FT: You are responsible for your well-being and no one else, and only you can determine what that looks like. #sachat
We’re under an immense amount of pressure. Pressure to meet job expectations, pressure to exceed job expectations; pressure to support others who need help navigating career paths while simultaneously working to gain support to navigate our own. Pressure to be the best in our department, pressure to stand out (but not too much for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time). Pressure to lift others as we climb our own ladders of success.
I beg of you, right now – to assess thoughtfully, just how much of this pressure is nourishing your personal happiness…your well-being.
I firmly believe, that if something doesn’t nourish a part of your spirit, in some capacity, then it may not have a place in your life.
I just finished reading an excellent book, Wonder Women: Sex, Power, and the Quest for Perfection. In it, Debora Spar emphasizes that an impossible culture of doing it all, and being everything to everyone, has saturated our priorities, and ultimately, sets us up for failure. Though Spar’s book focuses primarily on the impossible standard of “doing it all” through a feminist lens, I think the lesson can be applied to all.
I struggle with the phrase, “work-life balance”. It’s been a continued topic of discussion in many work cultures for quite some time. While attending the WISA Region IV-E Drive In Conference in 2013, a moderator during a panel discussion very wisely shared that she “manages her energy, rather than her time.” That thought process has stuck with me since then, and has served as a pillar in both how I manage my time, and in how I role model, and support staff members in their own balance.
No one but you can determine what your own balance looks like. Many professionals have fantastic support from both their supervisors and institutions to help maintain balance. However, that should not be the expectation. You are your own best barometer for how balanced you feel in life, and exactly what that balance looks like.
For example, many thrive on professional and work experiences and get their energy from such. There should be no shame in throwing yourself into your work, but only if that’s what makes you happy. Where I struggle is in the rat race to “prove” your worth simply by the hours you put in, and the lack of balance you may have in other areas of your life. There is no reward in overworking yourself, and it’s up to you to say, “enough is enough”. Communicate firmly to get the support you need, and avoid comparing how your time stacks up against the time of others. It’s helpful to have built-in support systems, but learn to rely on yourself and trust your own judgement. Not every supervisor has the innate ability to understand just how run down you may feel; it’s up to you to articulate such and advocate for yourself.
I understand that advocating for your own needs may be difficult, and that there are very complex barriers and relationships that may prevent one from doing so. To help the conversation, I can offer a few tips:
- As I tweeted during the July 24th chat: “Plan plan plan. Plan for work, plan for fun, plan for anything that needs to be prioritized.” Work closely with your partner, family members, friends, work colleagues, and supervisor to understand what’s ahead. Plan your time accordingly. This absolutely includes planning for “off time”. Make time for you (whatever that looks like). Put it on your calendar if you have to. (It’s rare that I neglect anything on my calendar!).
- When negotiating time or energy with colleagues or a supervisor, I firmly stand by a solution-based problem-solving approach. When you find yourself not able to meet expectations, offer alternate solutions that may better meet the needs on both ends. “I am not able to do that at this time, but here is what I can do…”. Keep it positive and forward-moving.
- Also during the July 24th evening #sachat, Josie Alquist knowledgably suggested to, “do what you say you are going to do (& do it well) and you will have much more clout to call your work boundaries —- produce high quality work, that should be the priority”. I couldn’t agree with this more. Pick one or two things, and do them exceedingly well. Put your energy into tasks or projects that will not only further the department or people you serve, but your own development as well.
- Stop comparing your successes to the successes of your colleagues. You are you and no one else. So be the best you that you can be.
- Forge mutually beneficial relationships and mentorships. It’s easy to build networks of acquaintances, and ultimately some of those acquaintances may one day turn into mentorships or friendships; but for now, build relationships with people that you can both learn from, and to whom you can offer something. Be selective with the relationships into which you allocate your energy.
Ultimately, you are responsible for both your own well-being and professional development. Focus on the whole picture, and do what will lift you higher.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Conor McLaughlin on SA Work-Life Balance
> BONUS <
Podcast With Kevin Kruger on Avoiding Burnout in Student Affairs