Out of emergency mode

May 4th, 2010

All of my Great Big Projects at Harvard wrapped up last week, and I’ve been catching up on the rest of my life, including sleep, ever since.

When you’re in the throes of a major project — at home or at the office — do you like to immerse yourself in it completely, or maintain some semblance of balance? In graduate school, when working on final papers or take-home exams, I would let papers pile up in my study, live on snack food and coffee, and generally get very wild-eyed about things. Gradually, I came to prefer a more balanced approach. Even when I was working on my dissertation, I would put away the papers at the end of the day and straighten up. And even on days when I’d be writing at home all day, I still bothered to brush my hair.

How are you? Do you like to plunge full in and re-emerge some days or weeks later, covered with insight, exhaustion, and Doritos crumbs? Or do you prefer, even when working hard, to try to live a somewhat balanced life?


4 Responses to “Out of emergency mode”

  1. veronica on May 4, 2010 10:28 am

    I try to lead a balanced life when things go cuckoo bananas…last May I was doing finals and packing up my apartment before moving back to New England from Brooklyn (worst decision ever, but that’s another story), and I FORCED myself to see Star Trek in IMAX on the upper west side.

    The past 2 weeks at work were bonkers, especially last week. And because I’m a residential case manager for 15 people (which is a small but taxing caseload), my method of achieving balance was staying home on Friday watching episodes of Bones all night long by myself. When I’m emotionally drained because of people, I need to isolate from time to time. People who sit at desks all day are baffled as to why my ideal Friday rarely involves going to the bar….

  2. KellyK on May 4, 2010 10:43 am

    I like some balance, but I tend to jettison things that aren’t essential. If laundry piles up and I live on pizza (or now that I’m married, pizza or whatever hubby feels like making), no big deal. I kind of trust that it will balance out when the crunch ends.

    Getting some actual fun is more important to me balance-wise, I think. If I go too long without playing a computer game, reading a book, or just hanging out with friends BSing, I go a little nuts.

  3. Jessica on May 4, 2010 11:56 am

    I actually just finished my Ph.D last fall, and FORCING myself to keep balance made me sane. I wrote my dissertation, finished the experiments for a paper, and managed to not entirely hermit myself. It helped that I had a fiance to make dinner when I was feeling taxed. Accomplishing this has converted me into less of a procrastinator, which I think is the reason I “immerse” myself in the first place. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep a good balance in the future.

  4. Traveling Professor on May 6, 2010 3:08 pm

    A friend in grad school advised me: set a pace which you can maintain. I now tell students over and over the same thing: you’re not racing for a finish line (such as getting the Ph.D.) after which you’ll slow down and live normally — because there’s always a new finish line, so live normally now.

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