Every so often I reminisce about the very first days of my PhD. Two weeks into it I had managed to secure a job in hospitality, so that I could pay the ridiculous bill that the accommodation services was charging me to “work for them”. I felt I had to work every second of my life, both in hospitality and in my degree to (a) go somewhere with it and have hot food on my plate and a roof above my head, and (b) to kill all the time that I had to spare because being social was not much of an option since my wife was back in Australia for the year.
Back then I did not have an office, so I had to go to hot desk spaces that the College of Arts had in campus. They were alright, considering that at that very beginning I barely had any books to carry around yet. I did a lot of work in my room too – having lived in private accommodation for years, going back to student halls (and with a position of responsibility) was like being 21 again, trying to nerd myself to death. And the library was my second home.
Needless to say, then I had a lot of basketball games in the weekends. Having to pay plenty of bills, any cash rolling my way was much welcomed. But when I got home after long travelling around Scotland, I would sit at my desk, get myself a coffee, and read/write/research in general. I also worked some times at night. I was the Queen of Unsocial hours. I am not very surprised now that, looking back at that time, I had managed to (1) get so much work done, compared to the work I have done ever since becoming a Mongrel, and (2) got myself sick with a suspected stomach ulcer at the end of my first year.
Well, this all changed when I became a parttimer Mongrel and the wife moved back to Glasgow. Now I had things to do and fill in my weekends with outside of games (although I still do far too many), I don’t feel like working in the evening, and ever since the winter started, I have issues with getting up early to do any work. It is just so cold outside and in the house it is just not nice to be working! And I am barely awake at 8am, imagine at 7… So I only occasionally work unsociable hours. And for the past year, I have not worked a single weekend. I just can’t.
Now not working on weekends has many advantages, I have experimented. First, there is this terribly daunting feeling that every PhD has that there is always some work “that I should be doing”. Once you finish a section, there is always something else to read, to write, to look up, to think about, etc. It’s the student loop. But undergrads, for example, when they go on holiday, they don’t really need to take with them the burden of assignments that they will have when they come back. PhDs take that burden everywhere, like a suitcase or a passport. And I feel that I needed to drop that burden off my weekends.
I don’t feel guilty for not working. I feel awesome!
There is of course something I should be doing at all times, but I have forbidden that from weekends. It is a no-go area. I am not allowed to think about my PhD. I need to reconvene with myself and my partner on those days, and I need to pay full attention to trivial tasks like going for a walk, do the shopping, and mainly lying on the couch catching up with movies, telly, or anything we care to watch. It is an awesome deal that I recommend to everyone.
Lately, however, I have started feeling concerned about this lack of activity. I don’t want to work on weekends and I don’t want to do anything that will jeopardize the very necessary resting time my body and mind need. I also don’t feel guilty for not opening up a book on an average of 100 days a year. I am part time, after all! Increasingly, however, I feel I need more time (and effort) to catch up with where I left off the week before on Monday mornings, and Monday mornings I am barely a person for a sustained amount of time, which makes it even harder. I feel that that has disconnected me from my project one weekend at a time, and I feel that perhaps, if I only worked on it for a block, for a 20-minute block, I would be facilitating the process on Mondays and eliminate the catching up process. To this day, what I find most difficult of the writing process, for example, is going back into it after more than 48 hours have passed since I last closed a document. So maybe a quick refresher on both Saturday and Sunday will help?
I am unsure about this. I am not sure whether it will be genius or fall on its arse, and I am not sure whether it is worth a try. Right now it all seems a bit useless since holidays are literally a few days away and I will be gone (from the UK and my PhD possibly) for a full three amazing weeks. Maybe it is an idea to consider after the holidays, or when winter starts fading away.
I will see how that one goes. #BeaMongrel