It is certainly hard to deny that highly successful people spend a lot of time doing the thing they are successful at. I imagine everyone who spends a lot of time at or thinking about work, regardless of how much they like their job, will at some point question if this is a good lifestyle to lead. After the birth of my daughter this is something that concerned me. I see many successful researchers spending a hell of a lot of time at work. I started to wonder whether I can be that successful in the research game without putting in so much time.
Steve discussed recently that researchers compete on many grounds. Success of our work seems to have some influence on why we are so competitive. I guess because the longevity of our work (that is the ability to conduct research in our areas of interest) depends on it. Last week I read another blog that put an interesting spin on this. It described the threshold theory of intelligence (http://getalifephd.blogspot.com/2011/07/how-smart-do-you-have-to-be-to-become.html). The theory goes that for people with an intellect above a certain threshold, successes will depend more so on how you utilise resources rather than any increase in IQ above the threshold. I don’t want to debate whether or not the theory holds but it suggests that for those who are smart enough (but are not the smartest) just have to work hard to be successful. To me it makes sense. The flip side of course is that to succeed in a given area, those above this threshold of intelligence will compete by working harder than the next person. As I mentioned this is something that I’m feeling a little uncertain about lately.
Obviously there are many reasons why someone might feel jittery about spending so much time at work. This is not to say they no longer want to be successful. I certainly still want to do well in research. Of course the assumption here is that if you can’t work as much as the next person you can’t be a successful. That may be right of wrong. Undoubtedly highly successful researchers are motivated and dedicated. I don’t pretend to know what their personal situation is like but they certainly appear to go that extra mile at work. So back to my question can I be successful in research if I don’t compete with so called hard work? I suppose all of this is based on your definition of success. I won’t go into that here but below are a few things I was thinking might help me stay in the race. I doubt I am the first to consider this whole work-life balance thing so I hope others have a few tips for me.
Associate and collaborate with good people - I think this speaks for itself
Associate and collaborate with good researchers - Don’t bludge off them but draw on their expertise.
Be upfront about your ambitions - I’d expect others agree that you work to live and not the opposite
Focus on the skills you need to be successful at in your research (thanks to http://getalifephd.blogspot.com/)
Track what you do at work – stop doing the things you don’t need to
Similarly, only work on things that you need to do to achieve your career goals and ‘life’ goals
I always cheat myself so be accountable to someone other than yourself for the above – Naturally for me this is my wife and daughter
Be generous with your work – I agree with Steve, the pros to this almost certainly out way the cons.
Get rid of your TV or at least realise how much time you spend watching it