Taking a break

I suspect I may look back on this post in years to come and laugh mockingly at my naïvety but there we are I’m going to write it anyway (sorry future me). Two weeks ago I took a week off, I didn’t really go anywhere besides my parents and made time to see a few friends but I really feel like it was so worth it. Yes, I did spend the whole week before fretting about leaving my experiments alone for a whole week! Yes, I did feel like I was doing something self-indulgent and I felt a bit guilty. Despite all this I don’t regret it in the slightest, besides, if you can’t take a break during the first year of your PhD, there’s no way you’ll feel like you can take a break later on in the process. 

I’ve just spent the day at my university, a fairly rare occurrence for me as I’m based predominately at a research institute. I went in with a fairly negative attitude this morning, feeling like this day was simply a box ticking exercise that would have no relevance to me whatsoever. It was an induction event for new PhD students, as someone who started their PhD about six months ago and spends the majority of their time away from the university, I was completely prepared to sit there all day in scathing silence. Luckily a moment of reflection just before the day started allowed me to see that this attitude would benefit no one, I decided to try and make the best of it, go in with a positive attitude and hope that at least part of the day could be of use to me. I’m glad I took the time to re-assess my attitude, some of the activities today we’re certainly enjoyable and I feel like one in particular is relevant to the blog and this post.

This afternoon we were asked to consider what we thought made an excellent researcher. Of course this generated a huge variety of opinions but a few ideas seemed to come up time and time again. The first of these was good time management, it was agreed that effective time management would have a positive influence on all the other element of an excellent researcher’s life. A few of these other elements included; good communication skills (written or otherwise), resilience in the face of adversity and a good work/life balance. Here’s where my week off and I come in. Setting limits on my  working time is a big part of time management for me, we all know that there can be times when we feel like the work we have to do will never end. By granting myself that week off, I acknowledged that fact that work can wait, it will still be there when you come back. I also don’t think I’m wrong in saying that I did come back from my week off feeling rejuvenated, at least in mind if not in body, and that without a break productivity does tail off. I was also reminded of my other rôles in life, I’m not just a PhD student or a scientist in training, I am also a daughter and a friend. This helped me put my life in context and reminded me of my motivations for undertaking my research.

How do you feel about holidays? Am I living in cloud cuckoo land?! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Until next time. C


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