As a college professor, I live my life according to the academic year. This means the Fall term, Winter term, then the Summer term are my work cycles. I am half way through a new term and working hard to maintain some semblance of work life balance. Academics love to share what they are busy doing. This includes explaining in an exasperated way that we are very busy, and then listing the number of items that we must get to before we unearth ourselves from one important project to the next. It is my experience that part of this is wrapped around the fact that academe is a highly competitive environment.
I am trying to have better work life balance. What am I doing? I am taking special care to not check my phone the first thing in the morning, and this is a major coup. I start with my stretches, coffee, and paper, and then get to the phone (this translates into checking my email accounts and Twitter feed). I don’t know about you, but I can go down the social media rabbit hole and suddenly be late for the gym or to take my spawnlette to school. This past Spring, I was better at leaving emails and Twitter for last. No one complained about email response times, and I bet my Twitter followers gave a sigh of relief to see fewer tweets (I tweet often and even schedule tweets related to assignments.)
By not glorifying busy, I might post/share that I got something done, but I am done with listing and trying to prove that I am busy. I know that I am busy and I know that my followers are also busy. I also am not engaging those conversations where it feels like a colleague online or in real life is glorifying busy. For Petra’s sake, those of us on the tenure track have: great job flexibility, a job, and yes, we have to teach and publish in order to keep our jobs. But, overall, we get paid to think and talk. I am not competing in the Busy Olympics and if you feel that you have to, you might want to re-think that.
How do I model this, though? I have to tell myself to not respond so quickly to emails and not email colleagues during the weekend. I am trying to have better boundaries. I explain to my Teaching Assistants that emails over the weekend are meant to be thought of as a Monday morning email. I also schedule emails so that they are sent Monday-Friday during the workday. These smart devices keep us connected, but also do not allow us to have time off without feeling guilty.
The new term is not quite half way through and I am not going to feel guilty that my to-do list is long, as I try hard to chip away at it. But, my job’s priority is teaching and I promise to not phone that in, as students do not appreciate that. When they come to class, ready to discuss the readings, they want me there ready to teach, facilitate discussion, and be there. I am ready.