UW Graduate School

June 16, 2016

Is “Work/Life” Balance Attainable in Research Careers?

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Research has shown that happy people work more effectively, creatively, and collaboratively. It is worth fueling yourself outside work to keep yourself going in work.  Especially as we head into the summer months, think about what choices you can make about your time that will allow you to make the most out of the summer.  Can you go out for a hike or kayak after work (it is light until 9pm or later!)?  Can you take your family for a picnic or camping trip? Is there free outdoor music you want to hear?

There are ebbs and flows to any working life.  Times when a grant is due, for example, when you have to give up weekends (and maybe even sleep).  But these big pushes aren’t sustainable and a research career is a marathon.  You need to rebuild and sustain your energy, and recover your sleep.  Postdoc Elisa Lazzari (UCSD) wrote a blog on this topic: “Start asking yourself what would make your life better. What are the deal-breakers and what can you compromise on? …. Make a list of what things are the most important and honestly work out what you can go without. Chances are that to have an academic position you’ll have to compromise on your personal time, just like other high-profile professionals.” For the full blog post, see Can scientists really have work/life balance?

One other consideration: if you are doing what you love, you can fuel your passion and creative energy within work too.  There are many who resist using the idea of work/life “balance” as it implies those are two separate things.  If you can structure your working life such that it feeds your energy, then you have less need to get away.  It still is healthy to maintain perspective and give yourself distance from your work at times, no matter how immersive it is.  It will help you do better work in the long run – insights gained from a play you saw, or a conversation with a friend can help you move forward in unexpected ways in your research.  And it will help you be a better human too.

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Originally posted on June 16, 2016.


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