Researcher Life: Of Work and Vacations

Before we start, my apologies for not having written in over 2 months. Another apology in advance for this post being really short. It has a simple message that doesn’t need too many words.

Since my last post 2 months back, I’ve been swarmed with work, then I had a week long summer school in Greece, followed obviously by a few more days vacationing (a welcome break)! Then I was back to work for a few weeks, had to take care of a million things, before I flew to India for another week long vacation. Then again there was a busy work period till right now, when I fell sick and had to stay in bed with my laptop!

You may wonder why I scheduled the last few months like this. Although research is flexible, some parts of it are not. Conferences and summer school are not scheduled by me. Data collection can be flexible, except when it is bound to certain time periods. You can only get human data when those human are free (school vacations in my case) and I sat in the lab and collected it. I mean dedicated data collection with no days off – not even weekends. This kind of data collection has taken the last 6 months of my PhD.

And of course hectic times at work may collide with vacations. This is actually very likely, because flexible or not, it’s very difficult for a researcher to have peak periods and not-peak periods. If it’s not data collection season, it’s probably conference season. If it’s not grant-writing season, it’s paper submission season. Or worst of all, the start of a new semester and new students eagerly waiting for supervision. Or semester vacation, when you can finally stop supervising and do your own analysis. Add to this personal stressors, life events, and just the stress of travel…there’s enough going on at any point in time.

I’m trying to keep this post to the point, and finish typing it before hot-soup-feel-great effects wear out.

This is what I’ve been up to since my last post

This is what my body was up to since my last post

Clearly, even though I had a good balance of vacation and heavy work, it missed routine. My body faced different mental states that had to be switched often enough. Of course, while the short vacations buffer the stress, they also come with a certain level of their own stress (travel, new bed, new air).

So yea, the message this post gives is easy enough- Turmoil at the moment, with next steps unsure, need to regain balance first.

If you’ve had a few months that look like the above – give it a rest. Try getting routine back. Go back to the weekly gym class you like, read a book, go to bed early. And if not, meh…your body will get the flu running around and make you do it anyways!

All these medicines I’m taking are motivating me to preach about what kinds of routines work for me in chaotic time. Here are the top 5 things I do to get back on track –

1. Wake up early and have a morning routine.
Ideally mine needs to include exercise. Nothing strenuous, just movement! And breakfast!

2. Listen to music!
I’ve always underrated the importance of Bollywood in my life – up until I started working in a foreign country. Nothing beats Bollywood music, to get a spring in your commute to work.

3. Go and attend a class I like!
Yoga, Zumba, hobbies you’re yet to discover.

4. Downtime.
Germans call it Auszeit, i.e., time taken out. I like this word because it doesn’t imply a down after an all day high. Most of us are charged all day and happy to just meet our sofa and TV in our ‘downtime’. Time taken out, is time literally taken, out from a busy day, for something relaxing. A few work-free hours before its bed time. A coffee/drink with close friends, a chilled dinner, a book in bed, painting…the list can go on and on.

5. Sleep. Eat.
I’m a cranky person when hungry or sleepy. I could still work, I just couldn’t be happy about it. Or you. Or him. Or me. Or the world. The world and everything in it is horrible, if I haven’t eaten or slept.
My point with this deep confession is – Know you’re rhythm. If you need 5 hours of sleep and can function all day, good for you! I’m sure you’ll reach success. If you are like me, need a good 8 hours of sleep and food at regular intervals to not be a monster to the people in your life, give that to yourself. You’ll still succeed!

Now, I’ve been told more hot food is waiting for me, followed by a cozy bed! See you in healthier times!

To know more about my life as a researcher, check out my previous posts 🙂
Supervising – insights into the supervision process, from both sides.
The Storm – a special, overwhelming period in researchers’ life
The Wait – preceding every storm
“I had Fun” – Why this line is so special to cognitive scientists.
Monday Morning Blues – A researcher’s monday morning blues come on any day! 😉
50 Shades of Research – Everything you will have to do…and more!
I have the…Moves? – Why this blog? 

To hear me talk about random things in a researcher’s brain, check out the ‘Researcher Rambling’ series: 
Science as its Biggest Stakeholder – a fact we often forget.
Researcher Like Thinking – How this profession has changed my thinking.

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