Wow, the opening of school season is pretty interesting. From about the middle of August, the panic of preparing for the new academic year sets in in a variety of forms. Some seem like they are preparing for opening of school the minute the graduates cross the stage. Others make it seem like no work gets done over the summer and we cram it all in two weeks before semester classes begin.
The dialogue during busy seasons on campus is always fascinating to me. It always seems to twist back to a comparison of who is working hard versus who seems to have nothing going on. I see the “Busy Card” get played left and right in various interactions and I cringe every time I observe the “one up-ing” that seems to emerge when people talk about workload. We’ve all been tempted to play the Busy Card before. I’m guilty of it too.
I’d like to alter the dialogue during the next round of Busy and focus on how to make the campus environment a kinder place for collegial relationships. To do this, these are three things I’m going to try to remember when Busy comes around again and I hope you will join me!
1. Busy is an explanation, not an excuse.
If you fall short on something you said you would do, nothing about Busy excuses dropping the ball. If you figure out that you missed something, just be honest that you have fallen short on something and either renegotiate a new deadline or just take care of it. The busy pace of the opening of school wasn’t really a surprise, was it?
2. Busy is relative.
All of us have varied degrees of ability to balance multiple projects and handle multiple tasks. When the person you believe has four things to do all year plays the Busy Card, I know it’s hard to swallow when you are tearing your hair out at the idea of another 15 hour day. Temptation may be to try to “one up” this person, but we have to understand that the comparison game means nothing. This person who chooses to share frustration with you is also struggling and struggling in their own way with their own definition of being overwhelmed.
3. Busy is our situation to manage.
Depending on our roles and functions on campus, workload may emerge as much from our own creation as it is from our institutions. My colleague Michael Miller and I surveyed SSAO’s and campus activities professionals for a workshop presentation about work/life balance. We found that SSAO’s and activities professionals have a difference of opinion on where the source of responsibility for workload might be. Our SSAO’s were citing the individual activities professional as primarily responsible for their own workload and the activities professionals were more frequently citing supervisors and institutional expectations.
If we are honest with ourselves, we do get to make a lot of decisions about our work. Whether our zones of responsibility are broad or very specific, it’s a rare case where a student affairs professional makes absolutely no decisions. Did you really need the hand-tied ribbons on the Convocation programs? Did you really need that new outdoor concert you added this year to Move In Weekend?
Let’s think about what kind of campuses we could create if we instead focused on managing our own lives instead of critiquing what others are doing (or not doing!). If we could focus on being the best versions of ourselves and our own departments, I think a more balanced work life may be closer within reach.
Can you share anything you’ll do differently next time “Busy” rears its ugly head?