December 02, 2004

So Tired

In an earlier post on long hours, I mentioned that I was going to keep track of my hours. So far, the average amount of time I've spent working per week just exceeds 60 hours. That doesn't count time internet browsing whilst munching a sandwich, or time spent blogging, only time spent actually working. That's 170% of a full-time job, by my reckoning.

Gail Kinman at the University of Luton, along with Fiona Jones, at University of Leeds, have put out another report examining the same issues looked at in the 1998 report Pressure Points. This new report Working to the Limit ­Stress and work-life balance in academic and academic-related employees in the UK (summary) shows that stress is still a big problem and overwork is institutionalised. This is certainly in accordance with my experience. I don't know how other people cope, especially if they have young children.

Last night was particularly bad. I finished preparing my lecture around 3am, and whilst wandering through the University buildings to start my journey home, got accosted by a student taking pity on me who was worried about why I was out and about so late, and thought I needed a lift home. I explained I'd just finished writing my lecture notes, and I'm not sure whether I then acquired "mad" or "hero" status! This was the worst of recent times though, I haven't had to work that late for a while. I've been consistently short of sleep all this week, and this morning in particular, it was a huge effort to drag myself into work in time to give that lecture. I felt so tired, so drained, so physically wanting to curl up and go to sleep.

But in the lecture theatre, something amazing happened... as I knew it would. Adrenalin arrived, and my tiredness went. I was transported into a world of explaining concepts to students who had never seen them before, and trying to get them to understand and see how amazing some of the algorithms were, and how they could be of real practical use in solving practical problems. They even laughed at a couple of jokes I managed to crack (I am not great at the whole jokes and camaraderie so this is something, for me). Now, post-lecture, I feel much better, and the dying rays of the sun shining across the frosty grass make me feel exhilarated. I feel alive.


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