Work Life Balance

As a doctoral student, how do you achieve work life balance?

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6 Responses

  1. Are you suggesting we’re supposed to have a life outside of work?
    Hmm.. It never occurred to me as a possibility ! 🙂
    Ah, well, I am looking forward to learning from others since I am not good at this.

    One thing that I started doing in the last couple of years is to take at least couple of weeks off every year to go home and not commit to any work during that time period… It’s really good to be able to relax without the guilt.

  2. What a great question!

    One of the benefits of the academic field is the high level of autonomy we have in organizing our own work schedules. The downside is, there’s always work to be done. Therefore, it’s incumbent to accept responsibility for your schedule and take control of your time (easier said than done, of course!).

    When I was in the coursework phase of my doctorate a strategy that worked well for me was this. I picked one day a week to be my “day off”. I rarely managed to take an entire 24 hour period off from work, but I did make it a point to turn off the computer and “unplug” for at least the bulk of the day.

    At the time, I was living in downtown DC so it was easy for me to get out of the house and find something interesting to do. I would frequently go “play tourist” and enjoy time at a nearby park or visit one of the free Smithsonian museums. The important part was scheduling time when I was allowed to not work.

  3. No balance. All work. Sad. I do have days completely off and a travel period during the year when i only travel, but the rest of it… not much fun :O :O :O I heard a great advice from Gordon Davis the other day… he said… take saturday afternoon and sunday off for your wife. Or you will end up divorced. I will try to follow this….

    I believe that all this is due to the fact that “projects” are so very “long term” and there is no real “punishment” for being late besides just the fact that “you do more” or “you do less” in particular point/period of time. So it’s just “internal” “customer” who wants you to do something most of the time.

    And that backlog. Do you guys ever get rid of it? I think i don’t, and I have never met anyone who does. :S

  4. I have a wife and two small children (ages 2 and 4). So I make it a point to not work from 6-9pm every evening. Those three hours are dedicated family time. I also try to take most of Sunday off as well as Saturdays when possible. Finally, I’ve tried to work at home but have found it impossible with the kids around. So I only work on campus. This forces me to value my time at both home and work.

  5. I’ve found that 1) changing the way I work when I AM working and 2) making plans with friends are incredibly helpful. I live with roommates who have regular 9 to 5 hours, and I usually work from home. If I get up right after they leave and go straight to work (after getting dressed, eating breakfast, just like I’m going to office), I can get a lot done in a day. I know that I have until about 5:15 before my house is noisy, and I carve my day into chunks no longer than 2 hours. After each chunk, I take a break to unload the dishwasher, play Mario Kart, put in laundry, whatever. Being that efficient during the day allows me to take breaks at night without feeling guilty. I make plans with my friends (both students and not) a few days in advance, and then I know I need to work around that time or become a social leper. Of course, this plans works only if you mind being a social leper. I find going to sporting events to be a very effective way to take breaks; you can’t do much but watch baseball and relax in the sunshine at a ball park. Of course, you need to unleash yourself from your BlackBerry for that to work.

    Backlog is a completely different story. I think one has to accept that much like there’s never enough money, there’s always too much work. I try to think of my backlog as a reminder that I’ll never get bored rather than an ominous indicator that I’m not being productive enough. I’m not sure how well that works long term, but so far, so good.

  6. I don’t know that I achieve much of a balance just yet, but I do build quality time with my husband into my daily routine. We walk our dogs together and eat dinner together at a table without any distractions, among other things.

    I also usually set aside a half or whole day on the weekend for some kind of leisure, though that often evaporates at the end of a semester or near a submission deadline. I try to take at least a full weekend off from everything after the end of the semester, which seems practically necessary. When my husband can join me for conference travel (maybe once a year) then I extend my stay by a day or two so we can do some sightseeing together.

    I also work like Libby when I’m at home – I make a prioritized list every day, work in chunks of two or three hours at a time, and typically fill my breaks with productive, menial tasks. When you can be that effective with the work time, it makes it much easier to justify taking a break in the evening. I like the perspective of thinking about backlog as reminder that I won’t get bored. Works for me!

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