work.


Every other Tuesday morning I have a half hour catch-up with my supervisors. The rest of the time, I get right to work. I usually spend my mornings doing the tasks that take the most brainpower like reading, data analysis, and writing. I save things like lectures for the afternoons (though some days I spend all day watching lectures depending on how many modules I’m auditing).

At the moment, I spend my mornings working on the following kinds of projects:

  • Reading, writing, and data collection for a side paper I’m writing with my supervisor and one of the directors of my programme;
  • Reading and writing to expand my full PhD literature review;
  • Reading and planning for an upcoming study;
  • Making and practicing for a presentation. I tend to do at least one of these a month either to my research group, policymakers, companies, or in a university lecture series. This might be on my actual research project or an informational talk about the general subject area I’m working in.

This term, I'm TA-ing for the first time (about 7-8 hours per week) so I’ll probably do my prep work in the mornings. I also have to lead tutorials 1-2 mornings per week.


I eat lunch pretty early—around 11:30 or 12. If I’m not too busy, my partner and I usually take a break together and watch an episode of something and spend a little time together before getting back to work.


In the afternoons, I continue with similar projects as in the morning. I also might spend a few hours watching lectures and taking notes for the week (though I definitely got behind in those recently and have only just caught up over my ‘break’).

Every other week, I have a meeting with my research group. For this, I need to read a paper that we discuss and sometimes present a paper or my current research. These meetings last two hours. I also attend a weekly lecture series on Thursday afternoons.

Later in the afternoon, I might start doing some work for this blog if I have time as well. On slow weeks, I might take a break in the afternoon to spend some time with my partner too (though it’s been a while since we’ve had time to do that!). Also, if it’s not too busy, I’ll take Friday afternoon off to work on blog things. After work, my partner and I do a quick workout in the living room.


We eat dinner pretty soon after that. My partner and I cook together and then eat together and watch something.


The past several weeks, we’ve had to work after dinner too. Sometimes it hasn’t been too late (until 8 or 9), but other days we’ve had to work until about 1 am or later. Things tend to be super busy towards the end of term and we’ve both had a lot of deadlines.

I usually save blog work for the evenings as well. Once we finish working, my partner and I spend time together or with our flatmates since we’re not allowed out much at the moment. When life returns to a more ‘normal' state, we’ll go do social things in the evenings, but that’s been out of the question recently (and for the foreseeable future!).

So, that's it for what I do all day as a PhD in computer science studying remotely! Are you a PhD candidate or in grad school? What’s your daily routine like? Let me know in the comments below!

For more articles about life as a PhD student, check out this section of my blog.

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