Hello there bloggies, and welcome to Trainee Tuesday!

A couple of weeks ago, there was a post over on Science Careers called “Getting noticed is half the battle” by Dr. Eleftherios P. Diamandis. You can check it out here. There has been quite the reaction to it on twitter and on numerous blogs, including this one I like quite a bit from Tenure She Wrote. The post in general is truly out of touch, but something he wrote somewhat in passing caught my eye (Other than the ridiculous parts about leaving his wife home to take care of the children…I mean really!?. In fact, it seems as if the Science Careers Editor has resigned following this and some other pretty awful columns, including the one that advised female trainees to just simply ignore/accept sexual harassment…again really?!?).

But, what I want to focus on today, is that he says he worked 16-17 hours a week and most weekends! That’s between 100 and 120 hours a week! That’s crazytown! I looked back on my PhD (which I did from 2009-2014) and my current postdoc (where I’ve been since).

Have I worked long hours? For sure! I was one of the first in my building every morning. There was a lot to do, and I worked my butt off to get everything done.

Have I worked weekends? Of course! Cell cultures needed to be changed, deadlines loomed, and honestly part of me enjoyed the lab on weekends. It was tranquil and borderline serene. Far fewer people were there to distract me, to take up my time, and to battle with to use equipment.

Have I tried my damnedest to try to have a life outside of my PhD/postdoc? You bet! Life is too short to spend it all in the lab. As you can hopefully tell from this blog, I have far more life interests than just scientific research and bet my readers do as well. I would be selling myself short (and you would be too) by working all day in the lab. Plus, those people I call my family and friends would be pretty darn cross with me!

Have I thought my colleagues or friends work too much? Countless times. We’re all guilty of it though. We get tunnel focus on completing a set of experiments/analyses and simply block everything else out. Sometimes, it is needed. But, doing it over and over again is unhealthy mentally and physically.

Now here are some things I try to keep in mind when trying to balance life with research:

When does this actually need to be done?

Not everything on your to-do list is due tomorrow. It just sometimes seems that way. Figure out what things need to be accomplished right away, which take a long time to complete (ugh incubation times!), and which can be temporarily put on the back burner. Sometimes, a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a friend is more important than starting your next experiment that moment.

I’m judged by my results, not by the number of hours I spend in lab.

Now take these two hypothetical grad students: A) In lab Monday-Friday 8:30am-5pm, generates new results each week and is well on their way to several publications and a dissertation B) In lab Sunday-Friday 10am-12am, scattered, sometimes has results but nothing substantial, and a bit lost on their way toward a thesis. It goes without saying that we would all pick grad student A. Being in lab longer doesn’t mean that you are working harder or that you are more successful. It just means you are in the lab longer!

How many hours have I actually worked while in lab?

Let’s face it, we all love to procrastinate. You are probably doing it now by reading this blog post! But, procrastinating while in lab means that you aren’t working. Now, some time wasting is important. 15 minute breaks for your mind are vital especially when dealing with complex problems. Plus, that coffee or froyo break is important for building bonds with your colleagues. But, if you are spending 16 hours in lab and 6 of those are on social media slash playing benchtop hockey, then you are simply just wasting your time.

How do I feel mentally/physically? Do I need a break?

Something that grad students and postdocs are terrible at is taking care of themselves. They ignore their feelings and don’t take the time to monitor their health. The high rates of depression and mental health problems in these populations are indicative of that. Take a moment and ask yourself: How do I feel this week? Is anything wrong? If there is, you owe it to yourself to take a little time to deal with it. It is the best thing for you, your work, and everyone around you.

Thank you for stopping by this edition of Trainee Tuesday! How many hours do you work a day? How many days a week? Is it too much? Too little? Do you feel pressure to spend more time on your projects? Comment below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you later!

-Dr. F

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