Is There Such a Thing as Work Life Balance Anymore?

Call it quits, go home! | new faculty

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It’s tough going home. There’s the never ending ‘to-do’ list, the bings and beeps of whatever phone you have attached to you, and the continual demands we place on ourselves. The technology we love, we also loathe because it makes us always aware that there’s someone or something that is pulling our attention.

How do you compartmentalize when you come home?

For me (and likely many of you), easier said than done. I’ve talked to a lot of faculty and people in the human race, and I think it’s something we struggle with, no matter our profession. With or without kids, with or without a partner, with or without pets, and other responsibilities pull our time (in both negative and positive ways) when we walk out of the door in the evening (or whatever wonky work schedule you keep).

Turn off the sounds. Turn off ALL THE NOISES!!!! No more bings and beeps after a certain hour or altogether. I turn off my email notification and have it “push manually” because I know I can’t handle the noise.

No answering. Email, texts, whatever. If it’s not urgent and it’s work related–it can wait until morning. There’s also a growing body of research on not doing email related tasks constantly because it causes burn out. I’d get on board with that research. I quit answering email after about 7 p.m. and NEVER ON THE WEEKENDS….EVER!!!!!! Unless I need to do so for Monday morning, I quit answering email. It was difficult, but I made myself not answer. Sometimes, I fall off my own wagon, but generally, I keep a pretty busy life on the weekends. I read the emails, assess, and usually close them for Monday morning.

Set clear boundaries. With yourself. With your students. With your people. It’s ok to tell your people/students that you don’t answer anything after 9 p.m. It’s ok to tell students it will take you a full 24-36 hours to return emails. It’s ok to tell everyone you ignore them on the weekends.

IT’S OK NOT TO FEEL GUILTY. say it again….breathe….repeat it again….

If you need help, get an accountability buddy. I know it sounds totally ridiculous, but it might help. Someone to celebrate. Someone to remind you of your purpose, someone to take the challenge with you. We all know misery loves company 🙂

Do something in the evenings that is more interesting than your work. Seriously. Many with kids will say that until bedtime, the most interesting thing is the kids (as it should be), while others join clubs, workout, have hobbies, etc… for a few hours a few nights a week. Giving the other half of your brain is also a nice reward for a hard days work.

I told myself that when I finished grad school, I was going to stop working on the weekends. I always felt as though work was looming in grad school and while it’s still there now, I don’t feel like I have to hunker down at ‘ye old mac’ every weekend. In fact, it’s one thing I have done successfully. I fall off the email wagon occasionally, particularly before an event or a deadline shows up but usually have no trouble getting back on. In my own experience, the less work I do on the weekends or evenings, the more productive and refreshed I feel come Monday or the next morning.

The decision to change and acknowledging that you’re in too deep is the first step. In grad school, I took one day per week and didn’t work. I called it “life stuff Sunday.” The day was reserved for life tasks: laundry, yoga (yes it’s a life task in my life), groceries, errands, etc… It didn’t always happen on Sunday’s but for the most part, one day a week was set aside to accomplish things that needed attention. After all, the Target call bot can only call 29847 times before the pharmacist actually calls and asks if you’re ever going to come and get that prescription.

Finally, there’s no change that happens over night (except the weather, those people are wrong 98% of the time). Start small. Say to yourself, I’m not going to answer emails for 24 hours and work up from there. Turn off the noises. You’ll find yourself so much happier. I turn off my ringer for better parts of a day, especially when I’m trying to write. You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to begin to ignore things (and people).

Making yourself too available might make you miserable but it doesn’t have too.

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