What a way to make a living … a lot of the time PhD’s and also academic jobs are portrayed as having very long hours, essentially we are worked to the bone for not a lot of money, but is this really true? Do we have to work long hours or risk not achieving our goals?
While it is the case that research can involve long hours that doesn’t mean that all supervisors would like you to ditch any commitments outside of your PhD work. My supervisor is very respectful of a homelife. He appreciates that firstly I commute, therefore I can’t always just pop back to the lab, and secondly that my boyfriend and I would like to eat dinner together most evenings and at a reasonable time. These are not unreasonable demands to make however I think as a PhD student it can be easy for simple things like this to get lost in the rush to produce results. This leads me onto weekend working, the real point of this post. I nipped into work on Saturday to drop something fairly large off that I didn’t want to carry on the train, and found A LOT of people in the office working away as if it was a Wednesday. I then experienced a brief moment of guilt – they all work harder than I do, I’m clearly not putting enough effort in. Then I re-evaluated. Yes I do put enough effort in, I just do it Monday-Friday. When I have other commitments (the brilliant club, demonstrating, outreach) I prep for these in my own time and I put in the extra effort to cover any lab time lost. I’m definitely not saying I put in more effort on Monday-Friday than anyone else, all I’m saying is I don’t feel the need to come in on a weekend.
I think this partly comes from my commute, as I’ve said before it allows me space to separate my work and home life, but it’s also a result of some of my previous jobs. Having lost a lot of my time to working 12 days in a row while on a standby rota I appreciate my weekends, I appreciate the time spent at home and with my boyfriend, and I appreciate weekend trips to visit family and friends. This time is important to me and I don’t plan to give it up any time soon. Weekend working isn’t the route of all evil, simple quick tasks like plating bacteria on a Sunday ready for a Monday can save you a day lost in the week. This isn’t the kind of thing I’m talking about. I want current and future PhD students to know that a PhD doesn’t have to be a 7 days a week, 365 days a year endeavour. You don’t have to work weekends, by all means pop in and set something up to save yourself time, just don’t spend your whole Saturday in the lab or attached to your computer, and most importantly don’t feel guilty about it!
I’ve said before I work some long days, it’s a fact of research life but I balance this by tightly holding onto my weekends. Of course I’m only one year in, it could be that in another years time I’ve changed my mind some weekends may be sacrificed to the thesis gods, who knows, but for now at least I’m going to carry on enjoying my PhD free weekends and not feel any guilt about it.