“It’s the most wonderful chaotic time of the year….”
With the holidays officially beginning and the spirit of the season in the air, it also begins one of the most hectic and muddled time of year. Especially in student affairs, where the focus quickly shifts to end of semester finals and holiday break, this time of year can be extraordinarily joyful yet intense and heavy at the same time.
It can be hard to ensure that I am not over-committing myself. It’s easy to over-commit, especially in a student affairs role. Recently, I’ve been guilty of not allocating myself enough time (which is hard to admit due to my passion for self-care).
I was chatting with Kayley about the topic of self-care and she discussed,
“This [over-commitment] is danced around a lot and is not talked about in student affairs. We need to challenge both phrases of work/life and self-care practice and look at some themes instead. We could be misdiagnosing ourselves with this language and not truly understanding which area(s) we’re struggling. We compare ourselves to each other. Maybe instead of ‘self-care’ maybe we mean ‘overcommitting’. Maybe instead of ‘work/life’ we have an efficiency issue. And maybe we set ourselves up for failure when we commit ourselves to 80 hours of work when we can’t fit it into a 40 hour work week.”
While she’s right, the point she brings also has a sense of irony. Over-committing often correlates with backing or flaking out at the last moment and we all know this type of behavior makes it hard for a team to complete tasks long-term. In trying to help others, we end up failing our team and failing ourselves. Over-committed, burnt out professionals who are consistently called upon are started to be seen as unreliable. And it’s not completely their fault because we have allowed this culture to persist.
Why is it that in a profession so focused on the care of students, that we often forget to care for ourselves and fellow colleagues?
How are we really supposed to balance commitment at a time of the year that requires so much from us?
Most recently I was awarded a #SAgrad scholarship after creating a Periscope video about how Work/Life Balance Doesn’t Exist. With my lens, I truly believe work/life balance does not exist and aligns more with the belief that people need practice better self-care schedules and techniques.
What helps me process my own over-commitments, self-care time, and everything else in between is thinking about how my time during the week is allocated overall. I divide up my time to celebrate ‘me’ just as much as I need to get all the last-minute details and student activities contracting done before students scurry off home for winter break.
Time: Our Biggest Resource
Time, self-care, work/life balance – whatever you want to call ‘it’ are so closely related to our happiness and how we feel about how we’ve spent our days.
This video really inspired me to think about time differently, at a birds eye view outside of my weekly and monthly planner:
Time is a finite resource and when we don’t spend it wisely, we beat ourselves up and it’s this never-ending cycle that we can’t seem to break ourselves free of. This video can overwhelm a few of us, since it really reminds us that time is of the essence. Instead, turn that feeling into something productive and start planning out your time in a better way right now.
You don’t find time for self-care… you make it.
Every week we are allotted 168 hours. Knowing this, we can dictate our top priorities and understand where our time will be BEST spent for the week.Although it may seem silly to take an hour to prioritize your time every week, it pays off in the long-term!
Typically we spend 40-50 hours at our jobs and commuting to work. How can we best spend these 40 hours?
Look at those hours first and plan out which priorities, tasks, and projects need to be completed. But what’s this? We work in student affairs! Something will always come up: a new assignment, a meeting with a student, or an emergency. It may be a good idea to block off 3-5 hours if you expect to have more added to your plate.
Outside of work you have other hours like sleeping (7 hours/day), eating (1 hour/day), and working out (30 mins). Add those up and review the hours you have left.
With these hours, schedule some realistic time of what you need to do and what you’d like to do. For example, I know that some of my friends who are parents have time scheduled to take care of their families.
When we choose all of our activities and priorities for the week, we must realize that we probably won’t have time for all of them and be OK with it. After all, when we choose multiple priorities and mark them as ‘high priorities’, there’s a good chance that none of them will get accomplished on time or will be your best work. Be realistic and focus on a few you can get done and celebrate your wins.
Try planning out your next week on a Friday afternoon so you’re excited to head into work Monday with a solidified plan.
When you notice you’re starting to put priorities by the wayside because of overcommitting or being overworked, you’ll know you need to shift something for the week to accommodate other areas. Another option is speaking up and with your supervisor to shift areas that aren’t working for you.
Tracking your time helps you not waste time on things like scrolling through social media mid-day, before bed, and right when you wake up in the morning. You could be doing things that you actually love like reading a book, meditating, or doing something productive for you that will truly make you feel happy at the end of the day.
You need to find the best way to care for yourself. Whether it be in the area of fitness, relationships, taking care of your car or personal space.
Need some examples to spark your own self-care routine?
Here are some questions I’ve utilized to figure out my own self-care activities:
What makes you happy?
Think about hobbies or activities you like to do. Do you run? Do you love to read? Do you knit? Do you like to clean? Do you take your dog on a walk? Think about what brings you joy- either during or after the task. Simply doing something you love, even if it’s coloring or curling up and watching the new Gilmore Girls episodes, can do a lot for your mental health.
In his book, The Now Habit, Neil Fiore suggests that people who schedule in playtime or things that make them really happy are more likely not to procrastinate on their work than people who don’t allocate themselves playtime until after the work is complete.
What takes your mind off of work?
One of my favorite ‘escape’ places is taking a shower or a bath. Especially when I turn off the lights and shower with just the Christmas lights on with my music blasting, I feel like I can escape from my life and just enjoy being present (and warm)! While some people’s best ideas are born in the shower, this is the place where I ponder life, my loved ones, and the universe. I also love pouring a glass of wine, working on a puzzle, and watching a movie. I am doing enough in the moment that I don’t have room in my brain to actively think about work or school.
Find something that keeps you occupied or shifts your focus to ‘zone out’ from your worries or mentally check out from your responsibilities if you’re not at work.
What is something you love to do but you feel like you never have time to do?
This was a huge discovery I made over the summer when I started experimenting new things I wanted to try. I always wanted to blog but never did (mainly time, but I had other excuses) and one day I simply made the decision to start and completely fell in love. Before I knew it, I found blogging to be so therapeutic on top of other reasons to enjoy it so much. Now, I feel so busy that I don’t have time to blog, and I feel not doing it impacts my day-to-day. Over the summer I also really got into running, until I fractured my foot. I never predicted enjoying either of these activities as much as I do now, but I can’t imagine my life without them.
What are some self-care practices that make you feel whole? How have they changed over the years? Is there something you want to try but always find an excuse not to?
Continue the conversation by tweeting us @HelloPresence.