A day in the life of an academic/postdoc

Every year I fully enjoy reading The Day of Archaeology posts, and seeing how various colleagues are spending their day. But what happens ‘behind the scenes’ in the rest of the time?


From blog posts to book reviews, articles or book (chapters), there always seems to be something in need of being written down. Proper blog posts require a certain amount of research, time and energy which are not always available (it probably takes about 1 1/2 hours to write a post, but the research behind it takes much more)- which is reflected in the infrequent updating of the blog. On the other hand, with the articles and the rest it seems like a never ending story- from drafts to post peer-review revisions and proof-editing, there is a constant effort put into them. E.g., my latest text took me 2 years to complete, from the moment it was first presented as a conference paper, until it went under peer-review and it was finally accepted for publication. The longest, was a text which took me 6 years, while the shortest period spent on writing an article was 1 month. With the peer-review being such a lengthy process, it usually takes a long wait before your paper is published, or worst- rejected, hence the need of starting from scratch. Re-submitting requires adapting the text for the new publication, so again, more writing.

From my experience it is also hard to compare yourself with others in the field: I’ve seen early career scholars with just 1-2 articles published, but also academics in their early 30s with a handful of books published at major publishing houses. It also depends on the kind of topic one has- when writing a ‘technical’ text (like field reports, anthropological analysis etc) it took me longer to do the hands-on analysis, but a shorter time to write the article, whilst with the more theoretical papers (philosophy of science/theoretical archaeology) it was the opposite.


Either on social media (updating the blog/twitter), or through emails, no day goes by without having to write/talk with colleagues. From conferences I c0-organise, and invitations to events I have to accept/decline, to random exhanges of ideas, networking is probably one of the most important aspects of being an academic. Not only that it’s a great informal way of receiving feedback on your work, but also for keeping yourself updated on what’s happening in the field (and for expanding your network outside the boundaries of your academic tradition/country). This stage can take from a couple of minutes to a couple of hours (and dozens of emails) a day.

‘Breathing in’

In a recent brilliant comic, Matthew Inman from The Oatmeal compared creativity with breathing- he wrote that ‘when you make stuff you exhale’, but you also need inhailing- and that’s pretty much everything that inspires us, from long walks, to sleeping, from reading literature or whatever to simply ‘procrastinating’. The amounts of time spent ‘breathing in’ vary depending on the length of the to-do-list, but I’d say that they are quite proportional with the creativity output.


The dreaded word for any post-PhD academic: applications. In the last 2 years I’ve written 8 fellowships + 2 job (promotion) applications. Writing applications is a constant in the life of a post-doc, and the time spent can take from 2 weeks, up until 5 months in length. Unfortunately most of the applications will eventually be unsuccessful (for me it was 2/8 success rate), which translates into a lot of time and energy that will never show up in your CV.

The rest

Chores, administrative stuff, life..

This is in short a day in the life of an academic/ postdoc- in various proportions, but ticking all 4 categories.


Face veins anatomy clock. Artwork by Disorderly Goods. Source: zazzle.com

Source of featured image: Zazzle.com


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