Dr chloe warren is a communications professional. she finds it tricky to communicate what that means, but this in no way reflects how great she is at communicating. probably.

Competitive Busy-ness

I am flying home to stay with my family.

Naturally, it coincides with a conference (that's the life of an academic). I have decided to stay with my family from the end of the conference (late- November) until after Christmas. It was kind of annoying the way the dates worked out but I figured that I couldn't pass off the opportunity to go home, and I will have lots of writing up to be doing, so being away from the lab shouldn't affect my progress.

When I tell people I am going home for two months, in short: they don't make me feel great about myself.

"Haha, alright for some!"

"How do you get away with it?"

"I didn't take a holiday for 4 years when I was doing my PhD!"

They make me feel guilty. Which is ridiculous...I will still be working for the majority of time when I am at home. I know I will be OK. My supervisor knows I will be OK. I guess one thing I need to get over is giving a crap about what people think (unless of course those people are people whose opinions ACTUALLY matter).

But another thing this made me think about was the concept of competitive busy-ness. Exaggerating how hard we work or how little time we take off, or even how stressed out we are, and playing these things against each other. It's a game we play with our...

...partners: "Today was insane, I haven't stopped to think..." / "YOUR day was insane, you should have been at my office!"

...friends: "Sorry, I've just been so flat out with X and Y, I haven't had the opportunity to call and catch up in so long!" / "Oh no, I'm just as bad, I've been crazy busy, I feel terrible."

...and our colleagues: "I can't wait to finish with this bloody X." / "Oh tell me about it, I have piles of Y to do and it's going to take up so much time."

All this roughly translates as: "I AM JUSTIFYING MY EXISTENCE BY ACCENTUATING MY RESPONSIBILITIES AND THINGS I HAVE TO DO." It's a really unhealthy and depressing habit to get stuck into. It's also a pretty dangerous game to play with yourself.

It's quite easy to get stuck into though, and I found myself doing it this week. I have lots of data to gather for an upcoming deadline so I was coming into the lab early and leaving late. Towards the end of the day, my brain was frazzled and I took twice as long to do things as I had to keep fixing up my mistakes. I would go home, tired and grumpy, but come in and do the same thing the next day, because on some weird level, it felt good to be run-down and flustered. It meant I had got the most out of my day. I must have done, right? A 10 hour day HAS to be productive...?

In reality, I know that just coming in and having a thoroughly productive and focused 9-5 work day is 100% more effective and better for my well-being than working a scattered, depressing, 8-6 day. But at this stage in my research, it's easier to count hours than it is to count productivity, and thus count those hours as "justification tokens", just so I can feel good about myself. It's an addictive cycle.

I hope that I can learn to accept that the quality and quantity of work I can achieve in a "normal" work day is definitely acceptable, and I shouldn't try and out-compete myself if it only results in (and feeds) anxiety.



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