There seems to be this weird assumption that when you start writing your thesis the rest of your life goes on hold. I went to the lab one random Wednesday a few weeks ago and one of the new PhD students asked how my weekend was (well actually he asked if I got drunk at the weekend but we’ll just bypass that point). When I answered that I’d had a quiet weekend he assumed it was because I was writing.
Call me crazy but I don’t feel compelled in anyway to start working at the weekend when I haven’t for the rest of my PhD. I have always done occasional weekend work where needed but it’s never been a habit. Why would I start now? Now I’m not saying this won’t change when I get close to my self-imposed submission deadline, but right now? Not necessary. I have targets and deadlines, and I plan my weeks Monday-Friday. I’m very aware that I’m privileged to be in this position, there are a lot of people who have to write their PhD part-time, around their family or another job. I’m in awe of those people, their dedication is a skill to be admired. However, for those of us how do have full time funding the idea of working 7 days a week on lab work/reading/writing is just adding to the overwork norm that exists in academia (and probably a lot of other jobs).
There was a recent Guardian article on how a career in academia is now incompatible with family life. The article didn’t specifically focus on the additional hours required, it was more related to short, casual contracts for staff, but the working outside of “normal” working hours was touched on. I would never want to give the impression that I don’t work hard, I do, and I have a couple of (hopefully pretty good) thesis results chapters to show for it. Some days are tough and I don’t always get as much done as I’d like, other days are spent doing more than I thought I could. I’ve identified my most productive time of the day and I put it to good use (early afternoon if you were wondering). I’m flexible while keeping my overall goals (results chapters ready by 2017) in my mind.
I try to stick with a fairly normal Monday-Friday working day. This works for my life. Mr DailyPhD has a “normal” job, so sticking to normal working hours means my PhD doesn’t interfere with the things we like to do. Same goes for the weekends. This Friday afternoon we plan to go and get our Christmas tree, so my work schedule is adjusted to make the most of the morning. This is my approach, it might not work for everyone, but it works for me. No one should be shamed for their working practices, some people do their best work in the middle of the night. However, I do think we should be working hard to stamp out the idea that you’re only doing academia right if you’re over doing it.