By Rachael Orben PhD., Research Associate in the Seabird Oceanography Lab and GEMM Lab
So, there is something called work-life balance. I am still trying to find mine.
As an undergraduate it was easy. I sailed a lot and my grades suffered. In hindsight that was the best choice I could have made. I learned to sail, spent time on the water and in the end, I think I turned out ok. Following that I spent ~7 years working as a field technician in remote, stunningly beautiful places, with lots of seabirds. I would sum these years up as having very little life balance with lots of experience.
From there I started grad school. At age 29, I relearned how to live in a town and bought my first car. I spent 5.5 years in grad school, but 14 months of this time were spent in the field (not all for my PhD research). During the last phase of my PhD I was often too mentally exhausted on the weekends to even consider trying to write or to analyze data. I tracked my working hours with RescueTime and I found that after a weekend at play my Monday at work was often very focused and productive. Then through the week my productivity would drop.
That seemed promising. Playing more equaled more efficient work hours. The tales are true.
And then I started post doc life. A new town, more rain, and more projects that come with deadlines. For the most part, my attempts for a work-life balance went out the window as I adjusted to the new locale. I still do field work and within that experience I can catch my academic breath – while working just as hard.
One can read ad nauseam about struggles academic scientists have balancing work and life. There is lots of sage advice out there (e.g. here) and dismay with a system that asks so much of a person (here). As I continue on this career path I know that demands on my time will only become more and more frequent. There is a part of me that likes the idea of curling up on a rainy Saturday morning and crunching out some data analysis even though in the long run this probably isn’t a good approach. And maybe that is the problem – I love most of what I do!
For now, I am still learning. What do I focus on? What do I spend my time on? How do I meet deadlines without a dose of panic? How do I restrain my growing to-do list?
**In order to make sure that I didn’t over or under achieve on this blog post I asked the internet ‘how long should a blog post be?’ It turns out the answers are varied. But somewhere between 700 and 1,600 words is a good target. I made it to 488. Today there is a dog that wants a walk, a talk to be written, a manuscript to revise, dinner to cook…