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Amanda Tracey: Feeling Guilty?….Well, Don’t!

A view of Elbow Lake Nature Conservancy of Canada Reserve from Queen's University Biological Station website

A view of Elbow Lake Nature Conservancy of Canada Reserve from Queen’s University Biological Station website

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!

Posted in General, New Students, Student Perspective Tagged with: , , , , ,
2 comments on “Amanda Tracey: Feeling Guilty?….Well, Don’t!
  1. Atif Atif says:

    Welcome again Amanda! Looking forward to working with you 🙂

  2. Welcome Amanda, great to have you on board.
    Love your first piece and we all can get into the habit of work and no play. One way that may help is treating the degree like a job where you can. You go to work (or your lab, office, forest in your situation), you work hard for so many hours and you may do this all week. But you give yourself at least a day off to rejuvenate, relax, have a social get together.
    Sometimes during the week just taking time to have a decent lunch with some mates is enough to refresh the mind. Remember it is not always the amount of hours you put in, sometimes it is the quality of the work done in that time that counts more. We all need and should take the time to be away from work and enjoy this great city with mates.

3 Pings/Trackbacks for "Amanda Tracey: Feeling Guilty?….Well, Don’t!"
  1. […] our work responsibilities don’t end when we leave the lab. As Amanda pointed out in a previous post, many of us feel guilty when we’re not working. Consequently, we truly don’t allow ourselves […]

  2. […] collect something or take up baking. Just take some time and relax like I talked about earlier this year and as did […]

  3. […] talked about the importance of setting boundaries and not neglecting self-care (e.g., see here, here, and here). If you find yourself feeling unable to cope, don’t hesitate to get in touch with […]

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