I don’t usually make new year’s resolutions – the timing is kind of arbitrary, and January is a terrible month for big changes because it’s cold, it’s a long stretch til payday, and you’ve just done the whole Christmas thing. But, the timing is good for me this year. Not because it’s the start of a new year, but because I had actual time off in which I did actual nothing. Christmas time off is the best time off because most other people are off too, so even if you do check your emails for some reason, there’s nothing there. It’s a proper break.
Towards the end of last year I was struggling quite a bit health-wise. The problem was not the individual things I was doing, but that lots of it happened at once so I didn’t recover properly in-between. I was completely exhausted and ill, and mentally and physically not great. Which also means I didn’t have the energy to look after myself which then leads to making everything worse in a not-so-happy cycle of urgh. I finally feel better after a week of doing nothing but Netflix & a bit of reading, so I feel refreshed and able to make some changes.
I have lots I need to do this year, which I can translate into goals, but it’s the how I do those things that’s more important to me. I have one 2019 “resolution”:
I hope that this year will be a busy one – I’m starting my fieldwork which means if it’s not busy I’m probably having some recruitment problems! But that means it’s the best time to do less. It’s kind of a “less haste more speed thing” – I will be able to do more if I do less.
It’s helpful to be more concrete about goals – it’s very hard to practically do something if you haven’t worked out how to practically do it beyond a vague ‘less’. So:
- I’m going to do shorter, more focused days as much as possible. This will get harder as time goes on, but in this quiet period I’m getting into work at about 10.30/11am, and leaving at 4pm. And that time will include a proper, long lunch break.
- Especially when I can’t do short days, I’m booking working-at-home days into my diary. If it’s scheduled, I’m hoping I’ll feel less guilty and actually do it. It should also mean I have less days I need to take off randomly due to the consequences of over-doing it because I’ve already slowed down.
- Keep protecting weekends and evenings. Apart from the end of last year, I’ve been pretty good at keeping my weekends and weekends work-free. Again, this might be something that changes depending on my fieldwork schedule, but it’s really important for me to have weekly protected rest time. I know when I don’t do this, the cumulative exhaustion takes hold and I become less and less able to function.
- If I have to work a weekend, I will schedule a day off in the week
- I’m putting my reading and writing tasks onto my to-do list and scheduling them into my week like an appointment. Otherwise I tend to leave them until they can be squeezed in, when I’m inevitably too tired to get them done well, so they take longer.
But I’m not going to be rigid about it. You only use a system if it actually works for you in a convenient way, so I’m just going to see how it goes. It might end up working better to do some longer days but only work 4 days a week, rather than shorter days for 5 days. I’ll see.
Doing less should hopefully mean I can consistently do more, both in my PhD-life and my social/hobbies-life, in a way that doesn’t make my health worse. In a way that I can enjoy it and not feel like it’s a struggle.
Do you have any 2019 PhD goals / resolutions?