Researcher Life: Monday morning blues

It’s that day of the week, when after taking a break, I needed to go back to the rut. Yes, it’s Moooonnnn…Thursday! Well, this time, its a Thursday. Yup, as a researcher, your Monday morning blues may happen at any point during the week. Allow me to elaborate a bit.

My Pilot testing started last week. All week. I have two parts to my study. While the first set of testings have to happen during the week, the next set of testings needs to be  (for logistic reasons) over the weekend. I had to finish testing (for logistic reasons again) by this week. Thus, I had to test over the weekend, and Monday (this one was a public holiday). Since it was a pilot, not all testings went smooth. The point was to figure out everything that could go wrong, better it and then perfect it in the next testing. This meant, I had 8 days of work (Monday through Monday), including Public holidays, with no breaks in between. The pilot actually went really well. We perfected everything by the end of those 8 days. Managed to squeeze in some wine and cheese celebration. And thennnn….phew!

So, I took Tuesday off to catch up on household work and partially recover, and Wednesday off to really recover and re-organize my mind, before i have to start looking at data from 25 testing sessions, across 2 set-ups. Soooo, today, Thursday, I am sitting here drifting off to my blog, adding a few lines, every now and then between my work schedule.

This is pretty common in all kinds of research. If you are doing secondary research, you may need to pull all night-ers in that special library that you only have access to for 2 days. If you are a microbiologist, your experiment probably runs longer than 24 hours and its not uncommon to sleep in the lab. Even in Psychology! Maybe you are studying sleep patterns at different times and your experiment involves monitoring people’s sleep waves! Good luck not getting sleepy then!

For my research, I will eventually be testing on children. Children, who have school during the week and can only give good data over the weekend. Based on how the rest of my week is scheduled, this could mean I take a Monday off, or Friday, or Wednesday. I can choose to take a day off here and there, or two days in a row. And my ‘Monday morning blues’ will always be on a different day.

This may sound like a tough job or it may sound like great flexibility. It’s both.

It requires a lot of insight into what your work-life balance should look like. Right now, if I said you could do anything, you’d probably just read stuff, or watch stuff. So when do you work? Most of us are really programmed to working on timings and deadlines. What if you didn’t have deadlines often enough? Just goals to work around? And then…when do you stop work? If you spent all day testing, don’t you want to see what the data looks like already? Just get a cup of coffee, and stay up all night analyzing data and then a quick power nap before your testing the next day! Maybe it would work for you. But you would also reach burnout much sooner and would then need much longer to recover.

Also, it isn’t like shift work where you work longer on one night and sleep in the next morning. You probably have a different kind of work waiting for you the next morning. You don’t have to do it. Or do you? Honestly, there would be more than one work waiting for you the next morning (refer post – 50 shades of research). If you are in this mode of research, there is always more than one task you could do. Its a lot of decision making on an everyday basis. You need to decide what your working hours would be, when would it be ok to do things you need other people (meetings, testings) for. Then plan all this so you can still eat and sleep, and preferably still meet friends, go out and have a life!

Fixed timings may not be a researcher job’s selling point. The long weekend the rest of the country just had, is a chance for you to get well slept participants throughout the day! But then, you could make a sunny chirpy Wednesday your Sunday. While all your housemates are at work, you may be painting away to glory! But then, yes, you may have to deal with Thursday morning blues!

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