Time and energy management: My take on work-life-balance

Today I talked about how I try to optimize my energy to work at my best as often as I can. You can rewatch the session here and read a brief summary below:

  1. A perfectly balanced day to day life is a lie! Stop reading internet posts like ‘These are 10 everyday habits among the most successful achievers’. These super successful people might do all of these things on their best days, but trust me: Nobody has their best day everyday. The sooner you accept that there will be more and less productive times, the better. It will save you a lot of frustration and feeling like a failure.
  2. The good news is: You CAN have a perfectly balanced life on a larger time scale. There will be busy times where you will have to pull these extra hours. But there will be slow times, where you can go home early (or take off for some days) and should not feel guilty about it. The best advice I ever got: Work hard when it goes well. And when it doesn’t, do the most necessary things and take care of yourself.
  3. A happy and healthy academic is a productive academic. Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to take a day off. When you are exhausted, you cannot work your best. Stop wasting your time being tired in the office without getting important work done.
  4. Sufficient daily sleep, reasonably healthy and regular meals, and regular exercise are the basis of being a functional human being. These 3 things are non-negotiable. You cannot go even a few days neglecting them without taking a hit in your productivity. If you want to be productive, these 3 things are your highest priority!
  5. Positive energy in, more productivity out. Downtime and relaxation are important, but make sure your private life is also filled with other activities which give you energy, purpose, confidence, and a social life outside of work. This is crucial for me to stay sane and keep in touch with reality.
  6. Don’t fall for the failure trap! If you take your projects too personal and things go wrong (and I promise they will eventually), you easily fall into the failure trap (failure trap = your project sucks >> your work sucks >> you suck as a researcher >> you suck). Having your self-value not solely dependent on your work success will prevent you from falling for this negative thinking and help you find solutions faster.
  7. If something worries you and distracts you from your work constantly, take care of it. NOW. If there is something draining your energy, get it out of the way.
  8. Forget the haters. There will always be people who think that being an academic means to be a cynical and miserable and they will make it their priority to remind everybody how much their job sucks, how underpaid they are, how desperate your future is, and how you should feel guilty for being a functional human being outside your job. Keep them on distance. Your job is to be the best person you can be. This will also make you a better researcher.
  9. Stop telling #youshouldbewriting jokes.



Published by

Dr Franziska Hartung

Cognitive neuroscientist researching how brains create meaning.

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