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I am not sure I can solve the bigger issue, but there are habits we can build that enable us to guard our time and foster a healthy life. Research suggests that looking at computer screens in the evening can have detrimental effects on one's sleep. Knowing this, and being philosophers, we just do not use computers after 8:00. This serves two purpose. We limit work, and we get a good night's sleep.


I always go to bed with my computer screen in front of me - and I have no problem sleeping, hence, I am kind of skeptical of that often repeated claim. But before answering the question, maybe we should stop and think why we ask it so often. In many respects being a philosophy professor is unlike many other careers. You forgo basically all of your 20s for the chance of a career that does not pay particularly well, and that is if you are lucky enough to get a career. Those who go into philosophy are passionate about it in a unique way. By unique I do not mean no other people are passionate about their careers like this, but just that philosophy is on the far end of the spectrum of passion. I see nothing wrong, in principle, with devoting most of your time, including your "spare time" to one's career. That is a life choice, and one not everyone would want to make, but if you do want to make it there is nothing wrong with that, in itself. Now some people say you are not as good of a philosopher if you do this. I'm not sure about this, but even if it was true, so what? No one is under an obligation to be the absolute best philosopher, or do everything possible in every respect to make yourself better. So if being a workaholic works in your life, don't worry about other people telling you to have work/life balance.

The above said, you might want to try to have more balance if any of the following things are true:

1.You are unhappy, and suspect overwork explains this.
2.You are not devoting enough time to family members or persons to whom you hold special obligations.
3.You have other passions that you really wish you were doing and that would likely make you a better person overall.

If any of the above are the case, you should probably devote less time to work. Not sure if there are any secrets to this, other than just committing to doing those other things. Lots of people seem to like working 9 to 5 Mon-Fri. So if that helps you then go ahead. I could never do that, and love working a completely random schedule. So do what works for you.

Trevor Hedberg

I'd be remiss not to mention the series of posts I have done here (spanning several years) on the topic of work-life balance. Here area couple notable entries:

Part 1 -- http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2012/05/balance1_6aspects.html
Part 5 -- http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2014/12/balance-series-part-5-avoiding-the-61-hour-work-week.html
Part 9 -- http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/blog/2017/11/balance-series-part-9-protecting-your-hobbies.html

Even after all the thought I've given this topic, I still think the single most important thing is getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep just makes everything else harder and less enjoyable.

Also, regarding the screen exposure point above, it is true that people can have their circadian rhythm disrupted by the blue light emitted by computer monitors and television screens, but there are apps for phones and computers that change the hue of the light so that this effect is avoided. Lamplight and candle light do not cause this effect, so light that is similar in color to those light sources should not make it harder to fall asleep. Here's a program I use that alters the color of my computer monitor at night: https://justgetflux.com/


There was a post linked here recently I thought that addressed this issue, but I cannot recall at the moment. For most of grad school (and before offspring) I did a pretty poor job looking back. Worked all the time, nights, weekends, etc. Lucky my partner didn't bolt lol. After my first child was born, I was teaching too much and (ostensibly) writing my dissertation, and completely flipped the other direction. And that didn't work because I was teaching too much, so I took a semester and summer off from teaching and wrote most of my diss in that time. Now on TT I do for the most part treat it as an 8-5, and that is very helpful for me. But, I still take advantage of the flexibility of the job. For instance, I work out or play basketball at lunch several days a week, and this also helps immensely with work-life balance. I stay in shape and I look forward to it. But then I need to make up that time, so I will either work a couple nights for a few hours after kids are in bed or (my now preferred method) I will get up early a couple mornings a week and put in a few extra hours that way. So keeping it 8-5 as much as possible and being sure to regularly exercise are two biggies for me.


That's a good point Paul. I am convinced by the studies that show mood and intellectual ability are greatly improved by regular exercise. So it is likely in everyone's (or most) philosophers interest to make time for this. Aristotle, Kant, and Plato were all well known for their regular exercise too.


What I have found works better than anything is making rules for myself. Coming out of my Master's and into my PhD I seriously compromised my mental health by overworking. After that experience I decided to make a set of rules for myself that would make sure that even when things get busy, I am looking after myself. I now do not allow myself to work on Saturdays. I can do anything on Saturday as long as it is not school work. Less strictly enforced but still regularly respected, I try to not work after 8pm on weekdays. I've found that having cut off times and enforced days off means that I get rest and time away from work but also I spend less time procrastinating or half working because I know that there is non-work time coming up.

I would also highly recommend limiting your screen time, especially when it comes to social media. There are apps that can help if you struggle like I do. I often feel much more rested and I am less tempted to spend time half-working if I find activities on my off time that don't involve my laptop.

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