Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Work/life balance?

Sent an email to my adviser that I'm co-authoring a paper with...I was supposed to have a lit review drafted by tomorrow but have only read about half the articles and haven't started writing at all. So I sent her an email asking if we can delay our meeting until next week, and said something like "I had some personal family issues last week (not to get into too many gory details but my mother just disowned me for marrying someone not Jewish and I spent a few days wallowing in misery and not getting work done). I've read most of the articles, but I don't think I will be able to write up a good draft before tomorrow. Can we meet next week instead?"

Anyways, I feel really crappy about myself. Like I'm using my mom as an excuse for being a terrible procrastinator, and that I'm letting this prof down, that she's going to think I suck, and I'm unprofessional. She hasn't written back yet and I'm terrified she will say something like "you use excuse after excuse, clearly you don't want to work on this paper, co-authorship OVER." And why do I let my mom affect me so much anyways, it's not like I didn't see this coming?

But it is true..I spent like 3 days last week not working (much) and just being preoccupied with what I was going to write back to my mom, and as a result I spent all weekend catching up on other work that I let slide last week, and never worked on this paper at all until yesterday. And I worked all day yesterday and today, and after 10 hours in my office today, I just couldn't do it anymore.

I haven't had a day completely off (no work at all), including weekends, in at least a month. And my work load is just getting heavier, as I have several deadlines coming up- a conference presentation in late march that I've barely started the research for, another one in late April based on this project, a book review for 2 books I haven't read yet due to journal editors april 4th, and a book and a paper a week for my feminist theory course (that I refuse to drop because the prof just offered to try and help me get a press release for my latest article, in addition to how useful all this stuff is to my research). On top of wedding planning, dealing with a new dog, and attending the other really useful class I'm auditing (at least that doesn't have a lot of reading). ARGH! I'm barely getting by, and constantly feel guilty for slacking off whenever I take a minute to myself. And now I'm not getting by, since when actual life interfered I stopped working for 5 minutes and missed a deadline.

Meanwhile, why do I feel so horrible about myself when I show my adviser how not-perfect I actually am? Since sending that email I've been downright depressed. :(


  1. youre so hard on yourself...
    did you know that depressed symptoms have an evolutionary advantage? yup they help us disengage from goals. it sounds like you have way too much on your plate and your body/mind is making you feel crappy so you can make choices and reallocate your resources to those goals that are most important/attainable at this point in time. grieving and dealing with your personal situation is a big deal, dont underestimate it.

  2. It is a fact: a heavy thing as your mother "disowning" you is very hard to swallow. I got an administrative backlog of 18 months for similar reasons. It just works on your mind, and you cannot take it off.

    On the other hand, working itself helps against it. So here you are with a vertuous/vicious circle: brood about it/cannot work/don't get thought off/brood about it.

    I suggest you take your appointment, even though you did not do the amount of work required, because your advisor is your anchor that can lead you out of this circle. It's difficult to do it on your own. The more people you have to help you the less time you are left brooding. It's only in contact with other people that you can focus your thoughts on something else. Alone, it is too hard (at least for me).

  3. you know what i'd say to myself? i'd say welp...time to get on it. Im embarrassed and down because I cant get to everything perfectly but now Im embarrassed and down because I told someone about it. Being embarrassed and down about being embarrassed and down wont make it any better so time so pack it all up and get a move on! Time to get to work.

  4. My experience in academia (15 years since I got my PhD) is that there are hard deadlines and very soft ones. Classes, conferences, committee meetings, grant applications are hard deadlines and most other things (including writing referee reports for journals and book reviews) is flexible. So I wouldn't worry too much about taking extra time on things like writing a paper with some one. The nature of research anyway is that it's very unpredictable how much time it's going to take.

  5. yeah the problem is too many hard deadlines at the same time (and the book review has a hard deadline too, because they want to publish it in a specific issue of the journal). At this point I"ve already blown off all the soft deadlines I can...just focusing on the stuff that NEEDS to get done before the wedding, leaving other stuff (like revising 2 papers that are nearly finished and sending them out to journals) until the summer.

    My adviser responded that there would be no problem at all delaying the meeting by a week. I'm going to spend the next few days trying to dig myself out of this hole...

    and yes, I know I'm too hard on myself, but that has the evolutionary advantage of motivating me to finish work when I have no boss and only self imposed deadlines. :)

  6. For future reference, I don't think it's necessary to be so specific about the personal things in your life that might hamper your work performance ( unless you happen to be close to the colleague or boss you need to explain things to). A simple "Having family/personal issues" usually suffices.

  7. I've been working with this prof for almost 4 years...but yeah I was going to just leave it as "personal family issues" but that seemed too vague/lame.

  8. I don't think it's lame. It explains the situation, but it prevents the other party from feeling awkward. But, again, that's with people you're not really close with, etc.

  9. Hey it only gets more complicated. You have it easy now, wait till you have to balance a career (with hard deadlines ...) and a family.

    Maybe some of the posters are right, get some counseling.

  10. AE,

    It's your Yiddishe neshama crying out in pain.

  11. Aww, AE, it sounds really tough over there. :(
    I do think you're being way too hard on yourself though. Imagine if someone else was feeling this way, and asked you if you thought that they were overreacting to all of this crazy stress and pressure in his/her life, would you still push them this hard?
    My advice: don't murder yourself, take things one by one as much as possible, focus as much as you can without killing yourself over it, and remember that your adviser is human, too.
    Love that last comment about your yiddishe neshama. How do we know it's not your Christian soul crying out for Jesus Christ desperately? ;)

  12. Because the Christian soul has no need to be in pain.

  13. I'm rooting for you. ("You can do it!") Besides, this shit will control you, if you let it weigh you down. Take a few minutes to be overwhelmed, then break it down into manageable pieces and rock it. :)

  14. I think you're being WAY too hard on yourself. And probably harder than anyone else would be too! Don't underestimate the effect that family trauma like this can have on people ... And it IS trauma. Cut yourself some slack.

    Then dissect everything you need to do into wee pieces, and get cracking. Remember, the best way to eat an elephant is in small chunks!

    Hope you get out of this slump you're in soon :-)


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