I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but ironically, I've been too busy working. In the last three days, I've logged about 25 hours doing field work on two different projects. Now, 25 hours is also the number of hours that I am paid to work each week. So, does that mean I'm done?
Working part time is making me much more conscious of my hours than I've ever been as a researcher. I come a lot closer to working my paid time and nothing more now than I ever did as a full-timer. Largely however, that's because my time is so limited by child-raising responsibilities. I've been working approximately half-days every day, but Minnow's daycare schedule and location give me only about 4 horus at work each day, which leaves me a couple hours short each week. (Add in a half-hour pumping break per half-day and I feel even more time-limited). The time costs associated with starting and stopping work also suck up a larger percentage of my work-week, leaving me even less time to get stuff done. I'm actually using a notebook to keep track of my work hours, so that I'll give myself credit for the few stolen evening hours (or conversely convince myself that I really do have to work at night). Most weeks I'm finding that I'm falling an hour or two or three short of my allotted 25, but the field work is more than compensating for that time.
I also find that I have to be much more organized than when I did research full time. I'm still juggling multiple projects, so I've got sections in my notebook for each project. At the end of each day I try to record what I've been doing and what the next steps need to be. I'm not doing lab work, so I don't have a lab notebook per se, but in effect I am keeping one anyway, just for my own records. Keeping the notebook is also (I think) spurring me to work more efficiently (I must have some progress to report each time!).
Finally, I am discovering that I have to be more realistic about timelines for getting things done. So far this has been the hardest thing because I have so many balls in the air and so little give in the schedule. I can't just pull an all-nighter or even stay an hour later at the office and weekends just mean full time mommying. Part of my pre-occupation with hours worked and recording my progress is because I know I will end up dropping something and missing a deadline. When that day comes, I want to be able to justify to myself (if not to my boss) why that happened. And if keeping notes helps me delay that ball-dropping day then it will have been even more worthwhile.
I'm really enjoying working part time for personal reasons, but I also think it is good training for me. The late-stage PhD and post-doc are really the only point in most academics' lives that research is a full-time occupation. Next year I'll be teaching too, and research will be squeezed in between grading papers and writing lectures (and raising a child). I won't even have the luxury of 5 half-days a week to work on research, yet the responsibilities will continue to grow. So in effect, my part-time post-doc is a relatively low pressure way for me to figure out strategies for maintaining research progress without getting to have it be an all-consuming affair. They say it can be done, now I've just got to figure out how to make it work for me.
As for whether I've fulfilled my work obligations for the week, the answer is yes and no. I'll probably work a little less each day this week, but I doubt I'll even take one day completely off. There's still a paper to review, analyses to complete, and revisions to undertake. And I'm sure there are other things needing to be done too, but those balls will just have to stay in the air a little longer. After all, I'm only working part-time.