We're a little crazy, about science!

Day #124: On the importance of time off

Overworked

When I left the military, I threw myself into work. I was offered — and I took — all the overtime I could get. If I stayed busy, I didn’t have to think about anything else and at the time, it is what I wanted. I didn’t want to have to think about anything else. It was an unhealthy and unsustainable lifestyle, one I don’t necessarily regret, just one I had to learn from.

I first started in a research lab my senior year of college. I would’ve started sooner if the PI I wanted to work with had set up his lab at our school sooner. I was his first grad student despite starting as an undergrad (we had an understanding I would be staying on for my Masters). I learned a very important lesson that first year trying to balance class with research responsibilities.

On one hand, it was nice to have something new to throw myself into. It really gave me focus as I was finishing and opened my world to new possibilities. I had hit a dead end with my education, or more accurately I was having trouble finding my way from where I was with my education and where I wanted to be. I didn’t know how to make the transition to research as an undergrad and my former PI gave me the tools I needed to get where I am today. For that I am eternally grateful.

Unfortunately it was easy to fall into old habits.  There was no structure, I had no defined times to work and times to relax. There was no classwork or even homework, there was just work. It was up to me to determine when I got it done, in what order, and how quickly I could do it. That last one is something I’m still working to figure out to this day. I’ve discovered that things take longer than you would think, sometimes a lot longer.

After the first year of working without stopping, I realized I was working hard, but not smart. I needed to reevaluate the way I was doing things. I’ve written about all this before, finding my routine, goal setting, etc. However, it’s good to repeat yourself especially when things get busy and you need to remind yourself that you’re mental health is probably the most important thing you will ever need to focus on.

All this to say, don’t forget to take a break. Relax, your work will be there when you have had some time to destress. More importantly it gives you a chance to think about how you are going to complete your work and in most cases, this makes getting your work done quicker, even when you include the time off.

With that in mind, I’m still sick. This means my quality of work can’t be what it needs to be. So instead of trying to work, I will try to relax. Get some rest and hopefully kick this as soon as possible. When I feel better I can get my work done, it will be there when I’m better and it will be of the same high quality that I expect from myself. Sometimes not having a regular job can be stressful, this is one of the benefits. I make my schedule and right now I need a break.

Until next time, don’t stop learning!

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