I said, "Oh don't worry - it's just a small side project I'm finishing up."
And he replied, "I figured. Everything you do is a side project. I don't think I've seen you do 10 hours of actual research in the year that I've been here. I mean, that's pretty impressive."
I think he was joking, and the other two people listening kind of chuckled, and so I smiled and just let it go.
But I'm not sure how to take that. I mean, ouch! I know I've done more than 10 hours in a year, obviously, but it's also true that he spends a lot more hours actually in lab than I have this summer. And yes, I work on a lot of side projects. (Sometimes I get stuck on them.) I have a lot of interests - I'm an RA, I'm an officer in a student club, I work on business ideas, I like to cook, I take exercise classes, I like going on random adventures. And, of course, I write this blog (although my labmates don't know that).
I've talked a little before about how I don't work weekends, and a lot of people do. I think all the things I do are part of a healthy, balanced life. I am happy with my life, I've tried really hard to position myself so I can advantage of a lot of opportunities.
And beside the point of how many hours I spend on actual research - if my advisor is happy with my progress, it really doesn't matter how long it takes me to do my work. The labmate who made the comment also will casually toss into conversation that "well last Saturday when I was in lab," or "on the holiday Monday when I was working on my project." In my experience, people like that who feel the need to brag about working long hours may not actually be getting any more done than I am.
That's why I love grad school, or working in a small company, and particularly dislike large structured workplaces. I like to be free to schedule my time how I see fit, not according to other people's expectations. When I've worked in large companies, people would judge you harshly on how many hours you were at your desk. People would talk about going in to work "just to show my face" even if they didn't have to do anything in particular. I think that's ridiculous. I like the entrepreneur model, where you work as many hours as it takes to get things done, whatever hours those may be, and then you stop.
That being said, I do want to graduate eventually. I do need to work on PhD related stuff. So perhaps I need to swing the pendulum back and focus a little bit.
How many hours do you spend on side projects or your own interests?