Work Life Balance

Work Life Balance

As my first semester of grad school plods along, I’m thinking a lot on “Why am I doing this?”. I have friends making their careers and families as hair stylists, teachers, marine educators and the list goes on. What is compelling me to stay here for long nights and early mornings and do I agree with the system I’m participating in?

Let me start off with the idea that I like research, but I don’t like the constant undulation of stress that comes with trying to do classes and research. That part is a struggle and it has me longing for summer days. So on the basis that I actually like some of what I do, what kinds of hours is ethical to expect of grad students?

I know this is a controversial topic that some countries think school should be everything and some professors recall the numerous all nighters they pulled in pursuit of their PhD, but is this reasonable? I mean in the US we have the 40 hour work week ( which is itself on the higher spectrum of work weeks) but grad school seemingly ignores this. If you take the 13 hours of class I’m in and then multiply by 3 with the idea you do 3 hours of work outside class for every hour you are in. And then you add 20 hrs of research a week. You’re at a 59 hour work week, which is a lot. I like what I’ve been doing in grad school so far and I’m excited to actually get involved in research projects but I do find myself asking am I living to work or working to live?

I’m sure ideally you find a balance of both and its definitely possible. Many people get graduate degrees. I just wonder if its reasonable and what is the alternative? Right now I spend most of my waking energy researching and doing homework and while I could do more on the weekends, the long weeks make weekends a much needed respite. I’m sure I’ll get used to it but I do sometimes think of the expectation that is set and if it is something I would want for others. I’m also not sure of the alternative because I believe that getting a PhD should be a lot of work. Its not clear to me, but it is something I think about when I see a lot of undergrads walking to their cars starting at around 2pm.


4 Responses

  1. oh Ishi. Literally why I am so depressed and over graduate school. Killing ourselves for what? There is absolutely no type of work balance in graduate school and eventually students burn out or lose their desire to continue doing what they were once passionate about. It's like selling our soul for nothing. For an assistantship check that leaves me eating noodles and pb&j. Only the tough and strong survive, but at the expense of their ethical beliefs, or maybe they never had one. So much is expected and the only return has been crying my eyes out wondering why I can't find happiness in such an "ideal" situation.

    I feel your frustration. Stay focused. Stay motivated. Great things will come out of your struggle.

  2. Anonymous says:

    That's really a topic close to our lives. I always messed up with my timetable and got myself into trouble. Normally I should finished it earlier but social media, chatting with others distracts me. You make me think about my current life that we should be "ethical" to our physical body as it the worker for our mind.
    I think in next step I should try to set a certain time everyday when I am not working, I feel that real relaxation can boost brain and enhance efficiency.

  3. Matt B says:

    I think work life balance is a touchy subject that often gets thought about, but its ignored… and not just by graduate students but our advisers as well. I personally, find the 20 hours a week notion laughable. My average sampling is a 20 hour process when you factor in 10 hours for driving, 4 for collection, and 6-8 for processing. I guess I am done for the week, right?

    Personally, I find 60 hours the norm (without even feeling I get a lot done) and wish I could get down to 50 or 40. I agree that it should be hard, and it should require a lot, but I think the balance between work and life is often thrown to the wayside because there is no alternative.

    If everyone works 50-70 hours a week and you don't you will fall behind, disappoint your advisers, and ultimately fail to standout after you graduate. We (as graduate students) are graded on a scale that is created by those we work with, so to grade out well you have to keep up.

  4. Jessie Donati says:

    I struggle with this a lot as well. It seemed that all of my friends started working directly after undergrad, are moving into their apartments, and having fun in the city on the weekends….yet here I am, constantly doing homework and studying. I am not doing research, but I am taking 17 credit hours and I definitely feel that I spend every waking hour of my life doing assignments or studying. I can see why you have conflicting views on the level of difficulty necessary to earn a PhD. It certainly shouldn't be an easy task, otherwise everyone would do it and it would become meaningless…but you should never have to sacrifice your sleep and well-being in the name of school. That is an unrealistic expectation and I do believe that it is unethical. There needs to be a limit to the number of hours a week students are expected to dedicate to schoolwork.

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