When’s the last time you took at day off? And by a day off, I mean actually spent an entire day not working on your research. Not answering emails about your research. Not reading papers related to your research. Not testing out a new theory on your research.
For me, this is actually kind of hard to answer. Because I generally am always thinking about my research, even when not directly working on it. As I sit on the bus, or go for a run, my mind often wanders to thoughts of my research and what ifs. What if I change parameter x to y instead of z? Or what if a is really more important then b and how can I test that? Even when I was on vacation this summer, I’d spend time jotting down notes when ideas would come up, so I wouldn’t forget about them later.
But, I also think this is the nature of research – it’s really hard to put it completely aside. Your mind will continue to churn away at the problem when you’re busy doing other things. That’s why we all seem to have those “ah ha” moments in the middle of the night, in the shower, or on a run.
I’ve been sort of taking today off. And I do mean sort of. I’ve still spent most of the day on my computer, although mostly not working. But I keep having moments of “but what if..” and I’ll switch over to my work, try something out, and then go back to ignoring it. And while, it may be small pieces of work, they are all necessary steps towards moving forward.