I Don’t Have an Eight Hour Workday

I Don't Have an Eight Hour Workday | New Faculty

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I can’t remember the last time I worked eight hours. I don’t think I can. Eight solid hours of productivity at least. My brain just won’t do it. And neither does yours. Hours of monotonous screen time isn’t natural & forcing yourself to think it is is foolish beyond measure.

Think hard. Challenge yourself. How long are you productive in spurts? How often do you break? Working fewer hours leads to efficiency for me. Are there still some long days? Of course. But rarely are they days of continual work. Breaks, food, meetings, trudging back across campus, those moments all add up.

Accepting I just can’t do long days has helped me be more efficient w my time and maximize my productivity the hours I do work. The Atlantic ran a nice article about the European way of life, taking 31 days off a year and doesn’t that sound glorious? Inside Higher Ed ran a nice post too about maximizing time, minimizing the “busy” game (which we all know I loathe). And then Fast Company came out with a great article about how much time our brains can sustain continual work: 52 min. (average). Validation?

“A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work.” Rather, “the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.”

I try to stay on some type of schedule. I realize it’s easier because it’s just me right now in my life, but still, finding anything that resembles work life balance isn’t really a reality for me. I still check email at home and on weekends. I still do personal tasks at work. It’s a gentle push/pull kind of relationship that I’ll always be navigating, always be adjusting depending on my life and my work. I don’t have any notions of this stopping, technology has made us all more fluid in our work. I think the key is knowing when to say no, just like nancy reagan told us in the 80’s.

Grad school guilt left the building some time ago and I’ve tried to quit working on weekends in general. My idea of a good time isn’t working on a manuscript on Saturday. It happens from time-to-time, particularly when a deadline looms, but for the most part, organizing myself on Sunday evening sets me up to be more successful M-F. The idea of down time is luxurious and feels very guilty still, but I’m learning that if I don’t take a break and switch it up, I’m totally useless.

In the age of the “busy contest,” the only people in my life who get to pull that card are my parents who have an additional 150 cows and calves to feed, 500+ acres of land to look after, and the countless other tasks that come with it. They take their down time too. They vacation several times a year, have enough help (which is wonderful) so they can sleep in at least once a week, and are taking day trips to ease the pressure. Simply breaking up the routine can be refreshing as long as the cows are fed and the hay is harvested.

I know the semester is now in full swing and on days when I can, I’m giving myself the gift of going home, swimming laps in the campus pool, and enjoying some more reading when I can that isn’t related to work or research.

You can call me selfish, I’ll call it self care and self preservation. In order to thrive, I’m going to need some down time and so are you.

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