I am lucky enough that my advisor is not a stickler for working on weekends. Nevertheless, I feel a certain amount of pressure (mostly self-inflicted) to go to lab on Saturday and Sunday. But, I rarely actually go.
At this stage in their careers (the “trying to finish my thesis work and get the hell of here” stage), most people spend the vast majority of their time in lab. This includes nights and weekends. And I think it helps them with their push to graduate. At least, it seems to from the outside, I can’t really say for certain. However, if I work that much, I start to become non-functional. I can continue to go to work, but I make a helluva lot more mistakes than if I only work 9-10 hours per day and don’t go in on the weekends. I don’t know if this is just the limit of my capabilities or directly due to burnout; it’s hard to say at this point.
This weekend, I spent a lot of time sitting in front of the TV watching episodes of Stargate (SG-1 and Atlantis) that my husband had taped for me (I don’t get the Sci-Fi Channel, but he does). I essentially became a hermit. I did some laundry, I left the apt. a couple of times to go to the store, but mostly, I stayed home with the shades down (it’s really hot out and I want to keep it as cool as possible inside). I didn’t even knit while I watched TV–I just vegged. And it felt great!
The last few weeks, I’ve had numerous personal things happening on the weekends so that even though I wasn’t in lab working, I was still on the go the whole time. I didn’t get a chance to relax at all. And I think my labwork suffered for it. Looking back, I see a bunch of mistakes I made that I don’t think would’ve happened if I had gotten the rest I needed. From this, I conclude:
There’s no way I can ever be a research scientist.
My PI spends a ton of time in his office. He’s there during the day, he’s there at night, he’s there during the weekend. So are most other professors. I don’t think this is simply because they are workaholics, I think it’s because this is what the field demands from you in order to be successful. Well, I just can’t do it. It’s not even that I won’t do it, or I don’t feel like doing it, or that I think it’s unreasonable (it is, though). I am simply incapable of spending that much time in lab.
It was a difficult realization to make, but the more I thought about it, the more I saw that such a life would kill me. And I wouldn’t be very good at it besides. At a certain point, my brain would just shut down and I’d make more mistakes and nothing would work right and I’d be frustrated and never publish and never get tenure. It’s too bad, too, because I think I am a good scientist.
I just lack the stamina for it.