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Grad school time management: If you *must* work weekends, work on Sunday

When I was in graduate school, right about after my comprehensives, people told me that they were working 100 hours a week. Heck, I was told I needed to work 100 hours a week! There is no way in hell I can put in that much work, to be perfectly honest. While I know many people will shun the idea that academics can work only 40 hours a week and not overwork (which is an idea championed by Dr. Meghan Duffy, Dr. Sherri Rose and Dr. Tanya Golash Boza), I understand that there are times when we need to work beyond the normal workload. Finishing my doctoral dissertation required me to work well beyond 60 hours a week, and closer to 100. To do this, I also had to work on Sundays.

To-Do list handwritten

And YES, I know. I’m the one who champions NOT working on weekends and NOT overworking. I’m the one who advocates against glorifying busy. But I am also well aware that in graduate school, *sometimes* you need to put in a different kind of effort and you may need to work 6 days a week. When I was finishing up, my PhD advisor told me “DO NOT WORK AT LEAST 24 HOURS PER WEEK“. What he meant was, “take at least ONE day fully off“. I usually took Sundays off, so I played volleyball, had brunch with my brother, then spent time with my partner for the rest of the day.

UNTIL… I realized this practice left me really discombobulated because I had no plan for the week ahead. I was arriving to my office on campus and had to start the day off by creating a list of To-Do items. Which of course, took at least a solid hour of my morning and left me even more discombobulated.

So about two years before defending my PhD I changed my habits, and when I need to work 6 days a week I try to do this as well: If I must work on a weekend, I’ll work on the Sunday. The rationale for this is quite simple: I will be tired from the week on Friday, so I’ll need Friday night and Saturday to recover. I can spend Saturday with my parents, and have dinner with my friends on Saturday night. Then, Sunday I can easily have breakfast with my Mom and then drive up to Aguascalientes, land at my office on campus, and work for a few hours, get a few items off of my To-Do list, and head home at a relatively early time (usually I’m home by 5pm, when I arrive to campus at 1pm).

Everything Notebook and travel kit

If I work on a Sunday, I use the last few hours of the day (early night) to write my list of To-Do items in my Everything Notebook, my priorities, check my weekly and monthly calendars, and evaluate where I am. I also catch up on reading on a Sunday. If I try to do work on a Saturday, I know I will be exhausted from the week and my productivity will be very low. That’s why I recommend to my students and colleagues that, IF and only IF they must work on a weekend, they should do so on the Sunday.

Posted in academia, graduate school.

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