A Day In The Life – Ellis Spicer

by Ellis Spicer, University of Kent, Student Committee Chair and Kent Representative.

Describe a typical working day.

They say the life of a PhD student can get a little unpredictable, but in some ways I’m finding the opposite (unless I have particular plans on a specific day for interviewing, archives etc). In fact I’m sitting in my office writing on a very untypical day, one I’ve dedicated to catching up on admin.

But usually, you’ll find me groaning at my alarm at 7am virtually every morning – I’m one of those disastrous human beings that never wakes up on the first alarm, needing one every five or so minutes until I motivate myself to get out of bed. After a compulsory cup of tea in the morning (I can’t function without one), some breakfast and getting ready for the day, I start my walk to campus. I’m getting a lot better at trekking up the hill that leads to the University of Kent, although I’m sure asthma medication has also been helping on that front.

A lovely autumnal view from our Rutherford College Office at the University of Kent

By the time I’ve made it to the office, I usually need a glug of water and a cup of coffee to get my working day properly started. Admittedly this can be anywhere between 9-10am depending on how long I can ignore my alarm for.

I am excessively proud of my little working space when it’s not a mess.

When I’ve got a coffee by my side and my computer is all loaded up, I like to take a look at my to-do-list. You would be right in thinking that I am one of those people. Love a good list, love a bit of order and if the stationery is also adorable then that is even better! Then I start writing more often than not.

I am a fully-fledged victim of the post-lunch slump so if I’m writing a chapter or a conference paper most of my work will be done before then. I’m often so consumed by the writing process my hands hammer the keyboard until my brain enters ‘shut down mode’, I finish what I planned to do that day or if hunger or the need for caffeine intervenes, whichever one may arrive first.

I try and take a break for lunch, even if I am sitting at my desk. Mostly I’ll scour the news to see if anything interesting is happening or read whichever book I happen to be delving into at that point. Even if I don’t leave my desk, I like the mental break from my work I get from these lunchtimes.

Afternoons massively vary, they can vary between admin tasks, keeping an eye on emails, planning outreach sessions or revising my notes from my Spanish class. Sometimes I feel cooped up and leave campus early, needing some fresh air, and it’s those kind of days where you’ll find me in the gym, a new found hobby I’ve become rather fond of.

Evenings become a chance for some PhD decompression, with a focus on indulging myself – whether it’s leisurely reading, Netflix or social time, and I’m rather protective of them. You’ll never catch me working in the evenings because I don’t feel productive in the slightest during them.

What’s your top productivity tip?

See above – I’m not an evening person, I prefer to work in the mornings. I always think people should work out when they work the best and roll with that, there’s no right answer. Know yourself and know your schedule and even if you’re busy you can make the most of the time you have.

What do you do to unwind?

I read a lot of fiction and watch a fair amount of TV on my protected evenings to escape from the PhD bubble.

What is your favourite way to start the day?

With a vital cup of tea, a decent breakfast and an episode of something lighthearted.