As the academic year is wrapping up and we are in the throws of what student affairs professionals know to be as “April,” it’s hard to find any down time. Yes, work-life balance or rhythm or whatever you want to call it is a larger issue within our profession. We can recognize it, discuss it, or even complain about it all we want but until we seriously start putting structures into place that supports balance, we will always continue to struggle with this.
Recently, I attended the Oregon Women in Higher Education conference and in the WISE WOMEN panel, Robin H. Holmes, Vice President at the University of Oregon talked about being a professional badass and a professional down time taker. There is nothing wrong with being great at your job or putting your 110% into your work – if it’s not also at the expense of your wellness.
We have such a hard time rewarding ourselves or even allowing ourselves to take some down time. Even when we aren’t at work, we are thinking about work. It’s understandable why – we care about our students and our students don’t just need us 9 to 5. And during “peak” times (see: April, October) when responsibilities start to pile up, it’s hard to find down time. Therefore, I strongly believe that we need to create structures and habits that allow us to be both a professional badass and a professional down time taker.
I’ll admit, I kick ass at my job. It’s easy to be a professional badass when I love what I do, I believe in what I do, and I do it well. I am also surrounded by professional badasses who care about supporting student development and who still find time to create initiatives that leave a positive impact on the field of student affairs and higher education. It’s through the support of these professional badasses that I am also a professional down time taker. I have no problem taking time for myself and practicing habits that keep me balanced and well. In reflecting on how I’ve been able to manage this, I’ve come up with…
A Quick Guide to being a Professional Badass and Professional Down Time Taker
1. Be productive, not “busy.” Everyone is busy and being busy doesn’t always mean you are productive. As long as you are productive, it doesn’t matter how much time you put into it. Stop glorifying busy and reward productivity instead.
2. Give yourself and others grace. Don’t feel guilty for taking down time and don’t judge others for taking some too. It’s easy to compare your schedule to others and feel like you have to keep up or feel like you are doing “more” than everyone else – recognize that everyone’s schedules are different, and that’s OK. Burn out affects your personal wellness and your job efficacy. Don’t let the fear of others judging you for taking some personal time stop you from doing what it takes to keep you well. Conversely, don’t judge others for taking some time – we all know what a pain it is to work with someone who is burned out!
3. Add in breaks to your schedule. This is an easy structural fix. Even if the breaks are short (getting up and walking around, grabbing a snack, or a quick stretch), it’ll give you some time to breathe and step away from work related stress. Laughing helps too so chat up somebody on your way to the water fountain or read a funny buzzfeed article to get your mind off of work for a second. The work will always be there – it’s OK to step away (physically and emotionally) from it for a few minutes.
4. Create or rethink daily habits that can contribute to your wellness. An hour workout, a 30 minute run, reading for 15 minutes before going to bed, a 20 minute shower, a monthly mani-pedi, a weekly t.v. show…those are all times that can count as down time! Use it!
5. Make time for your important relationships. Invest in the people you love and care about just as much as you invest in your students. Don’t let work take away from the valuable time you could be spending with the important people in your life. These relationships will help keep you balanced because they’ll remind you that there are some things more important than work…and that is the people in your life.
Ultimately, we have to be good role models. We expect students to achieve and perform at a high level and we expect them to be balanced and stay well. We have to be willing to do that too. So, I am a Professional Badass and a Professional Down Time Taker. Are you??
Follow me at @jessikachi