Post # 1
How do you manage work/life balance? With all of the competing priorities, what has worked for you in terms of making sure you spend enough time with your family and friends? How have you overcome the challenges of balancing your personal and professional life?
Here’s my situation: Work/life balance is the bane of my existance. I’m a full time grad student with a competitive internship. I actively work in a volunteer capacity to gain experience in related industries. I also just took a research assistant position for a joint study with one of my city’s offices and my university. Additionally, I’m the chief domestic goddess (LOL) for my and FI’s home. I do reasonably well with carving out time to nurture myself and for quality time with FI. My other relationships? EPIC FAIL. I find myself missing out on events w/ friends and family, not having enough time to hang out and generally being unavailable. It sucks and I can’t seem to consistently do better.
I know part of the problem is that I am so focused on maximizing my opportunities for professional success that everything else is taking a back-seat. I am very cognizant of the fact that at present academia is a tight market. The supply exceeds demand and (in many cases) even those with experience, independent funding, publications, presentations, etc. are having a rough go of it. My field has connections to business, medicine, policy and education so in addition to advancing in my specific area I’ve tried to build relationships and get experience in these cross-over sectors in case I have to seek employment in a related field or in the private sector. It has worked quite well thus far, and I’ve been sought out and able to choose which internships and research assignments I want rather than waiting for assigned and unpaid positions like many members of my cohort. I will be graduating next spring and starting a PhD program the following fall. I’m worried that I will have an even more difficult time balancing my personal and professional life at that point. I deeply enjoy my work but I love my family and friends too. I want to thrive academically/professionally AND be active in the lives of my family and friends. So bees, how do you do manage to do it all? Please share your stories and advice!
*I know that in comparison to those who have children, full-time jobs and other obligations in addition to teaching/researching/graduate study my responsibilities may not seem that strenuous. I’m not trying to imply that I have the fullest plate in the kitchen.
Post # 2
- Wedding: August 2013 - Rocky Mountains USA
dulcevida: bumping for you – I know there are some academia bees on here. (Side note, this is the reason I stopped at a MS and went into government / private sector jobs… I value the rest of my life outside work too much!)
Post # 3
dulcevida: I am basically in the same position as a grad student right now, although I am working toward a professional degree in psychology. However, at my internship it seems like it never ends, everyone is always working overtime for professional development etc. It has me strongly considering doing a part time job when I have kids (I bet it will still be close to a 40 hour work week, but then I’ll actually have time with the kids!). Is going part time in academia something you would consider in order to make it work?
Post # 4
I got my PhD in neuroscience last year and I never really felt like the work/life balance was that difficult. I finished the master’s + PhD in 5 years and I only ever stayed in the lab past 8pm maybe a dozen times. I just kind of had the mindset that I would work hard, play hard, but I also stayed very focused on my projects and honestly didn’t go above and beyond what I had to do. I knew people who tried really hard to be super stars by volunteering for everything and giving themselves additional work, and they’re still in the program years longer than I was. I published a lot and got a post-doc at a prestigious university (I ended up quitting and going into industry, but that’s not really relevant), so it wasn’t like I was slacking or anything.
It was just really important to me to have dinner most nights with my now-husband and to have my “me” time. I would wake up by 6am, go running, do my email/grading/writing, run my experiments in the lab, do some more email/grading/writing and stop at night. I ran 7 marathons, went on trips, and planned my wedding, but I didn’t go out on week nights or know what happened on TV last night. I guess I just picked my priorities and did my thing.
What field are you in? I guess that may play a factor, and I think the funding thing does too. I was in a fully-funded program the whole time, so I never had to compete for funding. Is your PhD program funded? I think a lot of it is just what you make of it, and it’s going to be very hard to keep up like you are for another 4-5 years in a PhD program.
Post # 5
I didn’t have much w/l balance difficulty as a graduate student, but as a junior faculty member things are different. A lot of that has to do with the climate of my institution, and that’s the problem with trying to answer your question: it absolutely varies from institution to institution and department to department. I have junior colleagues in other departments at this same place who have good balance, and then there are those of us in other departments who are on anti-depressants and in therapy to help us cope with the fact that work completely overwhelms our lives.
Post # 6
lolot: Thank you for the bump! I also appreciate you sharing your experience. I have definitely considered the possibility of stopping when I complete the master’s and joining the private sector. Do you ever have any regrets about your decision?
nawella: My internship is very similar in terms of everyone always working overtime. Looking at their experience is one reason I have become so concerned about work/life balance because it seems that when I am finally finished with school things will remain just as time consuming. I would definitely consider working in academia part time, especially after I have children. Great suggestion, thank you!
RunnerBride13: It sounds like you totally rocked with setting your priorities and managing your time! You have given me a lot of ideas about changes I could make to improve my situation. I am not fully funded- I have partial funding but no stipend although that isn’t the reason I’m taking on so much. My previous education is in a related but different field. I have been trying to get as much experience as possible to catch up with my most competitive peers while also increasing opportunities for employment and funding for doctoral study. I totally agree that another 4-6 years of this would be untenable. Your post has given me great ideas for how to function and balance my time when I reach the next step.
MarriedToMyWork: Wow! Thank you for sharing your perspective and experience. I realize that depending on the climate things could be immeasurably worse than they are now. I don’t think I could handle a position that was so demanding or overwhelming. At that point, if finding balance was impossible I would go into industry.