We’ve all had those feelings during the semester when our energy levels are continually going up and down.
Many of us are traveling to and from conferences, either as attendees or advisors for our student groups; recovering from submitting conference proposals or dealing with proposal rejections. Wellness setbacks often occur during these ups and downs in the form of physical and mental health issues, and issues that spur from personal and current events.
As student affairs professionals, we are not ALL work. We are multifaceted folx that have our moments when we do not feel that we are at our best, where we feel that we can be doing more and doing better. When we catch ourselves hitting the semester slump, we have to PAUSE and think about what we can do to make our work and our overall well-being align again. Here are some suggestions to consider:
Count Your Wins
It’s easy to overlook tasks completed throughout the workday because of small negative experiences. A meeting gone wrong, a program did not turn out the way you hoped, or you have outstanding tasks left to complete. Have you noticed that punishing ourselves for not getting things done on time comes naturally? It’s easy to put ourselves down and engage in negative self-talk. Often in our minds, when we fail at something – no matter the size – we engage in irrational thinking and need to bring ourselves back down to earth, so to speak.
When we accomplish small goals we almost never give ourselves enough credit to feel good about it.
Amabile and Kramer’s article in the Harvard Business Review called Power of Small Wins, speaks more about this phenomenon,
“When we think about progress, we often imagine how good it feels to achieve a long-term goal or experience a major breakthrough. These big wins are great—but they are relatively rare. The good news is that even small wins can boost inner work life tremendously.”
What you can do to bring some feelings of successful productivity to your day is to keep a mental (or actual) list of what went well for you at work. If you had a successful committee meeting, if you finished reviewing a specific number of program requests, if you were able to resolve a situation with a student then you are doing well, make sure you celebrate your wins. Amabile explains that the size of the ‘win’ doesn’t matter.
Acknowledging wins could be tracked through a daily or weekly to-do list or doing some end of the work week reflection. If you are someone who can process all of that in your mind, by all means do that, but if you are like me (who needs to write things down to process), keeping a notepad or journal is recommended. Try to write down 5 things you’ve completed this week for a job well done. Notice how you feel after you’ve acknowledged the work you’ve accomplished.
Revisit Your Goals
Goal setting is important for any student affairs professional, considering the many opportunities we have in our roles to improve and excel. Chris Mullen, organizational development speaker and trainer, suggests reflecting before setting goals. I support this fully; the best goals that are set are those that often take time to think about, help you understand your why, and help you figure out the best way that YOU can achieve them. So think about some of the long-term and short-term goals that you have.
How much challenge are you receiving from them?
How motivated do you feel to do them?
How much of your mind are you using to work towards your goals?
If the answers to these questions aren’t making you excited, then this is a perfect time to really step your goals up.
Some examples of goal setting can include:
- Submitting multiple proposals for programming at conferences/academic journals
- Creating a timeline to brainstorm and plan innovative campus events Joining a campus-wide or division-wide committee in an functional area/skill that you would like to learn more about
- Start a blog (yes, I’m a bit biased)
- Rearranging your weekly schedule every semester so that you can allow more time for open hours with students to meet with you in your office or so you can do more tabling events to reach students in between classes
- Start a self-care/”treat yo self” journey – actively working on doing the hobbies that you love
Set Up Your Motivation
Creating small actions and ways for you to motivate yourself is always a good way to stay re-invigorated. An example that I made part of my weekly practice is choosing a quote each week that serves as an additional source of motivation.
Here’s an example of what quotes I have selected so far:
The quotes really do the job as it helps me get excited for Mondays, it’s visible in a place that I often look at, and since I do it every week, it encourages me to keep going.
Another suggestion, which might be for those who like to listen to music while they are working, is to create or find a music playlist that has the jams to keep you going! I highly recommend using Spotify: they do have the web player option as well as numerous playlists from members and offer you the opportunity to make your own.
I’ll round off this last suggestion by suggesting that you find colleagues or coworkers to help you stay motivated. It could be likely that your colleagues are looking to enhance their roles and build community across campus too. Connecting to the section about revisiting goals, this could mean looking for additional opportunities to enhance your roles on campus by collaborating with other professionals or joining campus committees. It could also mean that you will gain an accountability buddy and a greater sense of how you enjoy your job based on your engagement with others.
What are some of the strategies or ways that you shake up your semester?
How do you bring back your energy and joy to your work?
Thank you for reading! 😊