In the past week I have heard many conversations about work/life balance, the perceptions of when others work, and even comments on when to email others. At times, I can find these conversations bothersome. After all, we are each on individual journeys when it comes to work and the ways we do it.
I tend to go with my energy levels and work when I feel most aware, awake, and inspired. This is almost always early mornings and weekends. As I wear dual hats at my institution – both administrative and faculty – I find my typical work week is full of urgent, time-sensitive work efforts. A grant is due, a position is opening, an event needs planned, papers need graded, and oh! the endless emails. The interruptions, flitting from class to meeting and on to another meeting, and the phone ringing means my 8-5 work is typically surface-level only. If I want to do in-depth work like draft that IRB, dig into program assessment, or create my classes, I have to do it during other times.
If I come into the office a few hours before most of the building arrives, I can power through a LOT more! I’ve been able to edit research articles, connect with assessment (it really clicked!), and write more productively than twice the time during the day. Better yet, a Saturday or (sometimes and) Sunday are almost perfect – five hours of uninterrupted morning-time productivity. Call me a happy camper!
I find my early mornings and weekends flummox others and they often feel compelled to advise me to take a break or take time off. I take breaks. My home is a sanctuary. I walk away from the office (sometimes late, yes, but I leave my work there) and I have such peaceful amazing times at home in the evening allowing my work world to calm itself at the office. I implement Digitally Down Days. I protect my space and time. I’m not a night person – I do not think well in the evening. I no longer try to grade until midnight or fall asleep with my laptop on my lap while propped up in bed. I have learned to capitalize on my energy, to determine my work time and place.
As we move through the summer, and your ambitious (some might say impossible) task list isn’t shrinking as quickly as you’d like, it is important that you don’t get overwhelmed by others’ perceptions of your work and it’s time and place – that is an individual decision and journey. Some of us might find we want to slow down, create some boundaries, find some non-work time to absorb non-work life elements. Others of us (me! me! me!) might find that work IS a huge part of life, identity, and happiness and it is okay to have work time that is different or distinct from colleagues’ perceptions on their journeys. “To each, their own” – You go your way and I’ll go mine. No criticism, no judgment, just different journeys.
So, expect me to send early morning or weekend emails and to not answer your late night ones right away. Expect me to be in the office well before 7 a.m. and to nearly always be comfortably typing away on a Saturday morning. It might not be your way of working, but I’ve determined where work time and place are in my little corner of this world and it maximizes my energy flow.
When do you work best?
Author of article – Lora Helvie-Mason