I believe in weekends.
Recently, all of the students working in my lab have been obsessed with the question of working weekends. Every single one of them has asked me if I work weekends. My answer is ambiguous: no and yes. During my graduate student days, I struggled with this issue. Sometimes I enjoyed working weekends. The lab was quiet and peaceful, I could sit and ponder my data, I could think about which experiments I wanted to do next, and I could leave whenever I felt ready to go home. There was a certain freedom to it that I liked. But I also found that the more I worked weekends, the less I pushed myself to get my work done Monday to Friday. Tasks stretched themselves to fill the time I allowed them to occupy. I was less efficient, even though I was spending more time in the lab. And over time, I wanted to spend fewer weekends in the lab and more time having fun. I wanted to be more efficient so I could have a life—and be a successful scientist. For my happiness, I needed to believe that I could do both.
My answer now to the working weekend is this: if I work on the weekends, I work from home. I try NOT to be in the lab on the weekends unless it’s essential (and sometimes it is). As a postdoc, I feel it is more important than ever to make time to read scientific papers, so that is my weekend work. I love to read on my blue couch. I’ve even made myself a little star chart to track the number of papers I’m reading each week. My goal is to read three papers; most weeks I read two. That’s a big improvement over zero! I didn’t read enough as a graduate student, and it’s a habit that I want to remedy.
The most important thing that I do to keep up my momentum in the lab is that one day a week, I don’t do any work at all. Perhaps it sounds lazy, but for me it’s the perfect balance. It encourages me to push myself hard because I know that I will give myself time to rest. I need the fire under my bottom to keep me moving, but without a day to relax, I’ll just burn to a crisp. I really want this postdoc to be my steppingstone to a faculty position, which means I’m in it for the long haul—probably a minimum of four years. I’ve got to make it work for me.
So like I said, I believe in weekends. Especially weekends that come on the heels of a difficult week in the lab. I deserve a good weekend. This one feels wide open to me, big enough for me to stretch my legs and wiggle my toes. Big enough for a good yawn and a catnap on the couch, before or after reading Matt’s book or Nigel Slater’s the kitchen diaries or even the section about making grits in Passionate Vegetarian. All of these things sound good to me!
Here’s a happy list of other items from my weekend plans:
* I have a phone date with my lovely friend Nicole, whom I miss very much and with whom I didn’t get to visit much last time we saw each other. She’s a gem and I’m excited to catch up with her.
* Pancakes! I’ve been thinking about making pancakes for weeks now. I love the sound of this recipe from 3191 Miles Apart. Spelt flour and whole oat flour! Yum! Plus I’ve got almost a cup of homemade citrus syrup left over from making Daine’s Yogurt Cake a few weeks ago, and I have a feeling the syrup will make a stellar pancake sauce.
* I yielded to temptation and slipped a copy of February’s Bon Appetit into my grocery cart last weekend. There are easily ten recipes I want to trot into my kitchen from this issue, but I’m intrigued by one in particular, Easy Chicken Masala. In this recipe, the chicken is marinated in a whole-milk yogurt sauce spiked with cilantro and garam masala, then it’s roasted over a bed of onion slices. I’m so curious to see if the same technique will work with chickpeas that I’m ready to draw up my grocery list for tomorrow night’s dinner.
Happy weekend to you, dear readers! I hope it’s a good one.