Image borrowed from www.amillionlives.net
Sometimes there is an advantage to being so busy that you don’t really leave your office much. One of those advantages is the fact that you always have anything you need to answer a question within an arms reach or a finger’s stroke so you can jump into triage mode and solve every issue that comes through the door. But what about when you actually get a chance to head to the dining hall and get a real lunch? What happens then, when in the midst of chewing your Caesar salad wrap or chicken sandwich, a student decides that moment, right then, is the only time they can approach you to get the answer to that “real quick question”? Do you jump to your duty and assist in that instant whether it’s urgent or not, or do you take a breadth, mentally set your boundary, and indicate the need for meeting at a later time?
Unfortunately I know for myself, as a new professional all shiny and go-gettery, it’s been difficult to refrain from this immediate call to action. Several times I’ve found myself ignoring my own need for sustenance, and instead make solving the problem on the spot my priority. Recently, however, I’ve learned from many of my colleagues and veteran student affairs professionals, the value of setting these very specific boundaries. We need to help our students understand that their issues of immediate concern, and that “quick question” are not always life or death. In fact, I dare say that the vast majority of what are considered “crises” are not such.
We need to learn to eat our lunches, and educate students on the etiquette that is expected in the “real” world when it comes to appropriate meetings and interactions. As many of us know, it’s not likely you’ll find a work environment where running up to your boss while they are eating is the appropriate way of engaging them in an “urgent” matter. Yet we don’t model this reality?
So what am I really saying here folks. Well, 1. Finish your lunch. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, how can you fulfill taking care of others. 2. Model behaviors you see as ideal. If you don’t want people to interrupt you mid chew, or while you are standing at the urinal, then model correct behavior and learn the art of time diversion; indicating a need to set up a later time to interact. Ideally, they will understand the need to have better interaction etiquette. Finally; 3. Start to figure out what “boundaries” look like for you personally. I’m sure they don’t look identical to mine or the person’s sitting near you, but figure out where those key boundaries are, and for the sake of the greater good, appreciate and advocate for where those boundaries lay.