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Work for living or living for work?

Hi folks!

Have you ever felt that you are working more (much more) that you are suppose to?

I hope my boss won’t read this post (it is not her fault anyway), but the reality is that I have been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work over the last 18 months and I still don’t know on how to deal with this.

Good scientists are on average hard workers (might I say workaholics?). They are very good on meeting deadlines; they are very keen to help each other (most of times for free) and they seem mostly happy during conferences etc... But I would like to learn from these guys how they manage their time.

Since I finish my PhD (nearly three years ago), my biggest fear was to go back to my home country and not be able to keep doing studies on the same level that I did with my supervisors. So, I decided to keep involved in many studies overseas AND started working as the head of a research department in Brazil. My job usually involves supervision of masters’ students and research activities in general (which I love to do), some teaching (which I like to do) and loads of administrative work (which I don’t really enjoy doing). As any other researcher around the world I also review grants, papers, theses and other stuff...

Don’t get me wrong here; I am really happy with my job. But at the same time, I found myself more stressed, unfit, and not doing things that I have always enjoyed doing due to my work schedule. I felt that I need to re-organise my life better in order to put my things back on track (including my personal life). I have listed 4 things that I have started doing that is helping me that you might found useful.

  1. I have created a “priority list” using a “first come, first served” approach... I usually skipped some tasks in order to respond my co-authors and students first, but I have stopped doing this. So I have been working on one task at a time without prioritising a specific project or person... although some friends got disappointed with me at times, I felt this system fairer and less stressful for me.

  2. I have started saying NO to some invitations. Although I like to work on new things, I got myself involved in many projects that have nothing to do with my research preferences. And by not knowing these research topics properly, these projects usually took twice as long to work compared to the things that I know a bit better.

  3. “Time to work and time to have fun”. I have decided to plan a work schedule for me, so most of my things are now timetabled. Tools like Google Calendar are great for this! So, if I am half way through a task and my Google calendar alarms that it is time to go for a run, I just stop working and go for my weekly run... This might sound crazy, but for workaholics like me this is the only way of stop working and do something different.

  4. Ignore some tricky work-related emails: this is a hard one (specially for anxious guys like me)... I am usually very good at responding emails, but I started ignoring some of them. Emails have also been read (and responded) using the “first come, first served” approach.

I have started doing these actions (at least partially) over the last two months and already found good results so far. I felt that my things are now much better organised, but it is still too early to know if this will work for a long period of time. I would appreciate if you could come with new ideas/suggestions for me. I am sure that I am not the only ICECReamer that is finding a way to balance work and personal life a bit better.