Tag Archives: vacation

Steamrolling Into Summer

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source: I took this, that’s Henry!

I feel like I’ve barrel rolled right into summer. In case you’re wondering, it was a very clean barrel roll with no big rocks on the path. I don’t know how it happened but I thought I just got back from overseas…. A quick trip home helped my mental state but it added up and the driving alone was a pain in my ass (really, my lower back was screaming). A quick trip to the chiropractor straightened me right out (pun totally intended)!

Alas, graduation and the pomp and circumstance (pun intended again) that goes with it is in full force. Taking advantage of the time to not be on campus, I started to pretend an adult lives at my house who cleans things. The the ritualistic nature of stripping the covers off of the couch cushions, the shame and pride of vacuuming a semesters worth of crumbs out of the couch, and the nice smell that the febreze has when I deodorize the couch and love seat is my internal trigger that the seasons have changed and so has the semester.

There’s other things that trigger the changing of my academic seasons. Move out will and has taken full force, summer happy hour emails have been sent for standing invites with friends, and conference season kicks off in just over 48 hours. Why enjoy that first week of summer when you can get on a plane and hit up your first conference? Relaxing is for quitters…..

We don’t realize what a frenetic rush we put on ourselves as young faculty members. I had not been sleeping well since coming back from overseas and while I could only use the excuse of jet lag for so long, there were so many things to take care of. This coupled with taking a month off to go abroad, on top of whatever else I’ve been up to made sound sleep this elusive thing I chased. I even hung some Tibetan prayer flags over the bed hoping it would catch some good prayers and they’d turn into good dreams or good sleep. It took the internal ‘click’ of the semester for me to sleep like a log for the first time in weeks for a solid 8.5 hours before I stirred and heard Henry moving in his crate to let me know it was time to get up and play.

USDA grant season has slowed, I’ve got a NSF due next week, a NIH in June, and another one (can’t remember the acronym) in early August. I feel like I have one more but honestly, I can’t remember…My pubs for the calendar year are published-looking shiny and real and I am already scheming of what to push out for 2017. I have plans to push out two more this summer for hopeful publication next year. Gotta keep the wheels turning right?

I have blocked out my summer calendar now that summer projects have been decided on and blocked out travel. Two conferences, a week in CO, and then home to the farm. In between, I have plans to read, write, evaluate, work on grants that are currently funded, work with undergrad and grad students that have been hired, and heck-NOT work weekends, evenings, or before a normal time of day (normal is defined as “when the sun gets out of bed”).

All the pre-planning is letting me do one very important thing: it’s giving me permission to slow down. Blocking out the time gives me space to think, write, and read. I ordered 14 books the other day so I better have some time to read (and yes, they’re all for work). Slowing down in summer doesn’t mean productivity lags, it means I actually have time and give myself permission to do the things I can’t afford to do when there’s a room full of students, a pile of things to read, and researchers all staring at me for answers. The grant work alone I’ve neglected is enough to fill several weeks.

August will be here soon enough, but today, May whatever it is, I’m going to slow down. Downshift my internal engine, sleep through the night without interruption, and work through the massive pile of books that will be delivered when I get back from my conference. Now that the couch is clean and my house looks like a living, breathing human who doesn’t hoard a pile of shoes somewhere near the door lives here, I can steam roll right into summer.

 

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Vacation: A Hard Reboot

Vacation for This Academic {New Faculty}

I took (almost) two weeks for vacation this year. It was great. Seriously.

I went home for a full week. I even extended my stay after being bribed with a Friday night fish fry (duh, easy decision) and stayed another day. The pace of the farm is totally different than the pace of academia. The cows need to be fed, milked, and cared for. The garden needs to be picked, the corn needs to be checked. The hay needs to be mowed, tedded, and raked before being baled, and everything runs on the weather. If it’s going to rain, you work like hell. If it doesn’t rain, you still work like hell. If it’s actually raining, you work on other stuff like there’s no tomorrow. It’s all immediate during the summer. It’s never a waiting game (unless it’s raining).

The pace of the farm suits me. I like the immediate gratification, the constant pace, the feeling of happiness fed calves have, the quiet of the cows when they’re out to pasture and everyone is happy, healthy, and grazing.

I came back to my house and spent a solid day cleaning. Not just cleaning my house, but looking after tasks that have been neglected: cleaning out closets, sorting things, organizing things, and making runs to the local YMCA to rid myself of some of my physical clutter, which made my mental clutter also improve. I had things in piles, but the piles were becoming burdensome to look at. It forced me to look at “my stuff” for a few hours and realize: I have enough. More than enough. Like most Americans, I had more than I needed. I even spent a little time decorating my place. I’ve only lived here for four years and a friend gifted me some corner shelves when he moved. I had put nothing on them, I had not dusted them, they were simply sitting there. I puppysat my friend, Henry, and his puppy mom gave me some beautiful gifts as a “thank you” which went perfectly on them. It motivated me to pretend someone actually lives in this home for more than showers and TV time.

I have made a habit of having a “eat out of my cupboards” every few weeks. Instead of keeping an overstocked pantry of dry/canned goods, I would eat only out of them and not buy any other dry goods. I would allow myself to buy things like fresh eggs and milk because I do consume them every day and in larger quantities. I need to remind myself of the same for my “stuff” in life too: visiting what I do have. I purchased only one “thing” to decorate my shelves, a new flowerpot for some cuttings I brought back from NY, so it’s a useful purchase, not a frivolous one and the cuttings are in it on the shelf.

The same can be said for academia (getting to my long winded point now). I have a skill set. I have a really good one, but it’s often forgot because many of my colleagues share a similar skill set and some have had more years to work on it than I have. I like the gratification of helping, of serving, of observing good things happening. Sometimes, I get bogged down in the tedious waiting game of academia (I have NO patience people) but know it’s a necessary part of the game. The two weeks I spent on vacation satisfied so many levels of my psyche that I was actually sad to go back to work. I spent a whole day in my house not leaving for anything. I colored (you’ve got to get yourself a Johanna Basford coloring book stat), I watched endless things on my apple tv, I actually relaxed. It was a good counter day to the week of busy, the days of cleaning and organizing, and the lull was welcome because the next day, I was back at it. I left the house anyway 🙂

I could have gone with friends to their lake house during my second week of vacation, but it would not have been good for me. Great people, but 10 kids and six adults for a week would have over stimulated me into a frenzy. Not to mention the additional hours of driving (20+ over a week) were not what I was looking for. I “staycationed” like a boss. I needed the continual schedule disruption and it soothed my soul on many levels. I love the quiet but I covet some good social interactions. I needed a break, but I needed to clear my plate and my head.

I hope you took some time off this year too. I’ve printed my syllabi for fall to begin the process of updating them and grad students will be on campus beginning next week. Summer is OVER, time for the GRIND!

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Summer Slow Down

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Summer Slow Down | New Faculty

In case you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been authoring much this summer. I wish I had a better reason and/or excuse, but I don’t. I’m just not. I’ve been working and am about to head out on vacation for a few weeks so don’t expect much out of this brain for a while. I’ve tried to reblog some of what I think is “good stuff” and I hope you think so too.

On that note, I’ve also done my usual social media shutdown too. I’ve quit posting things on my actual person (that’s me in real life) facebook account in general. I’ve removed the app from my iphone. I’ve noticed that when I get to the point where social media pisses me off, it’s time to take a break from it. Rather than deactivate, which I do several times a year, I am trying to break the habit of hitting the app on my phone when I’m bored, in between meetings, or something else that will grab my attention.

I share this with you not to brag, but to remind you (and me) that there’s more to life than work and social media. We may never find the balance, but we can enjoy what’s right in front of us. Hopefully it’s not a super giant pile of work. August will come and soon the syllabi will be flying. Until then, we’ve got a few weeks to slow down and enjoy life. I’m also slightly annoyed that facebook has been conducting research on me without my consent. The NERVE!

I’m practicing being more present. I’m reducing the distraction.

I’m enjoying my summer. I hope you are too!

 

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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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Taking Time Off

Taking Time Off | New Faculty

 

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I don’t have kids. Or a spouse. Or even a pet that’s here with me right now. But, I still take time off. The holidays were an excellent excuse to follow a slightly modified compass and take it easy for a few days. Not my rear-end, that’s always well rested, but my brain. And my mind and spirit. It takes an emotional beating during the semesters. The onslaught of emails, the demands from others, the demands I put on myself, the pressure, the endless requests from people and places who think they’re the only person on the planet who need something. It’s not like my dog who I can give a command to and she listens, these humans–they’re something else!

So, I took a week off, ok, about 9 days if we’re really slicing here. I scheduled them. I relished in them. I failed to even turn on my own computer for a few days. Don’t worry, I still have my iPhone for the withdrawal symptoms. I read a piece in the Chronicle about taking time off and while this woman’s situation was much more dire, it got me thinking about taking time and how precious it has become. I’ve harped on technology use time and time again, but it’s not invading the worst situations in our lives, making it more and more difficult to just ‘be’ sometimes. I loathe it for these reasons but also rely on my own good judgement and sometimes others to gently nudge (or tell me flat out) to knock it off. This statement hit home:

“This is the way we live now: We can work from almost anywhere, at anytime. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we should.”

No matter the situation, where you work, what you do, or how you do it, check in with your employer about the time off piece. I’m not saying you should use every hour you get the moment you get it, but it can’t hurt to be aware. I know that at my university there are weeks allotted for maternity or medical. There is an emergency medical act for things that spring up. There is also time off granted for other reasons as well. The policy is negotiable to a point with the department and as long as everyone can agree, the university will even let employees work remotely for up to six months, depending on the case. Pretty generous as long as all parties are at the table being accountable.

Taking time off is NOT a sign of weakness or inability to do a job. It’s a sign that you need it. By taking some time, it will give you the energy to take care of an infant, a loved one, recover from surgery, take care of your mental health, or a host of other reasons. Time off doesn’t have to be  three months long. It can be a day, an afternoon where you need to steal away, or a long weekend. However you choose.

As I sit and write this post, I’ve been back to work for a week now and my brain is screaming (go chill out) at me. Luckily, I worked hard this week, accomplished the majority of what I’d set for myself, and will do it again next week with a reward at the end: a long weekend to go visit a good friend and colleague from my grad program. I don’t need six months right now, but I will gift myself three days to do some catching up in a more southern location on the map in the sunshine.

Instead of ‘should-ing’ all over ourselves over taking some vacation time, just take it. Don’t feel bad if it’s warranted. As a young faculty it will become more and more necessary to take that time when we can. The work will always be there and finding the balance will come naturally. That’s what they tell me anyway!

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Annie, Get Your Clothes ON!

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It’s a holiday week! In honor of a short work week and hopefully some much needed down time or family time, I’d like to discuss something that keeps popping up on my campus: clothes with no one in them. What is going on undergrads??? Is this why the cost of a college education keeps rising-hidden costs when you just can’t keep track of your personal possessions?  This fall, I’ve started noticing something that I had not noticed the previous years spent on this campus: your clothes!! Your personal things. Your parking tickets that you wish to ignore even though they will ultimately come back and haunt you like eating garlic for dinner. Come on. Get your clothes on!

It started one Friday morning. I was walking in from the parking lots and I found someone’s hair extensions strewn about all over the sidewalk. Hey sister, did you know half your hair fell out?  I did not touch it or take a photo but you’re going to have to take my word: long, black, messy at that point. Must have been one wild night with a manic hair pulling/cat fight/dance party on the sidewalk.

The following week: pants. Pants? Not any old pants, black pants with a red trim line going up the leg. FANCY pants! 🙂 These also appeared to be stepped out of and flung aside for some wild Thursday night action. See evidence below:

A few weeks later: a shoe. A men’s Sperry to be exact. Where was its’ mate? Was it lonely?  How does one lose a shoe and not realize (no matter how much booze) that it’s missing because based on the weather here lately, ones foot would get cold sooner than later. The photo below doesn’t do it justice. When I came out of that building, the car was gone but the poor sperry remained. Lonely sperry…

Recently: parking ticket. I’ve only learned a handful of things on this campus that are set in stone and here is one. No pay, no NOTHING. If you don’t pay your tickets, the university cripples you. No scanning of student ID, no eating, no meal plan of any sort, no gym, no bus, no movement….they may even lock you out of your dorm just to force you to pay up. They are dead serious about that stuff around here. This student who randomly tossed his/her parking ticket aside will soon understand the ferocity of the university system. This parking ticket had been looked at, crumpled up, and discarded on the ground. I’m no psychic, but I foresee a day of frustration in this persons’ future….

I hope that with a few days of rest you’ll regain your footing, get some clean laundry, some family time, and maybe….just maybe….come back to campus rested and ready to tackle the rest of the semester!

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Exhaustion 101

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There was a time I was sleeping eight hours a night, enjoying coffee, and generally enjoying a leisurely pace. That lasted 2.8 days. It’s gone. Like a distant memory, my ‘vacation’ ended abruptly when I signed up to get on a plane and fly away for academic business.  Two easy commuter flights turned into NINE boarding passes.  I’m not the only person in the world traveling, trust me, I’ve seen some travelers who have a much harder time getting from point A to point B than I have.

I’m sitting on a plane waiting on engine trouble and I’m in road warrior hell. This is just part of the game right?  I see hundreds of thousands of other professionals traveling in these airports-most are dressed much more professionally than I am.  That leads me to  my next question: how in the HELL does one stay erect, put together, and looking extra fashionable in a full suit and italian loafers or three-inch stillettos and a dress straight off of the runway?  I have trouble keeping it business casual in my khaki’s and (hopefully) clean blazer to meet colleagues at the terminal.  Perhaps it’s experience, perhaps those people don’t have over active (or active at all) sweat glands, perhaps my road warrior status needs to be revoked until further notice.

Whatever it is, here I am.  Now, (two hours later) I’m sitting in a large terminal that thankfully has free wi-fi.  I should be reviewing grants or editing an article, instead I’m blogging.  My brain hurts.  My backside is sore from the merry-go-round of beds I’ve been sleeping on or the lack of sleep my whole body has been getting. What is it about academic traveling that is so great yet so exhausting?  It is the stuff that book-ends it?  The flights? The lines? The “disney world” like atmostphere?

Whatever it is, this is what I know right now: I can’t wait to be home.  PIC is clearly lonely, his comments were hilarious yesterday, “I’ve been alone almost all week! Of course I need someone to talk to!” I feel the same way. Not that I wasn’t in good company all week, but I could go for a shower that didn’t result in a nervous sweat, a meal that’s home cooked, and conversation with someone who understands my gibberish (or is it jibberish?) without me having to detail every nuance of my latest thought in my tiny brain.

Which leads me to my other point on this post: freaking EGO.  Holy hell people.  CALM DOWN!!!  Your ego is large enough for everyone.  You’re not smarter, cooler, hipper, or let me repeat SMARTER than anyone else in the room. When you engage with me in a ‘scholarly debate’ and at a certain point I tell you, “we’re just going to have to agree to disagree” that isn’t code for, ‘yell at me louder to get your point across’ because I shut down.  We’re done. Peace out sucker. Peace the f&%k out…..It’s not just academics.  It’s people in airports too.  What happened to common courtesy?  Line cutting.  Rude college kids heading on trips to Aruba paid for by a magic piece of plastic. Moms breastfeeding next to the TSA security check.  I’m all about the feminist movement, young people heading out on a summer vacation, and everyone needing to get re-booked, but HELLO!!!!  Stop being so dang rude.

While probably not helpful, I made a point to thank all of the folks who line cut last night after one of my flights was cancelled.  You know what? The flight was still cancelled and no one was going anywhere.  I hope they feel better!

Road warrior status in academia is a stripe we’ll all earn as new faculty.  Much of the pressure is self-inflicted because we want to prove ourselves and no matter what anyone says or how they dismiss it, they don’t show up to look like a schmuck.  They show up with their ‘game face’ on ready to try and out-smart you. Whether it’s academics or line cutters, new faculty (and every human being) are subject to different types of exhaustion.  Earning road warrior status is just an imaginary badge/medal, but you know what? I’d take a medal right now and probably sleep with it tonight.  Provided I can sleep with it in my own bed.

As a new faculty, how do you prepare for the gauntlet of academic travel?  How do you manage to keep everything moving when travel plans halt?

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The summer **sigh** of relief

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The college town where I live let out a large ‘exhale’ the day after graduation. I could feel it….A week after, once all of the stragglers packed up their cars and u-hauls, the town let out a ***sigh**** the size of the football stadium. So have I. While at yoga this week, the instructor, who is also a full professor, was also observing the collective sigh that the town makes once the majority of students leave for the summer.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s tons of summer classes, camps, and other events but for the most part, the place returns to a beautiful, idyllic, town….The faculty finally emerge from their offices to head out for a meal, take time to say hello to folks, and aren’t answering emails on their smart phones at a vapid pace.  While at lunch with some other faculty, we all ran into at least a dozen faculty that we knew.  Everyone waits for the students to leave so they can sit, eat, and chat at a more leisurely pace without interruption. The faculty smile again and it’s not a forced “Don’t make me listen to this student for longer than five minutes” smile, it’s a genuine grin of “I’ve emerged from under my pile of grading, let’s make it a long lunch” smile.

Something else has happened. I’ve started sleeping again. Truth time: I’m wound a little tight.  This semester was nothing short of twists and turns with my work, my students, and my least favorite thing: grants. Having started this job before graduating, the transition was also immediate so it took me a while to get my brain caught up to my professional responsibilities. I’m happy to report that the two are in sync (no, not the boy band) and a harmonious balance has emerged. After submitting the last large report to the funding agency, hearing the reports from the external evaluation folks, and settling on the unresolved issues, I started sleeping again. I usually sleep ok, but during the semester, seven hours is the norm and I’m up with the sun, no matter the day. I call it “survival mode.” Good for watching bad Saturday tv, not good for much else. My boss is headed abroad for a fancy faculty trip that he was chosen for–lucky guy–and when asked what I should do for him while gone, his advice included the following statement, “take it easy, keep the fires going, answer anything you want or ignore it, you need a break.”  THANK YOU BOSS…. 😀

I don’t know if it was the finality of finishing the reports and other business or hearing those words that clicked for me, but whatever it was, I slept on it. I’ve been sleeping like a champion–9-10 hours a night. Apparently, I was in a deficit.  I know it won’t last, but while it does, I’m going to enjoy it.  I will take care of business the next few weeks and maintain my life, but I won’t be in such a rush to get out of the door in the morning, I won’t be reading emails at 11 p.m., and I most certainly WILL be rolling back over and sleeping for an extra hour. The frenetic pace will be back, I can always count on that, but I will enjoy the luxurious gift of sleep and some extra time while it lasts…..

As a new faculty, I know I need the time, the space, the renewal and before I go all “yoga” on you, I’ll stop right there.  You know you need it too! Go enjoy yourself! Take a day, take a week, take a break, and enjoy your week!

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Quality of life in academia

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I have a good friend who is married with a child who is now middle school age.  For years, his wife was trying to get hired full time as a  teacher in the local county system.  She started out as a substitute, moved up to part time, and last year, was hired full-time.  A dream come true for her.  Her husband, my friend, supported this–not just because he is a good man but he loved that his wife was so happy and doing what she was passionate about.

We were chatting the other day and as we wrapped up ‘business’ the conversation turned to family and life outside of work.  He made some comments to me that really got me thinking for a few reasons.  His main point was this,”I love that my wife is so happy and while it’s easier to pay some bills, I can’t say that our quality of life has improved.”  I asked why-not just to be nosey, but because it’s usually been just me going through life.  While I was married many years ago, I was very young and naive, two reasons that I’m not married anymore so I value and respect any wisdom I can get from someone who has worked very hard at his marriage in a true partnership. I also asked because in the event that I get married, it is always good to glean information from those you trust.

Back to asking why? His answer was simple: “we eat out more, we’re both exhausted, our son gets on our nerves even quicker and it’s not just his age, it is nice to pay bills faster but I don’t know if it’s been worth it for our family. It just feels like we’re existing and shuffling our son around without taking really good time to do things and enjoy life.  Neither of us have any energy on weekends to do those things. I would NEVER ask my wife to stop, she loves it and I don’t mind bearing more responsibility, but I think we’re going to have to re-assess everyone’s work schedules once the academic year is over.”  Truth and honesty. I really appreciated it and found a new respect for my friend at that moment.  He was honest and vulnerable because he needed to say it out loud and knew I would never judge him or his life. He and his wife work really hard at their marriage and do the best they can for their child. It was eye opening to hear him say that more money didn’t mean more happiness, in fact it was leading to less happiness. I’ve read the research and seen the statistics, but to hear it was different. No, he doesn’t want his wife home baking cookies, he celebrates her success and dreams, supporting her, but his exhaustion was undeniable.

As a new faculty, I wonder about the quality of my own life.  There are some luxuries that come with being a faculty.  Better parking, no set office/work hours that you have to be there as long as the work gets done, benefits, decent salary, and flexibility are just a few.  However, with those things come other expectations.  Publishing and grant writing are the two that come to mind first–that is backwards to me as I type it because teaching and the students should be first, but they have been replaced by the almighty dollar.

I haven’t even mentioned home life.  What home life?  Work to live or live to work?  I have spent a great deal of time and energy in learning how to ‘turn off’ once I get home. From the very literal sense of turning off my email push notifications on all electronic devices to ignoring work from after 7 p.m.  Yes, I am guilty of not sending emails at midnight, due in part to the fact that I’m in bed, but also because there has to be balance for me. I can compartmentalize but like any good junkie, sometimes I fall off the wagon.

Living with someone helps immensely.  There are things that we like to do, brain rotting TV we like to watch together, places we go as a pair, and sometimes that person serves as a gentle reminder that is might be time to stop working.  It’s never harsh or mean in tone, but a look or a simple request goes a long way. It’s only at this point in my life that I’ve learned to recognize the reminder and it’s something I’m still working on.

As a new faculty, how would you rank your quality of life on a likert type scale of 1-5 with one being awful and five being amazing?  Why would you give it that rating? What would you tell other new faculty and what advice would you offer them to help improve their quality of life?

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One hour, one task

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This blog from the Harvard Business Review caught my eye as I siphoned through my backlog of emails, google reader feeds, and other assorted outlets where I receive information.  I had been in a bit of a slump lately, unable to focus, going haywire on different things, sitting/standing in front of my computer for several hours with little to show for it.  It was frustrating because there were days when I could (and can) get ‘in the zone’ for hours and other days where anything shiny catches my eye and leads me towards it.  I had done well focusing my time since January, but this slump seems to have hit pretty hard.  It might also be due to the fact that now that data collection is done and students will  soon leave for summer, the writing begins.  Writing is my least favorite part….I do it begrudgingly and like how it turns out in the end, it’s just getting there that’s tough for me!

As a new faculty, we sometimes chalk it up to writers block or just an ‘off’ day, but some of the trouble may come because we’re trying to do too much at once.  Trying to answer everyone’s emails between student meetings mixed with article searching and perusing the latest RFP’s from different funding agencies has got me all tied up. Mashable has a nice infographic on what we waste our time on. Is this the nature of work now? Multi-tasking even though sound research says our brains really aren’t equipped to be able to do it for long periods of time? The three points below were taken from the blog post to serve as a gentle reminder of how we can make our work fit into the biology of how we work.

1. Do the most important thing first in the morning, preferably without interruption, for 60 to 90 minutes, with a clear start and stop time. I have started the day with email replies and then whatever task I dread the most.  I work best in the mornings and find it prudent to do the thing I dread the most first so when my attention wains later in the day, I can work on other less time sensitive or heavy thought activities.

2. Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day. I have cut way back on email at night. For good reason and for selfish reasons. Unless it truly is urgent or an emergency, it can wait. I have shut off email on weekends and separated what email account gets business vs. research vs. pleasure/life messages.

3. Encourage renewal. Having the gym at my disposal, along with miles of great trails, and other activities that are super affordable or free is a real plus to working on a college campus.

4. Take real and regular vacations. Real means that when you’re off, you’re truly disconnecting from work. Regular means several times a year if possible, even if some are only two or three days added to a weekend. The research strongly suggests that you’ll be far healthier if you take all of your vacation time, and more productive overall.

While I don’t agree  with everything in the blog from HBR, it did make one thing crystal clear: the pace was catching up with me.  I changed up my routine a bit for a change of scenery and have split my time between my work office and home office so I can get things done in uninterrupted amounts of time.  One of the luxuries of my job is that no one cares where I get the work done, as long as it gets done.

I also gave myself time limits and chunked off one hour to look for articles, then another for skimming articles, and so on.  Obviously some things require more than one hour at a time, but the brain dictated the schedule. Of the list presented, the only one I haven’t gotten to yet is the vacation…hopefully soon!

How do you parse out your time as a new faculty?  What do you wish you could be doing to be more efficient with your time?  What advice would you share with someone about to begin their first job?

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