Over my last three years as a young professional, something with which I’ve been constantly tinkering is my professional/personal
balance. I heard from the start that I needed to be cautious about how much work I do, how much time I spend in the office, etc. due to the risk of burnout. I didn’t really understand that at first, as I had just begun a job I couldn’t get enough of. It didn’t take me long to understand that it didn’t matter how much you did like your job; if it was constantly in your face, day in and day out, you’d start to get annoyed.
This year (this semester in particular), I feel good about my balance. I’ve learned a couple things over the course of my three years on the job that helps my balance and stress level. First, I’ve blocked time on my calendar if I don’t feel like having a meeting
at that time. I targeted certain times during the day when I feel like I’m not at my best, or time slots in which I know I’ll be rushing
thanks to the standing meeting or lunch that immediately follows. For instance, I will never meet with anyone from 9:00-9:30 AM, the first half-hour time slot of my day, because I want to have time when I can get settled and understand the big tasks of the day and what I need to do to attack them. I also will not meet with anyone at 11:30 unless it’s absolutely necessary. One thing I realized I value during the work day is being able to take that early lunch, especially so I don’t encounter a crowded space when all the students try to eat at the same time.
Another thing that’s worked for me is stacking most of my meetings on one day and making that day “sacrifice day.” I’d rather have
one long day, in which I surrender some free time and retain it for later in the week, than be busy every single day. Sacrifice Day is Monday for me, because I’m already energized from the weekend, and I usually spend Sunday night mentally preparing for the week to begin. Plus, I simply enjoy easier Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Of course, I won’t know how this is going to work in grad school next fall. It probably won’t. I know that I’ll need to be more
flexible, be willing to put in lots of work every day, and embrace the busyness and hectic lifestyle of a grad student. But there’s nothing that says I can’t try to use the thinking behind this system to build my next one.