I printed off probably 900 pages of reading to do this summer, comprising class notes, required readings, and suggested readings. That number does not include any textbook readings, of which I am sure to have to do some eventually.
I read probably 300 pages of papers in August–mostly recent job-talk papers–though not all in depth. I am very interested in the intersection between macroeconomics and finance, and I am taking two macro-oriented courses this semester–macroeconomics 1A and a numerical methods class. Therefore, I hope to be able to read enough of the stuff I’ve printed to get a good feel for how these models begin to go together.
I spend about an hour with the family around breakfast, and another two hours around dinner. I also never work on Sundays, so that means in order to keep up with my agenda the rest of the day has got to be packed.
The ubiquitous “day-in-the-life” pieces are always a popular read for people considering applying for a job or for an educational program. So here’s 7 days. To assure you that these aren’t 7 idealized days that make me look like I work harder than I do, the existence of this post provides its own proof that I actually have the time today to write it.
- Wake up at 3:00 am. I usually shoot for between 4:00 and 5:00, but I have a statistical programming project due today that I’ve been working on for two weeks and am still not close to finishing.
- Remotely access my office computer from home and work on reproducing Table II in Jagannathan & Wang’s 1996 paper until 8:30.
- Spend 2 minutes eating a bowl of cereal, then go downstairs and get my 2-year-old ready for the day. I usually spend about 45 minutes to an hour changing his diaper, getting him dressed, getting him breakfast, and then showering and dressing myself. My wife takes care of the 6-month old.
- My wife drops me off on campus at 9:30 am, and I work on my replication for another 5 1/2 hours. I’m doing GMM (generalized method of moments), and I can’t figure out how to get the p-values of the “HJ-distance”.
- I have to skip Microeconomics today, from 1:00-3:00. We have an assignment due next week, but I’ll have to read the notes on “General Equilibrium with Uncertainty” another day.
- My usual lunch is two pieces of bread and some lunch meat, eaten at my computer, but I don’t have time today.
- Empirical Asset Pricing class is at 3:00. I don’t finish my replication, but I email the professor what I have and get to class at 3:15. We talk for 30 minutes about why none of us could figure out the GMM part, and the professor gives us some tips before talking about another paper, “Bad News Travels Slowly,” by Hong, Lim, and Stein (2000).
- Class ends at 5:00, and I go back to GMM until 6:30 when I run to meet my wife and kids at the campus gym.
- We get home around 7:00, play, eat dinner, pick up the spaghetti off the floor, sing a Christmas hymn (I play the piano), read a book about Jesus, and put the boys in bed at 8:30.
- I read Econometrics from 8:30 to 9:30. This is probably my worst subject, so I’m spending extra time to read the whole book on my own. My goal is 10 pages a night, but sometimes 5 pages is all I can get through in an hour.
- Now I get to spend just a few minutes with my wife, ask her how her day was, how the boys did, etc. It isn’t much time, but 5:00 am will come early and I’ll spend some time with her on Sunday.
- Wake up at 5:15. I sleep in today since I got less than 6 hours of sleep on Sunday night. I rush and catch the 5;30 bus to campus, getting there about 6:00.
- I have an econometrics assignment due in class at 3:00, and I haven’t touched it yet, so now that’s all I do for the day.
- I do eat lunch today.
- Class starts at 3:00, and I finish my homework at 3:15 and get to class late.
- After class, I clean up my desk and email folders, and make my “To Do” lists for the rest of the week.
- I meet my wife & boys at the gym at 6:30, put the boys in bed at 8:30.
- I read econometrics until 10:00 and go to bed.
- School is closed today for Thanksgiving break, so I get a free day to catch up and do some extra studying I’ve been wanting to do. I wake up at 5:00 and work on my GMM replication until 8:30.
- The morning routine of getting boys up and dressed and eating breakfast takes an hour, and my wife drops me off on campus at 10:00.
- I spend all day trying to figure out the details of Jagannathan & Wang’s GMM tests. I read and reread their paper, I read the appendices, I read Lars Hansen’s 1982 GMM paper, I read chapters 9 and 10 in Cochrane’s Asset Pricing. I think I’m doing everything right, but my numbers are still not close to Jagannathan’s & Wang’s. This was the first thing on my “to do” list today, and I don’t even get that done.
- I catch the 6:24 bus home, do dinner/dishes/pajamas/song/brush teeth/bedtime, and then read Econometrics again from 9:00 to 10:00.
- Thanksgiving Day
- I wake up and work on Econometrics from 6:00 to 8:00. I spend the first hour of this scanning my notes from chapters 1-3 into .pdf files. I spend the last hour working on the exercises from Chapter 3.
- For the next two hours, I create blog posts for some of the papers we’ve talked about this semester in Empirical Asset Pricing. I read the papers’ abstracts, introductions, and conclusions, along with notes I’ve taken in class, and then do a quick writeup.
- I spend 15 minutes starting this post, and then take the rest of the day off of school.
- I cook a turkey, play with the wife & boys, read stories, etc. and go to bed at 10:00 pm.
- Get out of bed and give medicine to a sick 2 year-old at 5:00 am. He is wide awake and asks for a story. Not at 5 am. I hold him and rock him for a while and he goes back to sleep.
- I planned to go to campus today, but the buses are on holiday schedule and I don’t want to worry about it.
- Read Econometrics from 5:30 to 9:00.
- Make a triple batch of banana-nut pancakes from 9:00 to 10:30, then play with the boys until 11:00.
- Spend 15 more minutes on this post, then read Econometrics again from 11:00 to 2:00. I’m getting nervous about the final exam in two weeks.
- The 2-year-old wakes up from his nap at 2:00 and I’m hungry for lunch anyway, so I get him up and take a break.
- Read more econometrics from 3:00 to 7:00, then family time until I go to bed at 10:00.
- Sleep in until 7:00 (I’m on vacation after all).
- Read Econometrics from 7:00 to 9:30.
- Get breakfast for the boys, and play until 11:00.
- Hang out with my wife until the boys take their naps at 12:15.
- Eat a quick lunch, then go upstairs to work.
- Work on my replication of Jagannathan & Wang until 5:00. There’s got to be something wrong with my code, but I can’t find it. I already turned the project in, but I hope to fix it and resubmit next week.
- Quit work early, and spend time with my wife and boys for the rest of the day.
- Go to bed at 11:00.
- I take Sundays off to go to church, cook dinner, and have family time.
- Go to bed at 9:00.
- Hours worked: about 55 (typical week is 80-85)
- Hours slept: 52 (typical week is about 45)
- Hours spent with family: 53 (typical week is 35-40)
Every day, I have about 40 hours of school-related projects and reading that I ought to do. Obviously, that’s impossible. The trick is to stay focused, do the most important things first, and make the best out of the time I do have.
Every day, I also have two growing boys and a beautiful wife that need a lot of attention (especially the boys). The amount of attention they get in their first three years of life–especially the first 24 months–will set the tone for their entire life. It will set the permanent foundation for their IQ, their self-confidence, their linguistic and artistic abilities, their powers of self control and emotional intelligence, and they dynamics of our family ties.
The trick here, again, is to do the most important things first, stay focused, and make the best out of every minute.
I had a lot of work to do to get ready for Ph.D. applications. I worked as a research assistant during the summer of my MBA program, and spent every remaining daylight hour in the Math Lab. The Math Lab at my school is in the heavily air-conditioned room where they used to keep the main-frame computer in the 1970s. It’s about 59 degrees around the clock. So, I spent 12-14 hours of each summer day dressed like Christmas, writing matrices and solving differential equations.
I was on campus working from about 7am to 8pm, Monday-Saturday, eating a quick lunch while walking to class or working out a homework problem. That translates to about an 80-hour work week, which is actually fairly light by some standards. Some of that was overkill, since the main reason I was taking the classes was to show I could get A’s. An A-minus or B-plus would have rendered the time spent a failure. I think I averaged 98% in the classes I took.
The point is, getting through a Ph.D. program is a lot of work. I’ve talked to professors who said they regularly spent 100 hours/week on school. Preparing for a Ph.D. program is also a lot of work. Some people just can’t continue working that hard and concentrating for that many hours each day. That’s also another reason why you have to really enjoy coursework and research–you’ll literally be doing it all day, every day. I do, and I do.