Depends what type (Masters or PhD) of degree you're pursuing, the department (I'm guessing the STEM sciences have to worry about not only
conducting and publishing good research, but also
with keeping up with the state of methodology and technical advances in their field, which is something most people in humanities and social sciences don't have to worry about as much
), what school/program you're in (I know some business schools are known for being more demanding than others, especially the ones near the top that impose their desire for top placements on their students), and what your goals after grad school are (work in industry, get a
job, get a placement at a top university, etc.).
For me, my discipline isn't as demanding as, say, my friends' in engineering or physics are. I enjoy a good amount of free time while still being on top of my work (enough so, at least, that I can have fun and even post on this forum and others without feeling too guilty). I know people who are in the life sciences that spend most of their waking hours on their bench, and the remaining ones reading and writing up manuscripts or grant proposals. The type of life/work balance is most definitely a spectrum and some concessions have to be made to reach the target ratio you desire. I'd love to get a top academic placement, but not at the cost of my ability to still enjoy myself (I love research, but I'm not uni-dimensional) and to eventually have a family. I very much treat my research as a job where I'll typically work around 50-60 hours on campus and in my office (more or less depending on what's on my plate), and then I go home or out and try to spend as little time thinking about work until the next day.
Anyway, I really feel this is something you learn by doing. As an undergrad, I modeled my schedule and responsibilities as the doctoral students in my labs did and it helped a lot in this weird first-year transition into an actual doctorate.
Also, a quick tidbit many of my advisors have told me over the years: if you're going to be an academic, having a family/kids only gets harder the longer you wait. People often discuss how difficult it is to raise a child during grad school, but imagine how hard it is when you're a junior faculty who has to not only do research, but teach classes, mentor students, attend and lead committees, perform other service-oriented duties for the school/field, and worry about getting tenure in a fixed amount of time. Most people, by the time they reach tenure, are already approaching 'middle age' (if you start out of undergrad at age 22, only take 5 years [if lucky] to finish your PhD, take 2 years for a post-doc [some fields, like mine, don't really have them], and 7 years for tenure [assuming you are granted it your first go-around], that's 14 years until you've secured a job at age 35; so falling back on the idea that you'll do it later when you have more time will only backfire.
Edited by Behavioral, 25 September 2011 - 07:01 AM.