Craving work-life balance is a healthy response to the zealous work-centric structure of higher education. As universities and colleges face increasing budget shortfalls, individuals at all levels of the organization are faced with increasing pressure to do more. Emails, texts and voice mail keep us in 24/7 work mode, reminding us that there is so much to get done. Unfortunately, there are very few structural reminders to slow down, take a break, disconnect and renew.
Searching for Work-Life Balance
Cultural sign posts that remind us to spend time with family and friends; engage in community activities outside the institution; and to relax are overshadowed by praise for ever-present, always productive (and exhausted) faculty and staff. It is easy to let the work drive us and to ignore the internal voices that ask us to devote attention to other aspects of ourselves. Yet, taking time to care for ourselves, family, and community increases our productivity at work and improves the overall quality of our lives.
Creating Your Boundaries for Balance
In the absence of organizational cues, it is important to create your own boundaries for work-life balance. You have 24 hours in a day, so how are you going to spend them? Visualize yourself as the executive director of your life, setting priorities and allocating time to each, including relaxation. Use tools, such Outlook, Evernote, Remember the Milk and Mind Tools to help you organize and track. Assess your career and family needs over time, understanding that the amount of time and energy you need for each changes. Seek out mentors to help you establish focus and supplement time gaps with outside help (associations such as the National Center for Faculty Diversity – provide additional mentoring resources). Don’t overbook your weekends, using this free time for unexpected emergencies and increased renewal. As your needs, responsibilities and interests change, so should your schedule (I change my routine every semester, resetting the time I devote to all of my priorities, including time with family and friends). Merely working harder and faster is counterproductive to your overall success. As executive director, own your right to work-life balance and take charge of your schedule for success in all aspects of your life and career.
Thinking about your next career move? Check out our latest job postings or create a free account to save your job searches and customize your daily job alerts.
Robynn M. Pease, Ph.D. has over 20 years of related experience in the field of work-life and is the former director of the Greater Oregon Higher Education Recruitment Consortium (GO HERC). Prior to her current position as Faculty Ombudsman at Oregon State University (OSU), Robynn served as the Coordinator of Work-Life at OSU and the Director of Work-Life at the University of Kentucky. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from the University of Kentucky, with an emphasis in gerontology.