Hi there! I am Philandra, a first-year business science PhD student from South Africa. As a first year, my current commitment is to complete compulsory course work and spend hours every day reading up on my proposed topic in order to prepare for my first proposal defence coming up in September. I have an interest in African entrepreneurial leadership strategy and I am a feminist at heart, hence I am in the process of marrying gender to entrepreneurial leadership strategy.
I am not an early bird and my day often starts in a daze – waking up to the shrill 6am alarm of my other half. Incidentally, he is also a PhD student. Lucky for me we both got accepted onto the same Masters and, subsequently, the same PhD programme. But that is where our similarities end – our research areas could not be any more different. We literally are chalk and cheese or perhaps I should say we are the quant and qual of academia.
Nevertheless, I will say that it is a true blessing to be paired with someone who is on the same journey as me in every way and who is truly able to empathize with my struggles. It is the support system that I never knew I would need.
A day in my life would usually be very different to what you will see today because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I would be more productive, active and be at University, in seminars and with my fellow PhD classmates – however what you will see is an adaptation to life indoors.
6.30 am – I start my day checking my to-do list. The list does change during the course of the day due to life happening. I will be sharing a typical Friday with you.
8.05am – Because of the national lockdown in South Africa at the moment, we are subject to severe restrictions on our movement outside of our homes. This morning I had to make a grocery run – which is also limited to essential goods only. I planned to be at the grocer by 8am to get in and out as quickly as possible. We are really trying to limit the time spent out in public areas at the moment. Luckily, we live three minutes away from our local grocer, so my morning bread and milk run only took me 15minutes. It was so good to jump in my car and have a few fleeting moments of freedom.
8.40am – I cannot eat in the morning, so I usually start my day with tea at my desk. This morning it was bergamot tea, made by my other half. He is kind enough to refill my tea all morning – it’s the only way I can get my daily water intake in as well. Tea does taste better than water (I think). I have a routine with my desk, I tidy it up before I begin the day’s work. I set up with the readings I need to get through for the day. I absolutely loathe reading off a screen, I truly am old school in that I print all my journal articles out. I then open up my browser to see what mantra and image Momentum Dash has served up for the day. I actually love that part – it’s become a mindful and reflective way to start my study day. I also take a photo of my screen and share my thoughts on the mantra of the day, which I post to my Instagram account @TheAspirantAcademic. I’ve recently discovered the Studygram Instagrammers and I’ve been super inspired by them – which is why I also created a YouTube channel, also under the alias of The Aspirant Academic, to which I post study-with-me videos.
9am- Today I had to get through five articles, and I gave myself until lunch to do them. I love using Forest App to ensure I sit through each reading and not get distracted. I also like to read to ambient sounds, so there is always an ambient music playlist on during the day.
1.10 pm- It’s time for lunch. Which was actually what I would have had for breakfast if I ate in the mornings. Today it is an egg with some rocket and tomato, followed up with a yummy banana muffin.
1.50pm -I have to also get some (paid) work done – a girl has got to pay the bills hey. I am working remotely at the moment and so I don’t even get to leave my desk. My brain also had to switch from reading and words to numbers and excel tables today. I had to update wage claims for the week a draft a letter and sort through emails.
3.40pm Earlier in the week I got an email from a publisher that I needed to attend to, and I put it on hold until I had sufficient time. I managed to tackle it today. It was revisions to my Masters thesis that had been accepted for publication by IVEY. I adapted my thesis and converted parts of it into a teaching case study. In business schools, especially for MBA programmes, lots of the teaching is done through case studies. I really loved the case method during my time as an MBA candidate, so much so that I tried my hand at writing one out of my thesis. This process also further helped direct me toward doctoral study. I realised that I loved creating work for academic consumption and the process of research, write-up, submission, acceptance, revisions and submissions actually excited me.
4.20 pm -I still had not completed all the readings for the day, but I was tired of sitting at my desk at this point. I decided to help my other half fold laundry – random task for me because in South Africa we have full-time domestic help. But with lockdown restricting all work that cannot be done remotely – our domestic help has not been with us for the last four weeks. P.S I’m not the best at folding laundry.
4.45pm I had to complete the last reading, but I also just wanted a change of scenery, so I popped outside for a bit with the remaining reading. I skipped out on the Forest App and just read at a leisurely pace this time. Also, my other half decided to treat me to home-made focaccia for dinner, so truth be told I was distracted, and I read really superficially.
6.15pm Food time! Focaccia and some red wine. South Africa is known for amazing wine.
7pm- Last task of the day – as a group we have a check in with our Professors in the evening. It’s a quick discussion via our online platform to bounce questions of each other and get feedback as well as provide progress reports.
8.20 pm- Time to call it a night – my other half and I get ready to wind down for the night. We hopped into bed, caught up on each other’s progress for the day and decided to do one episode of Money Heist before getting some rest.
And that was an unusual day in the life of me, an aspirant academic, trying to manage doctoral study in times of a global pandemic.