On life

Why being busy at work makes me happy

I know we’re all supposed to slow down, enjoy the little things, sit still, meditate and live in moment, but lately I’ve been busier than ever and this has worked wonders on me. In today’s blogpost I share five reasons why being busy at work makes me happy.

As some of you may know, I am a PhD student which means that for the past four years I’ve spent most of my time doing research at a university with a little bit of teaching every now and then (giving lectures, supervising students). This year however, I am starting a new contract and I am getting pretty busy at work (busier than ever). I am officially still a PhD student (until March 1st) but my new contract starts at the beginning of the new semester; which is now. This contract involves a lot more teaching responsibilities, which I was a little anxious about (to be honest). But, surprisingly, as the first weeks of the year have gone by my mood has lifted considerably. I am getting up earlier, working later but have more energy than ever. Here’s what happened and why.

1. More highs

Remember when I wrote about how happiness is related to positive stimulation? Life as a researcher is fun, but you spend a lot of time writing by yourself. The highs consist of your work being accepted to a journal or a conference, and that doesn’t happen too often (conference once or twice a year, a journal once a year if you’re lucky). Don’t get me wrong – these are great moments. I was recently accepted to present at a conference in San Diego and I am SO excited. But these are also rare moments. What I love about teaching lectures is the high you get when you stand in front of a room full of students who are all there to listen to YOU. I love talking about my research and the underlying theories; I know so much about it at this point. I am confident I can get the message across and I love knowing I have shared some of my knowledge with the students.

2. More interaction

Like I said – being a researcher can be lonely. You’re on your own little island reading, writing and doing analyses. Sometimes you may ask a colleague for help, but most of the time you’re on your own. The past few weeks have been so different for me. I’ve seen and spoken to more colleagues, worked together, asked for advice and, of course, I am teaching lectures. All these activities require interaction, either with my colleagues or my students, and I love it. The same goes for thesis supervision – this is much more one-on-one than teaching lectures and it’s so much fun to be able to guide someone through the final phase of their studies. The more I interact with people, the happier I am.

3. More practical work

Research can take a looooong time. I am pretty good at writing, but still: you need a lot of patience. It takes time to come up with a solid idea, think about how to go about researching it, actually collect data and then write it all down. The process of getting your stuff published takes even longer. What makes me happy is keeping busy with lots of smaller, practical things, like grading, teaching, and interacting with students. Also: a lecture lasts about two hours, and then you’re done. A paper is NEVER done. Ask any PhD student or researcher.

4. More versatility

It makes me happy to do many different things – as I am doing now. Teaching lectures, making assignments and grading them, meeting up with students and finishing my thesis. It’s the combination of all these different things (and blogging of course!) that makes me so happy these days. I am busier than ever – I even have two whiteboards, one for my work at the university and one at home – for blogging. Although I am so busy, I am also full of energy and I feel inspired all the time.

5. It’s so rewarding

I have a lot of things to do right now, which also means that on a typical day I am crossing many things off my list. These may be small things, such as responding to emails, creating the course manual, finishing my slides, writing an introduction… But it’s a lot of different things and finishing these small tasks feels SO GOOD. If I spend my day writing an article, I may write a few pages (or a few lines) or simply spend the day reading. No matter what it is, it never feels like I’m doing enough. Right now I am doing so many different things that there’s always something I can get done. Also: there’s nothing more rewarding than realizing you actually have a lot of expertise to share with others. I’ve realized I have actually learned something over the past years and I can now pass that on to my students. I love it – it feels great.

So my ‘advice’ is basically to keep busy. Busy with work, or with other things you love to do. Do something that gives you energy, adrenaline and fulfilment. Do things that are a little scary – those are the most rewarding. You never know what might happen – you may be happier than ever before. It’s a risk worth taking!

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