Balancing Acts

28 February 2016 by Lisa Meloncon

A week or so back I posted a link on Facebook to an short Chronicle piece my friend Scott Warnock wrote. It’s a quick read, but the gist of it is exactly what the headline tag line says, “no one, it seemed, wanted to talk publicly about work-life balance.”

Then there was this piece from an academic in the UK who walked away because of the combination of work and life. And then there were these suggestions that I posted  on how to feel less busy (thanks to my great friend, Agata,  for the heads up).

balance_failureIt was interesting too that this image has also made the rounds. Simply replace change “grad school” to “grad school and faculty life” and swap out “clinical skills” for “service,” and you probably have a visual depiction of how many of us feel at different times.

That’s something we want to change. One of the goals of #womeninTC is to talk about things out loud and publicly and to make aspects of our jobs visible. (Public here can take on a number guises because we understand some things shouldn’t ever be “public.”) This publicness and visibility is meant to shift how we do our work and to help one another do it.

And most importantly, the ultimate goal is to achieve a good balance. We’ve had discussions on the steering committee that calling it a work-life balance isn’t an accurate depiction of it. Work and life are often intertwined in such a way that there is no way to differentiate it. By trying to make them too separate it seems to make them at odds with one another even more, as if you have to choose one or the other. The key is simply to balance the different aspects of our lives better.

It’s not easy juggling everything and figuring out when and where to put your time. One of the challenges of this job is that it can dramatically shift from week to week (or even day to day) what one needs to focus on or put her energy toward. That’s a challenge with no easy solutions. Here are three that seem to be the most important.

A recent Mentor Monday discussion was around different ways to organize our lives. (This is the link to the storify of those suggestions.) Organizing is the first, and best, step to achieving balance.

balanceI would suggest that the second step is to be consciously reflective. Take the time each morning and make an accurate assessment of what needs to be done. Included in this conscious reflection is reminding ourselves of something that is positive. This job is often about the negative so it’s equally important to reaffirm the positive things going on in your life.

It’s important to keep the parts of your job that you find to be the most unbalanced (the parts the seem to consistently ooze over into everything else and bring you down) in perspective. By that I mean, recognize that a particularly busy time will pass or that it is possible some of the things that may be really bothering you aren’t as big or as important as you may think. Reaching out to folks you trust to talk through these things that really seem to be overwhelming you is always a good idea!

Finally, we have to stop the culture of overproduction (and too busy syndrome). That’s where we get ourselves into the most trouble because we feel have to say yes to everything. You don’t. We don’t. Say, yes, to you instead.

There are no easy solutions to finding balance. It starts with talking out loud and bringing to the forefront the idea it’s ok—it really is—to have a life outside of our academic jobs. Talking about balance shouldn’t be a lonely table and behind closed doors. So this me talking about it out loud. If you want to talk more go on over to Slack or Twitter or anywhere and let’s talk about it.

Now, go on out there and enjoy the day. Do something fun!




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