Academia is one of those careers where your work is never done. There's always more to read, more to write, more figures to compile...the list goes on. On top of that, there seems to be this push for a 20-hour/7-day work schedule. At least that's been my experience. It's no surprise a lot of people in academia are talking about work-life balance.
Personally, I've struggled a lot with this balance over the past couple years. In fact, about a year ago after my first year viva, I promised to address this problem by working hard at work and playing hard at home. It's time I let you know how it's been going.
My first change was to adopt a 40-hour work week. Because I have a partner who does shift work and I have a flexible schedule, I've adopted his work week, which intermingles shifts from 7:30a--4:30p, 10:30a--6:30p, and 1:30p--10:30p. That way we see more of each other and we get talk about our days on our walks to and home from work.
My second change was to adopt a work-only-at-work policy and vow to never take work home with me.
My third change was to adopt the pomodoro technique...work for 25 minutes, break for 5 and so on.
Next came a big question...what do I do with my spare time?
Well, I decided along with this work change, I should adopt a lifestyle change...eat less of what I shouldn't, eat more of what I should, and start exercising regularly. Beside that, I decided to join the library and start reading what I want to read.
So how has it turned out?
Well at first, there was a bit of guilt about not working constantly, but I've found that now I work smarter. While at work, I get a lot more done. I am not fatigued by working 12 hour days, which means I can have 5 very productive work days in a row rather than having every other day be productive. On top of the work improvements, I've lost nearly 30 pounds, I'm happier, have more energy, get over sicknesses faster, and don't go to bed facing panic attacks.
So in short, I'm pleased with the changes I've made. No, I'm probably never going to be the best atmospheric scientist with the most publications and the most impressive resume, but as my mom the hospice chaplain kindly pointed out, there isn't a person yet who, on their deathbed, has commented that they wish they worked more in their life.