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I am intrigued …

March 2, 2012

I am intrigued by the concept of a 9am-5pm job.  A pure 40 hour work week.  But it that possible as a graduate student?  Cal Newport did it as a PhD candidate (at MIT, of all places!).  I’m beginning to think I can do it, too.

I started by ruthlessly eliminating non-essential tasks–learning to say “no” to things and not feel bad about it.  I was also meticulous in setting up my schedule for this semester.  I set aside two afternoons a week for telework and spend one day on campus.  [My lab is located at a research park about 15 miles away from the main campus, which is great because I don’t have to buy a (way too expensive) parking pass; on the one day a week I need to be on campus, I’m able to use public transit from my home to the main campus.] Doing the math, that means I have a whole two days that I can dedicate solely to research.

So far, I have managed to be very productive using this schedule.  Labwork, data analysis, writing, reading, and studying have all coexisted peacefully and I haven’t felt the need to do much work at home.  This is good, because after I get home, it’s time to make and eat dinner, play for an hour or so with my daughter, and then put her to bed.  I then have about an hour (two, if I’m lucky) to myself before I go to bed.

The key to making this all work is focus.  I’ll admit it’s a learned skill but, like training for a running race, I’ve been able to build up endurance over time.

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