I just wanted to start off by expressing how excited I am to be chosen as a new member of the Gradifying blogger team! I am a first year PhD student in Biology studying Plant Ecology and Evolution. I did both my BScH and MSc at Queen’s and am an avid volunteer both at Queen’s and in the Kingston community.
Lately, I will admit that I have been feeling slightly overwhelmed. My field season runs from April to as late as November every year. I spent the first five weeks of this season digging hundreds of holes in the ground at two of my field sites to set up plots for my PhD project. Now I spend 8 hours/day collecting seeds and samples, watering experimental plots, amongst other things. My evenings are occupied by various meetings and volunteer work and of course that looming comprehensive exam.
This weekend, a bunch of people from our department went to Elbow Lake to celebrate a peer’s defense. It was an awesome time we had a huge potluck, a campfire, some people went swimming—it was great! I did have a good time, but I was unable to ‘turn off’ thoughts about my project. I know I am not alone when I say this, but I often find myself feeling guilty when I don’t dedicate at least some time each day to doing work on my project.
I asked a few of my peers about it and they confirmed that indeed, I was not the only person that felt that way—some people even brought work with them…to a party! I guess on the drive up to the cabins, I found myself looking for species and contemplating why that paper has been in review for so long, so maybe actually bringing work wasn’t that abnormal. A bunch of us chatted about why we feel guilty about taking a break and how we can change that. This is what our chat boiled down to:
- Supervisor’s expectations unclear; keep open lines of communication and if you’re feeling overwhelmed, express that! They likely don’t expect you to do work every day, all day.
- Own expectations unclear; you can’t do EVERYTHING!
- No concrete goals or timelines set up; make a plan. Maximize the time you do have to do work. Find the most efficient places to do work. Get into a routine. Whatever is best for you!
One of the most interesting points we discussed was that the work-life balance will not always be 50/50; sometimes work will be crazy and it will be 70/30 or even 90/10 (anticipating this as the comps nears). Importantly though, when given the opportunity to make it 0/100, take it. Take a weekend away with friends, go to dinner and a movie, bike to Wolfe Island and go for a swim…anything really! We all agreed that focusing 100% on yourself when you have the option is not a bad thing at all!
If you’ve been feeling guilty about taking a break or have other advice for students about this, please share your thoughts in the comments! We’d love to hear from you!