So here’s the thing…an academic’s work is never done. Except on Spring Break and maybe a few other times during the year. I do my best to live a normal/sane/stable life. Ok – so technically my work is not done even when I am on break. And, because I am on break, this is not going to be a long post. I want to talk for a minute about how we work. How we do our work. How we approach our work. How long we work.
Since this is the kind of job that’s never done, there is always something I could be doing. I could be reading papers, responding to email. writing!, reviewing something, reading some professional literature….need I say more? You know what’s in the pile.
But breaks are important. And, I think, maintaining some sort of normal life balance is important. And yes, I said and did the kinds of things to support my idea of a normal work/life balance before I had tenure. The way I live now, the way I structure my work now, is pretty much the way I was doing it pre-tenure.
This is what works for me:
- I maintain a typical 9-5 kind of work hours. Now, obviously that’s not super strict in terms of when I start/finish. For example, let’s say I have to teach a class from 5:00-7:50 pm. I would start working somewhere around noon on that day.
- What did I do before noon on those days? Well, I would catch a 9:00 yoga class. I’d take the class, shower at the studio, and head over to my office for some lunch.
- The ways I structure my days varies from semester to semester. But, I always have time blocked out for writing/research as well as teaching (not just teaching the classes, but planning and grading)
I don’t work weekends (I may answer emails if it’s quick). Post-tenure I do not work holidays (pre-tenure I would totally use spring break to get my writing done). Post-tenure I, for the most part, work only when under contract. Pre-tenure I had to spend my summers writing. Now, not so much. I do a small bit of it to keep my head in the game, but I’m not into working for free.
Breaks are important. Stepping away from our work is important. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m on a break or when I’m taking a walk and not technically working. Which brings me to another point – when the weather is good I like to go for walks, and I include regular walks as part of my day. Every 90 minutes to two hours I get up and move around for about 15 minutes. I breathe the air. I clear my head. Sometimes when I return a problem that seemed difficult has a very simply answer to it. The breaks are mindful, and they are a part of how I work.
I encourage you to think about how you work including how you structure your day and how that structure is/is not serving you. And I encourage you to seek out breaks for yourself that are mindful and restorative.