Weekly patterns

Even though my weeks are rather unpredictable in terms of how other people hijack my schedule, there are still very predictable trends in how I feel or perceive the day every day of the week. My emotional or psychological state of being seems to closely follow the day of the week. I thought it would be good to write down how I have experienced my weekdays lately. I wonder if I read it back in a couple of months, I will find that anything has changed, or that it truly is a stable pattern.

During the current pandemic situation we have no child care for our 2 year-old son Rafa. He has been at home with us since last December. As you can imagine, with two parents working from home with an active toddler around, the real schedule includes many interruptions or extended periods of child care. Most meetings will include him – at least for some part of the time – and I have taught courses with him on my lap. I have grown to like it. He’s my favorite colleague. As a rule I take care of Rafa’s afternoon nap ritual, so that my wife Heike can make a solid afternoon shift while he sleeps. She takes up most of the care on some heavily loaded mornings, such as the Wednesdays and the Fridays. In other parts of the week we alternate our work time around Rafa, so that he always has full attention from one of his parents. He did not choose for any of this shit, and I will not allow this pandemic to affect his happiness. It’s a tough ride and we are often tired, but we have found a system that seems to work. Latest at 6PM, we shut down. For readability, I left these childish interruptions out of my schedule below – it is obviously simplified, but it does the trick. Consider any interruption by Rafa a spark of happiness, if you will. He keeps me going every day.

Here goes.

Monday: Mondays are the worst days. It seems that over the weekend my brain has convinced me that I suck at what I do. Almost like I have completely forgotten my state at the end of the previous week. On Sunday night I often lie awake, or I wake up unnecessarily early (and for no apparent reason than just to suffer inside my own brain). I usually have one of those horrible anxiety-filled early hours spent in the zone between sleep and awake state. On Monday mornings, I feel worse than on any other time of the week. Meetings on Monday mornings are useless, because I prefer to be my best self in meetings. This is never so on Mondays. Just leave me alone on Monday mornings. As the day progresses, I often notice that I actually remember quite some of the things I knew when I closed up shop for the weekend on the Friday before. Although the anxiety weakens over the day, it drains my energy. (People with anxiety problems will recognize this well) I understand very well how Monday has received its negative image. It’s just a fucking rotten day. Be better, Monday!

Tuesday: The second day of the week is usually a bit better than the first. I often remember first thing in the morning that I found back my forgotten skills somewhere by Monday afternoon. This makes me feel like less of an imposter and gives me a confidence boost. As a result, my Tuesdays are generally quite productive. People often want meetings on Tuesdays, too, so I have the feeling that Tuesday is a much-appreciated day for many academics out there.

Wednesday: Wasted Wednesday. After months of trying to find the best place for some of the fixed components in our weekly schedules, my colleagues and I have tried different formats. After trying several versions with meetings scheduled on different days, we have now decided for a Wednesday morning with a postdoc meeting, a chair group meeting, and a journal club, all in one morning. Any meeting breaks up my daily schedule, so I would rather have all these nicely clumped together, so it saves the rest of my week from departmental meetings. I squeeze in a moment to update our group Twitter account, and I top off the morning with my weekly Wednesday lunchtime session with my therapist. It seems like a good time to blow off some steam and try to understand why I feel unfit for anything. After having a very quick lunch upon my return home, I bring my son to bed, so I can finally start the real workday, usually around 2PM. The afternoons are good. It is like a mid-week celebration event. I try to keep it for writing, but you know how it goes. Might as well be three meetings. Or greenhouse work, as it was today.

Thursday: My Wednesday therapy sessions often provide me with a re-established perspective on the academic game. Full of inspiration and energy, I decide from pretty much every Thursday morning that from that moment on I will prioritize myself, say no more often, schedule breaks to cool down my overstimulated brain. I generally schedule a morning and afternoon block of writing, which I use for revising papers of working on manuscripts. In between these blocks, I have a lunch and bring my son to bed. Most Thursdays end up with at least one, but often several meetings breaking up my writing blocks. This makes me almost always feel unproductive and more frazzled than I wish to be.

Friday: This is without question my favorite work day. On Fridays Heike doesn’t work, which means that she takes up most of the care for Rafa, although I often still bring him to bed for his afternoon nap. For some reason nobody seems to work on Fridays, so no one wants to talk to me. This is bliss. Any of my academic writing in the past two years has probably been written on a Friday. At the end of any Friday I feel amazing. Productive. Energetic. I almost feel like working a bit in the weekend. (I don’t!) How can we generate more Fridays?

Saturday: We go outside whenever we can, preferably to some nice nature. Nature is healing. Sometimes this is combined with some shopping. I feel good.

Sunday: A replicate of Saturday, but without the shopping. Shopping on Sundays does not exist in Germany. I feel good, until I wake up again at night to start the weekly pattern all over.

Do other people recognize these patterns? Or is every day the same? What do you do to create the best week experience? I’d be happy to hear it in the comments below :)!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of one but almost two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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