Justifying your time

In assessing my mental state over the 8 months that I have been in this new postdoc position, I have observed a trend. It’s not good.
I spend a great deal of mental energy — from the time I drop off my kid at daycare to the time I pick him up — thinking about whether my time is being well spent. Primarily, imagining how frequently my boss entertains the idea that I am not worth the 15% of my salary that she pays for.
The goals of a postdoc position are not well defined. How you spend your time is pretty open ended. We are categorized as “exempt” under the Federal Standards of Labor Act. The singular unifying benchmark we have to assess our efforts is publication. So… there is a lot of wiggle room as to how work hours are spent, and what kind of work is done “after hours”.
I spend about 60% of my time in lab (over 8 months of failed or delayed experiments), 40% time in the fellowship training that pays my salary, and only work 40-45 hours a week. I find it challenging to justify how I juggle my time to a boss who expects people to be in the lab 110% of the work day and use extracurricular hours to fulfill professional development training.
Maybe it’s a desire to have a more professional framework to my work life, maybe it’s having started a family a year ago, or impostor syndrome, or maybe I’m just not cut out for this work environment anymore. But either my perspective or my work needs to change, because I now have enough data for an evidence-based conclusion: this trend is unhealthy.
How much energy do you use justifying how you spend your working hours? Do you ever even feel like your work hours are being wasted? Is this just me?

2 responses so far

  • Comradde PhysioProffe says:

    Perhaps what needs to change isn't you or your attitude, but rather your PI not being an egregious jerk trying to micromanage your time?

  • girlparts says:

    Sounds like maybe it's "over 8 months of failed or delayed experiments" that's stressing you out? When data are flowing, and papers are being submitted, I figure I'm doing things right. When I don't feel like I don't have anything to show for my efforts (rejected proposals, failed experiments), I worry I'm not working hard enough, even if that really isn't the problem. Do you have a backup project? Maybe there's something straightforward on which you can produce data while you work out the kinks on project frustrating. Or can you take a step back and think of a completely different approach to failed project; go around the problem instead of through it?

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