Day in the Life of an Academic #10: In lock-down

A peak into a day that was anything but ordinary: April 1st, a Wednesday, halfway through the second week of lockdown in the UK.


I got up just before 8 am, which is very late for me. Normally, by now, I would be getting ready to leave the house to drop the kiddo in school and, then, go to the office. Well, actually, if today was a normal day, I would be waking up in Brussels, with the teen, for the girls’ trip that she gifted me last Christmas and which I was really, really, really, really looking forward to (Have I told you that I was really looking forward to it, yet?)


Anyway, that’s what I would be doing in the non-Covid19 universe. In this one, I am having coffee, and breakfast, and checking my phone. When I check Facebook, I see that the lovely Mrs O tagged me on a 30 days fitness challenge. The challenge sounds good, and the added accountability of having to check in once it is completed is a great incentive. So, I decide to get off the table and just do it. That was one looooong minute.



Just as I am finishing, the kiddo walks in. We chat a little bit while he has his breakfast. At 9 am, he sits down for school work, and I sit down with my laptop.


As it’s the 1st day of the month, I spent some time journaling about the month that just ended, and planning for the month ahead. This exercise ends up leaving me a bit sad, as journaling ends up being a reflection on how things changed during March, while planning ends up consisting mostly of deleting things planned for April (like the girls’ trip this week, the kiddo’s ice hockey tournament during the weekend, or the trip to Brazil after that).


At 10 am, I start a Skype call with a new colleague, who is joining Brunel, today. We talk about the institution and the division, go through her roles and tasks, and clarify some administrative issues. It is a bit tricky to do onboarding of a new team member, this way, and having to send links and forward e-mails, instead of walking with her to the places and meeting people face to face. Though, there are some advantages, too. This way, we are meeting (via Skype) on her first day, and then she will meet the rest of the division during our weekly virtual meetings (see below – 2 pm), and I can make the proper introductions. If things had not changed, because of Covid19, I would be way on her first day at Brunel (have I mentioned that I was supposed to be away with the teen? 🤔); after that, she would be at a conference; and, by the time she would be back, the university would be closed for Easter break, meaning that I would have to do the onboarding by Skype anyway, before she joined or wait until after Easter.


At 11, I check our virtual learning environment (Blackboard), to see if students have any questions regarding the materials that I uploaded earlier in the week. After that, I follow up on some issues raised during the meeting with my new colleague, such as making sure that she is able to access the various systems that she needs.


I have a quick break at 12ish, and, then, I start dealing with e-mails from colleagues and students (mostly, asking for / about deadline extensions). [One of my goals for Q1 had been to organise my e-mail folders – clear the inbox, tackle the To Dos, rethink the folders… – and I had made some progress. However, the last couple of weeks saw an explosion of e-mails, and the creation of new Covid19-related folders.] I also deal with various admin matters, such as following up on the tasks agreed during a Skype meeting for our research group, held the previous day.


At 1, I stop working to prepare lunch. Today, I am keeping it very easy: we will have the leftovers, from our Chinese meal, from last night.


At 2 pm, I am back at my laptop, for another Skype meeting. This time, it’s our division’s meeting. We have meeting weekly, for about an hour. Our new colleague joins this meeting, too. With 12 people logging in, it can be a bit chaotic… but, then, our face to face meetings tend to get very animated and noisy, too. Plus, it is great to see how everyone is doing. I am learning a lot about my colleagues, too. We created this habit of starting the meeting with some positive news – and it’s quite fun. Maybe this is something that we can continue doing, when we revert back to face to face meetings?!

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The meeting ends at 3h15m. And, after that, I spend some time writing up a summary of the key issues discussed and any action points agreed. Then, more e-mails and admin.


4h30m. I should be working on my paper revisions, but I can’t concentrate. So, I decide to take a break and go for a run. When I am back, I have a shower, and then I do stuff around the house. I also spend some time reading my book, and trying to learn how to solve the Rubik cube, with the kiddo.


For dinner, we have Ramen, and some delicious muffins that the teen baked. After that, we call the parents / in-laws in Portugal, Then, we watch some TV – like many others, we ended up subscribing to Disney+, and we are now watching Star Wars – The Mandalorian.

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Then, bed at round 11 pm.


Looking back at this day, I am surprised at how little I achieved compared to how drained I feel. After all, I do work from home a couple of days a week. So, the new normal shouldn’t feel this alien. Though, to be fair, when I do work from home, I am not sharing the space – and the wifi! – with three others. I don’t have to organise lunch. And, I am definitely not onboarding new colleagues and having division meetings.


How are you coping with working from home, in the new normal?

4 thoughts on “Day in the Life of an Academic #10: In lock-down

  1. How are you enjoying Mandalorian? I liked the way that most of the episodes contributed to an overall narrative – although there were a couple of stand-alone ones. I’m looking forward to seeing the next series, and learning more about the baby (who, I think, is a girl).
    I also recommend the new Amazon series Picard. I wasn’t taken with the first episode, but then got into character. There is a seasonal ending (assuming you are watching at Easter).


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