Daily routine as a doctoral student

My job as a researcher is very different from my workday before as a user experience consultant. Hardly any meetings and team work on the one hand but juggling many more projects and being completely responsible for all of them on the other hand. However I enjoy my new freedom and being my own little start-up in a way, even though I am employed by the university and working for my professor.

I love taking a sneak peek into other people’s workday to see how they organize themselves. Since especially with PhD students, this can be very different depending on the subject and the tasks, I loved that Emma Cole filmed a PhD vlog and put it on youtube. During 30 days you can follow her around and see how she structures her day and brings her thesis forward.

I decided to note down my workday routine and share it here. It surprised even me, how much I am currently doing and how productive I am, even though sometimes it doesn’t feel like that.


I don’t really have a routine that I follow every workday, since my projects and tasks are so different, but I try to focus on the things that stay the same and provide for some regularity.

I get up around 6 / 6:30, get dressed and first thing is I have a big breakfast with my husband. It’s such a good start for the day to have some coffee, fresh juice, bread and read the newspaper. Around 8 we make our way to the office.
When I arrive I have another coffee, brief chat with my colleagues and then think about my to-do-list for each day. Actually on our walk to work my husband sometimes asks me “what are you looking forward to today?”, which is a really nice way to think about the daily tasks that await me. So I try to think in terms of “what gives me a sense of accomplishment” in the evening rather than actual to-dos that I can check off.
Project work 
I most often start with reading e-mail and doing project work. Since I work in client as well as internal projects, as well as teaching and on my own dissertation, my tasks very greatly.
These are projects that I currently work on:
  • major study on digital transformation in Switzerland, that recently got published
  • three case studies on digital transformation which will turn into two whitepapers and hopefully into scientific publication as well
  • supervising a student project with a big German sports brand on enterprise mobility
  • organizing our yearly conference on mobile business where I will also be giving the keynote presentation
  • supervising master and bachelor theses
  • teaching a master’s course
On top of that comes answering questions of students, communication and press work, curating our newsletter, updating our website, reviewing papers, etc.
I try to keep two afternoons a week free for working on my dissertation. These are also the days that I try to work from home or in a cafe, because I think that a change of scenery helps me to be creative. During this time I work on papers, try to think about my topic and my research plan.
In order to stay up-to-date with research I compile a mobile business reader every three months containing a curated selection of articles that get published on our website.
I also try to stay on top of technological trends. Therefore I compile a weekly reader with all articles on interesting tech topics that I curated during the week. I admit – there’s not much curation there, but rather I try to force myself to read through the most important tech news and at least try to make sense of the fast developments around us.
A dissertation at the University of St.Gallen also involves coursework to complete. So every semester there are two or three courses that I have to attend and where groupwork or writing an extra paper is required.

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