Alex discusses how they struggled with overworking and stress while doing their PhD work. They explain how they started meditating between 25-minute work sessions, which helped them to focus better and catch mistakes. He also talks about how they switched from task-oriented scheduling to theme-oriented scheduling, which allowed for more flexibility. They used a large whiteboard and created a crude week layout, which included headings like “Before Work,” “Morning,” “Afternoon,” and “Evening,” and a column for each day of the week. Alex assigned themes like “PhD Work,” “Personal,” “Gym,” “Admin,” and “Cleaning,” and then assigned associated tasks to each theme. This approach allowed them to structure their day, while also providing flexibility to move things around as needed.

I realised quite quickly on returning to my PhD that it was immensely difficult to pull myself away from work when I was in the middle of trying to do a task or solve a problem. The “I can’t leave the problem until it is solved” feeling. As time went on, it would feel like I was getting closer to a solution, that I had laser focus, but in reality, I had tunnel vision. As time went on I became more and more stressed meaning my ability to solve the problem worsened. Further, if I went past the 25-minute mark, my stress levels would rise almost exponentially. It would potentially wipe me out for the day, or for a particularly frustrating problem, two. During which I would be limited to very simple tasks which would still feel quite painful to do. Meditating as a break in between 25 minute work sessions seemed to allow me to work for the full day.

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