We asked our Editors to write about making time for yourself.
This is one of their responses:
Each day has 24 hours, and an ideal division of time could be 8 hours working, 8 hours for other activities (family plans, household duties, leisure, etc.) and 8 hours to sleep. Real-life in academia, regardless of the position, seems to be somewhat incompatible with this.
The atmosphere in some universities and research centers pushes us to work extremely long hours. This can be because it is a way to show our "value", or the workload is overwhelming (because of its awful distribution). Another reason can be that you have to teach additionally to your research or deadlines are approaching, and you want to meet them. Regardless of the motive, this leads us to redistribute our "work-other activities-sleep" division and, generally, the latter two diminish. This means that we get poorer rest, it takes us more time to do and understand readings and produce papers; then, we devote even more time to work… So spins the wheel for us with one ultimate consequence: our well-being and mental health are doubtless put in jeopardy.
The academic year 2020/2021 was the fourth and final year of my PhD. Since I was a TA too, I faced a huge deadline and, during one term, research and teaching simultaneously, as well as my own disturbed sleeping schedule. Altogether, it could have had (somehow expectedly) awful effects on my well-being, which didn’t happen thanks to some pieces of advice I got that helped me making time for myself. I will write here the top three:
Firstly, schedule your working days and respect breaks and moments to rest your mind as if they were sacred. Having quiet times to relax during the day and to sleep at night is as essential as being highly focused on reading or writing when working. Actually, it is a conditio sine qua non because, otherwise, your efficiency will inevitably drop.
Secondly, rest either Saturday or Sunday. If you cannot take an entire day off, try to have half a day at least. (Of course, if there is an upcoming deadline, you might decide to carry on working, but then I would recommend you taking some time off once you meet it!) This will help you recharge and reset your mind to start the week with plenty of energy.
Thirdly, avoid multitasking if possible. Sometimes, it is better to have a "themed (part of the) day", that is, focused on one particular activity, rather than doing everything simultaneously. Otherwise, at the end of the day, there is a risk that you believe you have done a little bit of everything but not enough of anything. This can lead to frustration and to go into a spiral of a mentally unhealthy situation once again.
These are my three pieces of advice. I just hope this works for you too, dear reader!
Ignacio García-Perrote Martínez is a Barcelonan who loves reading, writing and Ireland. In summer 2021, Ignacio finished a PhD in Law. When he is not indoors, you will likely find Ignacio hiking or walking around to discover the secrets hidden wherever he is. For PhD Balance, Ignacio is one of our editors!