Monday, August 11, 2014

August - Again!

Somehow, the days fly by and summer, full of shortened summer semesters, whirlwind classes, administrative preparations and assessment, and even a study abroad trip is gone and we are--again--staring at August.

Despite my tendency to make summer task lists that have no hope of getting done, I was able to stumble through this summer without a full blown panic attack about not accomplishing everything. After all, whether the check marks are placed on the items or not, August is here and another semester looms ahead.

I'm going through my typical August emotional tornado: sadness that my summer classes are over, excitement that I have new students in August, concern that I don't have enough time to overhaul a class or the energy to teach effectively after such a busy summer. How can I get in the classroom full of energy and life when I feel a tired and drained?

But then I begin my August checklists and I start getting that anticipation that there will be another class, another group of students to engage with...there's just no feeling like connecting in the classroom. 

So, I'm preparing. I'm following my First Week Tips and my Preparation Quirks that I thought were unique to me (practicing in the room you would teach in, testing whiteboards, reflecting on first-time student emotions, and considering clothing when reaching up to write on the board or leaning over to help a student). I feel ready. I feel excited. I feel thankful.

Perhaps it is the summer graduation ceremony - where two of my students were mentioned by the President and one gave a great commencement speech despite being nervous, but I'm feeling very thankful for the opportunity to be a tiny little part of a student's educational journey. This time of year, it is important to remember that it is an opportunity and that we do have an impact--even if we don't always realize it in the chaotic midst of a full semester.

This year, I'm beginning my semester outlook with that gratitude as a primary emotion. It has helped me to regain energy, to focus, and to trust myself and my teaching approach. This is going to be another great semester!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Determining your energy: Work time & place

In the past week I have heard many conversations about work/life balance, the perceptions of when others work, and even comments on when to email others. At times, I can find these conversations bothersome. After all, we are each on individual journeys when it comes to work and the ways we do it.

I tend to go with my energy levels and work when I feel most aware, awake, and inspired. This is almost always early mornings and weekends. As I wear dual hats at my institution - both administrative and faculty - I find my typical work week is full of urgent, time-sensitive work efforts. A grant is due, a position is opening, an event needs planned, papers need graded, and oh! the endless emails. The interruptions, flitting from class to meeting and on to another meeting, and the phone ringing means my 8-5 work is typically surface-level only. If I want to do in-depth work like draft that IRB, dig into program assessment, or create my classes, I have to do it during other times.

If I come into the office a few hours before most of the building arrives, I can power through a LOT more! I've been able to edit research articles, connect with assessment (it really clicked!), and write more productively than twice the time during the day. Better yet, a Saturday or (sometimes and) Sunday are almost perfect -- five hours of uninterrupted morning-time productivity. Call me a happy camper!

I find my early mornings and weekends flummox others and they often feel compelled to advise me to take a break or take time off. I take breaks. My home is a sanctuary. I walk away from the office (sometimes late, yes, but I leave my work there) and I have such peaceful amazing times at home in the evening allowing my work world to calm itself at the office. I implement Digitally Down Days. I protect my space and time. I'm not a night person -- I do not think well in the evening. I no longer try to grade until midnight or fall asleep with my laptop on my lap while propped up in bed. I have learned to capitalize on my energy, to determine my work time and place. 

As we move through the summer, and your ambitious (some might say impossible) task list isn't shrinking as quickly as you'd like, it is important that you don't get overwhelmed by others' perceptions of your work and it's time and place --- that is an individual decision and journey. Some of us might find we want to slow down, create some boundaries, find some non-work time to absorb non-work life elements. Others of us (me! me! me!) might find that work IS a huge part of life, identity, and happiness and it is okay to have work time that is different or distinct from colleagues' perceptions on their journeys. "To each, their own" - You go your way and I'll go mine. No criticism, no judgment, just different journeys.

So, expect me to send early morning or weekend emails and to not answer your late night ones right away. Expect me to be in the office well before 7 a.m. and to nearly always be comfortably typing away on a Saturday morning. It might not be your way of working, but I've determined where work time and place are in my little corner of this world and it maximizes my energy flow.

When do you work best?

Monday, June 30, 2014

Texas Bloggers UNconference

Near the Dallas/Fort Worth area this summer? Looking for ideas to spice up your blogging efforts? Consider the TSMRI (Texas Social Media Research Institute) "UNconference" for Texas Bloggers. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Digitally Down Days

In the faculty/administration world, you stay "on" all of the time. Digital devices are rarely turned off, our brains stay somewhat connected to work at all times, and we find little distance from the working world.

Because of this, and the fact that I am working a LOT of hours and most weekends, Spouse and I implemented Digitally Down Days and Digitally Down Zones. I prefer to stay at the office and get work done there so I can come home, power (mostly) down, and feel that home is a stress-free zone. There are times, usually after lots of conference travel or tons of huge projects/events at the office, where I find myself slowly powering down: my productivity lessens, my focus is sporadic, and I start to have low-quality sleep. 

An easy solution has been to implement a Digitally Down Day. This is an ENTIRE day where I do not check email, voice mail, texts, or Blackboard. I avoid all things digital. Now, realistically, I can't do this every week--but I can easily do this every now and again. It just takes some boundary-setting and then ruthless boundary protection--something I have to seek assistance in or I will simply never do it.  

I try to have a DDD each month and, though hard, I protect it aggressively. I also work to have my home remain a relaxing place--so you might see me in my office on campus throughout the weekend or during late hours, but I can truly shut down once I arrive home.

These are small things that make a big difference in my world. What works well for you?