As I said earlier in a blog entry, my schedule allows me to do nothing in the evening. I never plan to work after roughly 6pm everyday. This idea may seem absurd since graduate students, especially ones in a research program, are supposed to work until 11pm on a weekday. I heard about these schedules a lot here at Cornell. So why do I insist on doing nothing in the evening?
It’s about Deliberate Practice
For me, to concentrate on study for 6 hours per day is already an enormous challenge. If I work on logistic tasks like emails, meetings, phone calls, etc. then a 12-hour work day would be possible. But for doing creative works that require me to stretch my mind, to think hard and struggle for hours on end, I believe having a fixed schedule (9 to 5) is a good idea. With this schedule I can have time to recharge my energy and continue working hard the following day.
Again, I want to reiterate the point of deliberate practice. I’d rather push myself to exhaustion at 5pm than try to go home at midnight. I think many students just get the wrong idea. They commit to a huge number of working hours, believing more hours mean more effective. In other words, they do everything to ensure that they can leave work at 11pm. This lies the main issue: most students can stay late because they work with limited focus. I have seen many surfing webs, checking Facebook, chatting with colleagues for hours during the day. No wonder why many graduate students complain about having no work-life balance.
(I understand each research field is different. For a biology student that needs to work at the lab most of the time, it can be tough to have a fixed schedule.)
Learn to Relax
It is important to remember that even machines need periodic rest to function well. We also should relax to relieve stress, enjoy time with friends and above all, to be excited when coming to work the next morning. Unfortunately, in the current world of internet and social networks, people have both a hard time focusing and a hard time relaxing. We are overly attached to a screen these days, be it a TV, a laptop, or a smartphone. We forget about having the luxury of doing nothing. Sometimes, I just want to close my eyes, turn on some soothing music, and enjoy the moment.
During the 2015 Challenge, I found that the more time I spend without my computer, the better I feel. Next week I will share with you about my plan of learning to relax. You read it right. Let’s learn to relax.