Thursday, August 13, 2015

Q&A: Further exploring self-care in academia

After hosting Jenna's guest post on self-care in academia, I was contacted by John Elmes from the Times Higher Education who got interested in this topic. He asked me and Jenna a few additional questions, and used this material for a piece he published recently on THE.

As part of the Q&A series, I'm reproducing the short questions that John sent me, and their answers:

1.) Are Jenna’s experiences and recommendations (so far) similar to your own or friends’?

Yes. Even though I haven’t had any serious health problems during my PhD, I used to push myself a little extra before going on a holiday, and very often I’d be sick from exhaustion the first 2 – 3 days of my holiday, having to stay in bed with fever.
During the years of my PhD, I’ve experimented a lot trying to find out what works best for me, and what makes me productive for a long stretch of time. Jenna’s recommendations are similar to what turns out to work very well for me. While I have no fixed hours (I could for example work 6am – 8am from home, hit the gym, and then be in my office around 10:45am to prepare class and have office hours for my students), I do limit the total number of hours I work on a given week. Essentially, I plan and move blocks of time around so that I can fit work, exercise, sufficient sleep, running my blog, playing music, household chores, family time … all into my schedule.

2.) You have several in this series on self-care in academia, do you hope that these pieces of advice will help current PhD students from all over the global HE world, but also can be taken on into one’s further academic career?

I do really hope these pieces will help current PhD students and ECR who might be struggling with their workload, the pressure of academia, and juggling a number of tasks. I myself am also learning from these pieces and others’ perspectives on self-care, and adopting some of the advice and lessons of the guest writers into my weeks and months. Certainly, I think developing good practices for workflow and self-care during the PhD are beneficial for one’s further academic career, but every new step in an academic career brings new challenges. As organized as I was towards the end of my PhD, my first semester as an assistant professor was really really tough (teaching 3 new courses + research + service + admin + whatnot) and it took me time to adjust and make changes to my schedule and set new limits for myself to find a way to keep everything moving forward without depleting myself.

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