It’s 2 a.m. and I’d really love to be asleep…but instead I’m working on research. Finals are done (yay!), but the studying, term projects, grading for the lab sections that I’m teaching, and general end-of-semester brain-overload-distraction-sprees mean I’ve been slacking on the research front. I’m meeting with my advisor tomorrow and really need to have some results to show, so sleep is just going to have to wait!
I don’t really feel like this is unreasonable – after all, I *could* have worked harder to cram the research in last week (I only spent 65 hours between coursework, research, and teaching…and yea, 65 hours can be described as “only” in comparison to what I suspect other students are putting in), and a few late nights aren’t too bad. However, I have had some interesting chats lately with a few other grad friends regarding what a reasonable expectation for workload is. I think one of the most challenging issues is how to figure out a reasonable research workload while also enrolled in courses. If someone has a research assistantship, this issue becomes even stickier – after all, they are getting paid to do research.
Can a PI demand that one spend 50 hours a week on research if they are paying your for 20 hours? Should that expectation be lowered for a student taking 9+ credits of coursework? After all, part of the MS or PhD process IS taking courses – you can’t graduate without them, and it’s a nice bonus to actually have enough brain energy reserved to put in enough effort to retain some of the information. However, I think that the adulation of those who are willing and able to put in 80+ hour weeks skews the expectation to such a degree that grad students are easy prey for the “you’re not working enough” guilt trip. And PI’s are likely to truly believe what they say when the chastise an RA for spending too much time outside the lab.
I know that I sometimes feel overworked – I get tired of dealing with the endless barrage, I want to do something fun without the guilt, I want to hang out with my husband without checking obsessively checking my email, and sometimes I’d just like a few days off without the accompanying increase in anxiety. But then I look at my stipend (and tuition benefit – I’m one of the lucky ones!) and think about how incredibly privileged and blessed I am to have even gotten the opportunity to join the grad student ranks, and get payed for it (!!!) and suddenly the late nights and long days don’t look so unreasonable.
Am I being the obsessive workaholic that my husband accuses me of being, or am I a total slacker? I just don’t know…