I stare glumly at my computer screen. I turn my head. In the distance I see a tall poplar against a clear blue sky.
I already know it’s going to be that kind of day. I knew it from the moment I entered the building. I worked half the weekend and I’m mentally tired now.
All I really want to do is to go home. And there’s nothing stopping me, actually. But I don’t, because I’ve only got six months to go and I’ve still got to…, I’ve still got to… Hmm, yes, what shall I do now actually?
I open Word. On some days I can write pretty well. This isn’t one of those days.
I open R. On some days I’m quite good at stats. This isn’t one of those days either.
Maybe I could help my student. She often needs help. Sigh. Not today.
OK then, let me record my activities in Pure, a programme that keeps track of researchers’ productivity. I always do this on these kinds of days. The higher my productivity is on Pure, the less I am doing. The system is unnecessarily complicated, so I’m busy for a while. But then I’m done. What now?
I’m just not up to any real work today. Not a problem in itself. I’m not a baker who needs to sell bread rolls right now. Nor a prison warder who must guard prisoners right now. I’m a PhD student. The only thing I’ve really got to do is write a book in the space of four years. What’s more I’ve still got 195 hours of holiday left this year.
That’s not how it feels. I would feel guilty if I went for a walk now and enjoyed the sunshine. So I work on and that is hard going at the moment.
Let’s hope tomorrow’s better. Not much chance though: it was a tiring day today.
Stijn van Gils (29) is doing doctoral research on ecosystem services in agriculture. Every month he describes his struggles with the scientific system.