One of the first things I was told by my supervisor was that I needed to strike a balance between academic work and life outside the lab. In short, I needed to make time for things I enjoy (and don’t get given large bits of paper for doing). On paper, it sounds easy: set aside time on evenings and weekends for “extracurricular” activities. In practice, it’s a lot harder…
Earlier this year, I thought I’d solved the problem: set aside weeknights for relaxing, Saturdays and Sundays for blogging, projects, and photography. Unfortunately, I overlooked two crucial factors: exhaustion and the spontaneity of life.
While I try to post every Sunday night, I missed last week’s post, as I was sleeping (which is what I should really be doing at 1:15 am on Monday, when this is being typed). The simple fact is, while I have been working shorter days during the week in a failed attempt to catch up on rest, I’m feeling lethargic, and generally a bit crabby. As a result, even if I’ve made time to do something, all I really want to do is lie back in my chair and fall asleep with a record on. Somewhere amongst the time to work, and the time to play, I should have taken the time to rest; without proper rest periods, it’s been difficult to work and infuriating to have fun.
Spontaneity is a mixed bag: exciting, disenchanting, welcome, and a pain in a particular part of the anatomy, all at once. Sometimes, even with the best laid plans, things go awry: the failed experiment that shouldn’t have failed, or the focusing error just as the bird flies away. Other times, though, it’s brilliant: bumping into the person you haven’t seen for a few years, or the fog lifting to reveal a spectacular view. It’s not something that can be planned for, but something that has to be allowed for, i.e. make time for the spontaneous.
It’s imperative to sanity that you make time for the things you enjoy outside of your work. However, striking the perfect balance isn’t a two way street between work and hobbies: life likes throwing curve balls, and supping energy. In making time for things, it’s important to allow time to recharge between activities, and time for the unexpected to occur (as it invariably does).
Personally, I’m still finding the perfect balance, and striving to dedicate a fair portion of it to photography. In the event I have a string of consecutive posts and photos that are exciting, you’ll know I succeeded.