With this semester quickly coming to a close, it’s important to remember to take care of ourselves. This week all of the contributors will take part in a Q and A session about self-care and maintaining a work-life balance.
What aspect of your work most often sneaks into your home life? What aspect of your life most often sneaks into your work?
Jen: Aspects of my work that often sneak into my home life are simple tasks like email, data coding or analysis, or reading a short article. These are simple things that I think will only take an hour at the most but end up taking much longer, or I get distracted when doing the first thing and start doing something else. I try to manage these by either making time for these simple tasks during my normal work hours or setting a strict time limit if I still want to work on it at home. An aspect of my life that creeps into my work is my dog. He’s kenneled while I’m at work all day. I typically try not to leave him in there for more than 8 hours, which can cut my work day shorter than I would like sometimes. I try to manage this by being organized and efficient while I'm at the office to maximize my productivity during the time I have there.
Ciara: I will sometimes bring "fun" things home to work on like planning for courses or reading a book on teaching. I then replace my normal nighttime activities with "work" related things. Occasionally when I feel like I have too much grading to do, I will plan on staying late or going back to work after dinner to finish it up. I have found that if I try to grade at home it takes more time then when I am in a work setting. Right now, stuff with my son is my biggest life "intruder"; he's three and still building up that immune system so he sometimes has to be picked up early, or miss a day, when he gets sick.
Karly: Emails often sneak into my home-life after work. I get all of my emails sent to my phone, so it isn’t uncommon for me to be out and about with my significant other and get distracted by emails. In the past, I had this issue with student emails particularly. One way to manage this is to set “email hours” for when I could respond to students. Having strict hours for when I can email students prevents me from letting those emails interrupt both my workday and my home-life.
One aspect of my daily life that can interfere with my work is getting allergy shots. I have awful allergies and migraines, and have been getting shots for over a year to try and combat them. However, the doctor’s office is only open during the day (obviously), meaning I have to structure my schedule in such a way that I can get in a full day’s work and while still getting my shots in three times a week. Some weeks are better than others, but time management and having a regular schedule helps with this.
What would be your ideal work-life balance scenario?
Jen: My ideal work-life balance scenario would be to work for 8-10 hours 5-6 days a week. This would leave evenings and most of my weekends free to spend with my dog and husband.
Ciara: My ideal work-life balance is a 40-hour work week. I have a growing family and pride myself on keeping work stuff at work. I feel fairly lucky that I'm close to that ideal now. I know many in academia spend much more time on work than that and I can see that the increase in service and administrative duties that comes along with advancing along the tenure track might see my ideal scenario adjusting.
Karly: Ideally, I would like my workday to consist only of work-related things. No scrolling through twitter, answering personal emails, etc. Inspired by a Hidden Brain podcast episode about Deep Work, I would even go so far as to say minimal work email, students and colleagues included. In my shared office, it is difficult to get a 2 hour block where I can just focus on work, and not be interrupted by undergraduates or lab-mates. In an ideal scenario, I would like to have a sold block of distraction free work. In the same vein, I would like my home-life to be mostly work free. I get my work done at work, then go home to relax.
Do you have a distinct end to your work-day, something that signals the transition from work-self to home-self? Or do you take home a list of things to work on?
Jen: At the end of my work day, I like to reassess my to-do list to see what I accomplished and to decide what to prioritize for the next day. If there is anything that cannot wait until tomorrow, then I’ll work on it at home, but typically I like to have family time in the evenings.
Ciara: Like Jen, I reassess my task list at the end of the day. If I have things left over, I reassign them to later in the week and don't try to take stuff home...I know I won't actually do it.
Karly: This largely depends on the day, but for me, when I leave the office I am typically done for the day. That said, I often bring things home with me “just in case” I find time to read that extra article or work on those data files. For me, I would rather stay later at work and call my workday done when I leave the office, then go home, get comfy and have to start working again. Sometimes staying late isn’t an option, especially when the dog needs to be let out and my significant other isn’t available to help out. But if I can, I prefer to end my workday at work.