Tag Archives: time off

I Do What I Want

Doing What We Want | New Faculty

Thanksgiving was a different break for me this year. I typically take the whole week off and get in the car or on a plane as soon as I can and head to the north AKA: the motherland for a week of fun, cooking, seeing friends, eating like a boss, and wearing elastic waist band pants. This year: I didn’t go 35 miles in any direction and my couch and I reignited our longstanding and might I add, passionate relationship. I did rekindle my relationship with elastic waist pants when ever possible so I’m happy to at least be consistent. My family is celebrating at a different time due to a lot of planning and it was just easier since we’re geographically spread out now.

IT FELT AWESOME!!!

Doing What We Want | New Faculty

This fall tuckered me out. I’m sure that like you, the burn had never been stronger and my desire to melt into the cushions of comfort were insurmountable. I worked M/T but Wednesday….that day was mine. I told myself “you shalt do as little as possible and only things that you want to do” and I actually listened to myself for once.

I:

  • watched tv until 1 p.m.
  • worked on a new holiday wreath for my front door
  • ate a real breakfast
  • drank more coffee than I needed
  • played candy crush

And it was wonderful….

I did not answer email, do any work, fret over the things with which I cannot control, or much of anything work related on Wednesday or my break as a whole. I took the luxurious gift of time and did what I wanted for several days.

I spent Thanksgiving with friends. Not having to prepare a meal was a nice change and my pioneer woman green bean casserole was the only slaving over the stove I did all day. I finished my wreath. I played more candy crush.

Friday, I went to the mens basketball game. I love college basketball. Let me repeat: I LOVE college basketball. It’s my favorite.  I went to lunch with a friend of mine and I even gave into the hype and was at Walmart at 8 a.m. to get the amazing deal on the iphone. Yes, I gave into the commercialism because the price could NOT be beat…and I love it. Many thanks to the kind employees of the store who let all of us come back throughout the day to activate the phones instead of standing in the line because the computer terminals were all backed up. I went back after the game to no line and was out the door in less than an hour with a new phone and some groceries with my bangin’ gift card.

Saturday, I had a list of things I wanted to get done in preparation for my upcoming family meet up. Baking and some pre-cooking, decorating my house because I love Christmas, putting up my fresh mini tree, and finally: cleaning up the house. While the list is mundane, I find great satisfaction in tasks like this. The results are often immediate and there is no one trying to micromanage my productivity. I ended the day with a meal out with a friend and returned to my couch.

Sunday, my cognitive “nnnooooooooo!!!” began with yoga in the morning, food prep for the week, laundry, and the Hunger Games movie. I came home after that ready to shoot an arrow at the imaginary dome but decided against it and made a huge meatloaf that was supposed to be meatballs but was too lazy to roll meatballs.

Why do I share my days with you? Because we often struggle to find that balance of any sort due to technology and our own inner voice that says things like “work more, publish more, shouldn’t you be doing_____?” and we forget that we do have a life. Even if it’s time with our couch, loved ones, enjoying nature, reading a good book that’s not academic, sitting quietly for a few moments each day, and taking the time to take good care of our physical and mental selves, we neglect ourselves first.

I begrudgingly opened my email Sunday night and answered the ones I needed to in order to get my calendar in order for the week and those who were waiting on me. The town began to wake with the 30,000 students returning and the next two weeks will be a race to the finish.

I cannot be anything but thankful for a few days of respite from the grind, some quality quiet time, and most of all: doing what I wanted to do for a few days. While we have the luxury as academics to often create our own schedules and conduct our own research it still can feel stifling from time-to-time trying to live up to the expectations of our students, our departments, and our own expectations. For a few days at a time, it’s nice to have the luxury of only being accountable to ourselves, even if it becoming the queen of our couch and sweatpants.

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A 40 hour week-does it exist?

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I had a good chat with my mom the other day on the phone.  She asked how I was doing and I commented that now that data collection was over for the last few weeks of the semester, there were some loose ends to tie up, but I was lucky to be able to head home around 3-4 p.m. for a change of scenery.  Her reply: “you should get a second job.” ****sigh*****

I think in the communication I failed to mention that while I don’t work near as hard as my parents do, my dad is up around 4 a.m. to head to the barn to get the cows milked, my work doesn’t end just because I leave the office. I also failed to say that this ‘honeymoon’ was temporary, that I was just relishing in the fact that I wasn’t on the road until evening news time. This will last about one more day and then I’ll be back at it. It got me thinking though…..What if we only worked 40 hours a week in academia?  What if we could take vacation when we wanted/needed too? (outside of the teaching semesters) Wouldn’t that be GREAT?????  The article from Fast Company states that employees can be more productive when there’s not all that counting and allocating going on and the ones who take advantage of the system don’t stay with the company long.  Hmmmm, are they on to something here?

I saw read a blog post about something similar and it got me thinking. Back in the day when I was teaching, it was easy to leave work there, I left the school building.  While I was guilty of entering grades and searching for new content from home, the nature of my former job in 6-12 education required me to leave work at work.  Bringing a welder, rabbit, or a flat of greenhouse plants home really wasn’t a feasible option at the time.  I’ve become very guarded with my time since and have learned to work for more work-life integration and balance. I don’t think a perfect, harmonious balance exists, but I’ve made strides to it.  My professional identity and my personal identity do get muddled up and intertwined, but I think that’s the nature of being human.  We identify with our work and our home life because those are the two things that make us feel valued.

I’m very guilty of reading and answering email at night–it pops up, I get too compulsive and open it.  On weekends: I turn it off–I ask my iPhone to simply NOT download it.  It’s really delightful. I’m guilty of spending time on the computer in the evenings–for a while, it was every night until 9 p.m. or so–reminded me of being a grad student.  Only after some looks and comments from PIC did that behavior cease. As a new faculty–or an old faculty–the idea of working only 40 hours a week is a myth.  I don’t care what anyone says about having a ‘cushy office job’ (a term my dad used once as my sister was complaining about getting her first wrinkles–she bartends at an outside bar on the beach and is exposed to lots of sunshine) it’s still a job.  It’s a damn hard one.  While I may not sprout any sun wrinkles this year (I have sprouted my first laugh line-better than a frown line), I know I’ve worked hard when my eyes are hazy and my brain is numb and I’ll do almost anything to get out of the haze.  After a few hours of ‘doing something else’ I’m refreshed and ready to get back to work, perhaps that’s why I’m ready to read/answer emails again after supper time.  I’ve worked out, eaten, talked to PIC, perhaps taken in the news or some DVR, and my brain is ready to jump start again.

As a new faculty, the notion of a 40 hour work week is a distant memory.  Far be it for me to tell you how much to work, when to work, or how to do it, but as you begin your new venture, be wise and learn from this post–guard your time closely (if you’re not already doing it), keep those most important people around you close and seek their feedback.  A glance is just a glance, but it can say so much. How do you allocate your time?  What cues do you take from yourself or others to know it’s time to step back and stop working? What advice would you have for other young/new faculty?

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