Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic decline, I wasn’t able to get a research position for after my PhD. I’ll be starting as a patent examiner in August. My preference would have been to work in a research position for 5 to 15 years before retiring early and then doing whatever research I want to. While I will continue looking for research positions, given the current state of the economy, I recognize I might be in this job for years.
Consequently, I’m looking for best practices if one wants to conduct research on the side while working at a full time job. Several people at this forum are probably in a similar position and can offer advice based on their experience.
Here’s an outline of my current plan:
The most important thing may be to scale back my research goals. My time now is fairly limited, so I’m planning on having only two projects until next year. (Might be a good idea to limit your number of active projects anyway!)
Once I’m able to, I’ll switch to the “4/10 plan”, a work schedule that has four 10-hour days per week. I find that I work best if I dedicate an entire day to a particular task. This will allow me to dedicate 1-3 days per week to research rather than 1-2.
The USPTO actually offers a fair amount of time off (26 days of my choice per year for new employees, plus 10 federal holidays). I’m planning to use this time to attend conferences, visit collaborators, and otherwise do research. Overall, in combination with the 4/10 work schedule, I’ll have 180 days without work per year (vs. 128 if I work a conventional 5 day/week schedule).
I’m planning my schedule to save as much time as possible. E.g., I’ve long been a fan of commuting by bike as a way to get exercise in an otherwise unproductive time. By using parallelism, batching, and planning one could save a fair amount of time in the long run.
I’m at an age where many people start having kids. I’ve decided to forgo this as I can’t justify the time expenses.
Above I wrote about plans in terms of time management, but I suspect that managing my motivation is going to be similarly important. A major concern of mine is that working 40 hours a week is going to tire me out and make me not feel like doing research. I’m not sure exactly how to handle this aside from giving myself adequate rest.
Any advice or experiences are welcome.