A handful of people have asked me about my daily and weekly work routine. Some people just want to know what philosophers do all day. Others — e.g., my fellow grad students — are looking for ways to impose structure on their work week. In this post, I will share three rules of thumb that have helped me be more productive and less stressed. I’ll organize the rules according to the (somewhat fictional) work/life distinction.
I treat philosophy like a 9-to-5 job. So I am in the office during those hours Monday through Friday. Most days I leave the office intermittently for classes, presentations, and meetings. But when I am in the office, I am reading, writing, running a study, analyzing data, preparing a presentation, grading, managing email, etc.
Rule 1: Don’t Work From Home
One of my rules of thumb is that I will not work from home. If I have to work, I try to go to campus. This helps me compartmentalize work-related thoughts and feelings. And that makes home more liberating — presumably because it’s not associated with thoughts and feelings about work.
Sometimes workload requires that I arrive a bit earlier than 9 and/or stay a bit later than 5. The two most common examples of this are when grading and writing deadlines overlap. And some days I leave the office to complete a chore that can only be completed when I would otherwise be in the office.
And although I have thoughts about my research while at home, I don’t typically give them much time and energy. If something particularly important occurs to me, then I send it to my work email address (which I check only at the office). So if I get work done at home, then it is usually unintentional.
After work, I exercise, go home, eat dinner with my spouse, hang out with my spouse, and/or do chores until bedtime. Since I relish going to bed early, I usually don’t have a lot of time between getting home and going to bed. I can usually only fit in dinner, some conversation, a TV show, and/or a chore before it’s time to settle into bed.
Rule 2: Don’t Work In The Evenings
Another rule of thumb is not working at night. During my first few years in grad school, I worked most evenings. But I eventually realized that continuing to work into the night accomplished produced so little and/or low-quality progress that it was not worth its opportunity costs.
There are three exceptions to this rule that come to mind. First, some weeks simply require more than just 40-50 hours of work. Second, some days I experience flow when I would usually end the workday. So those situations, I will keep working if my schedule allows. Third, sometimes work is scheduled in the evenings (e.g., classes, meetings, etc.).
Rule 3: Don’t Work On Weekends
The final rule of thumb is that I won’t work on weekends. The most common exception to this rule are conferences, which often occur on weekends.
On the weekends that I am not conferencing, I try to do three things. First, I go on a date with my spouse. About once a month we do a day-long date. Second, I do the chores for which I do not have enough time or energy on weeknights. Third, I try to rest. Rest can take many forms. For me resting means doing whatever I feel like when the rest period arrives. So I try not to make rest plans that I can’t change at will. When resting, I often do some combination of the following: a long walk, listen to podcasts, watch something, make something, or go shopping.
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