Day 68: Hobbies are important!
All work and no play… well you know how the saying goes. Here in the US we have this mindset where it’s work all day every day. That is probably one of the reasons we have such high rates of depression (we as in people pursuing a PhD). Sure one of my hobbies is blogging, I enjoy it and it is a great way to review the things I’ve been learning, but I have others and today I think we should talk about why that is important.
Recently I had a student from one of my skype sessions reach out to me and ask me how many hours I worked on average. It made me think about how my work week has evolved over my time in undergrad to now. It’s gone through quite a bit of changes and I think it’s gotten better for me in general as time has gone on.
When I first started school, I felt like if I wasn’t working all the time I wasn’t doing enough. Unfortunately, even when I would work nonstop I didn’t feel like I was getting enough done. This stressed me out, constantly! When I started my path in research I felt the same urge. You don’t have the structured 9-5 workday you would have in a typical job, moreover you can (and often do) take your work home with you. In fact, your entire undergrad experience has taught you that you SHOULD take your work home with you.
Unlearning that was difficult.
When I started my Masters officially, I had been doing research for over a year and had started to develop a good routine. I needed to step away from the work I was doing and so I try to work ~5 hours or so a day on my projects and I attempt to take weekends off (or at least two days a week). I’ve tried to cultivate hobbies that I enjoy doing and make sure that I spend some time doing them on a regular basis.
As a general rule, mental health is important and being able to do some actual introspection is important in maintaining your mental health. After all, there isn’t any external gauge or test you can do to check your mental health so you being honest with yourself is important.
A piece of friendly advice for anyone getting started, find a hobby. Maybe you really enjoy building things, or video games, or just a book or two you want to read. Make time for those hobbies, and more importantly make sure you step away from your work from time to time. Some of the best ideas I’ve had in my research have come to me when I’ve stepped away because it gives me a chance to see the big picture.
Bottom line, sometimes it’s faster to get to a finish line when you take the time to plan your route and reevaluate that path on the regular. Having a hobby to do in your downtime will help remind you to step away from your work from time to time. I know it helped me out a lot and while my PhD is much different than my Masters, it still helps to step away from the work you’re doing.
Until next time, don’t stop learning!