Sunday, January 21, 2007

I'm not cut out for working 9-5

When I embarked on the PhD journey six years ago I had one resolution. I didn't want studies or work to take over my life. Ha! I am thinking today, how could I ever believe in that, but I did, and do you know what - it actually worked out just fine for at least the first two years. I don't think my advisor would have supported my strategy, since he is of the work till you drop school, but for the first couple of years I did actually leave the office at the end of the day and I didn't work evenings or weekends. It was such a relief after three years in a master's program where I worked most evenings and always during weekends and I know there is no way I would have continued for the PhD without a change of pace.

Somewhere during the second or third year of the PhD the first signs of will-I-ever-finish panic made me put in more hours including staying at the office long after regular working hours. But I still rarely worked at home or during weekends. Maybe I am lazy, maybe I am not serious enough, but I just couldn't make myself do it. I don't think I started working regularly around the clock including weekends until the last year when I was writing up. At that point I had moved most of my work stuff home and rarely went into the office. I did very few things besides working on the dissertation and only had to leave the apartment for grocery shopping and the occasional errand. While this was in many ways the most stressful period in all my grad school years it was also in many ways the best. I didn't have to go anywhere, so I work all the time if I wanted or not if I didn't. I could work in the morning or in the evening or whenever it suited me and take breaks and do errands whenever I felt for it. Not only did I get much more productive from staying at home, I also tended to work much more at odd hours.

I also got a tiny bit crazy and annoying and ignorant of other people's needs from living in this work-isolation....and it would not have been unreasonable for the people in my life to want the madness to stop. It did. Eventually. After getting the degree and moving here the set working hours at my current job seemed like the promised land. To leave work after eight hours knowing you have done what you had to do - what a bliss. But it didn't take long to realize that though we might have a time registration system of the kind invented for factory workers, eight hours a day is not enough - especially not now when all sorts of other obligations come on top of the research. At the moment I am dealing with all the administration, exams, new grad students, day to day things - all of which pretty much takes up my time ....and then, the research on top of this.

I do need to write and publish papers. There is no other way to succeed in the system, and though I've been fairly lucky so far and gotten some good opportunities they simply don't count if I don't publish. I realize that I need to put in more time on evenings or during weekends and every Monday that sounds doable. I dream about going back to this work-isolation life style and get a lot of work done at my own pace one or two days a week. But what I completely forget until another weekend comes around is that I can't do that. There is always grocery shopping and things around the house to be done and maybe most importantly I need to catch up on sleep and me-time or us-time, and it turns out I don't want to live without a significant amount of that. I get so exhausted from spending every day in the office and then still finding the energy to keep working when I am home. I wish my work place had a more positive attitude towards working from home. I wish I could spend one or more days away from the office where there are always someone else demanding my time, but I don't think this is going to happen anytime soon. I guess I need to figure out how to trick myself into considering working at home during weekends sort of a spare time activity.

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At 1:19 AM, Blogger Breena Ronan said...

Too bad your work doesn't allow you to work from home sometimes. I think that is how most professors get writing done, at least the ones I know.

At 5:21 AM, Blogger Gen Chem said...

This is a post that touches on a lot of things I've been thinking about, though I'm far earlier in the process of it all than you are. I had an intense undergrad experience where I really threw myself into my work, all day every day, and rarely took time for myself. I'm just starting my PhD now and am also, for the first time, in a serious relationship while in school. It's hard to know how to balance the two and still get everything done, especially since I'm trying to finish somewhat quickly so that he doesn't leave me behind for too many years after he gets done... let me know if you come up with any secrets!


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