Here’s a problem I write about pretty frequently which seems newly pertinent today: when you’re a good academic, you never stop working.
I can’t tell you the last time I spent a whole weekend without answering a work-related e-mail, cracking a work-related book, doing a library run, doing work-related writing, discussing my research, sitting at my desk, contemplating a draft, going to rehearsal, doing research, or just flat-out tagging an extra two days onto my work week.
In any other field, this would be called “workaholism”. The constant drive to continue doing whatever it is that earns you a paycheck without a regular break is widely regarded as an unhealthy work habit.
And yet, somehow, in academia it is encouraged.
Oh sure they tell you “take time off” or “walk away from your desk at the end of the day”, but really, do we? In the age of smart phones, is it even possible to leave your work at work? And what does that mean since the ivory tower is such a theoretical construct? It would be impossible for me to function if having healthy work habits meant that I could only work when on campus.
I’ve had to find ways to delineate the boundaries between my work and my life (for example, unless it’s the middle of summer and a scorcher day and thereby I need to seek refuge in air conditioning somewhere, I only work at my desk and will not bring reading to my couch or my bed no matter how tempting). But even I, with a keen eye on this issue, find that work creeps into every aspect of my life.
While out having an amazing time this weekend, I couldn’t avoid the fact that I was receiving e-mails related to my class, or my exams, or my upcoming conferences. I couldn’t stop blathering about the research I was doing and the new things I’ve realized about American actor training. My head so far into this game, it’s not really possible (I think) to leave this by the wayside.
It may just be that I’m at a particularly taxing point of the PhD process (well… I definitely am), but I can’t help but feel that this is an under-attended issue.
That being said, I have nominal suggestions for how to fix it. Thought patterns being what
they are, the best work is going to come from immersion. My plan this semester was to dive in head first and take a nice long break when I popped up on the other side (so… in December sometimes). Meanwhile, I’ve been content with having a few spectacular adventures during the in-between times.
And now… back to the grind.