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Balancing work and life

Module by: Rice ADVANCE. E-mail the author

Summary: Panel discussion presented by Carrie Masiello, Joff Silberg, Hadley Wickham, and Junghae Suh at the 2010 NSF ADVANCE Workshop: Negotiating the Ideal Faculty Position, A Workshop for Underrepresented PhDs and Postdocs in Science, Engineering and Psychology September 19-21, 2010

Carrie’s week

Figure 1
a screenshot of a schedule

Junghae’s day

Figure 2
a screenshot of a google calendar schedule

Joff’s day

Figure 3
a screenshot of a schedule

Hadley’s week

Figure 4
a screenshot of an iCal schedule

Think about how your ideal time distribution differs from how you really spend your time

Table 1
  Ideal (hrs) Real (hrs)
Lab Work (experiments) 15 ???
Reading & writing (grants/papers/editing) 20 ???
Teaching (preparation/lecture/grading) 10 ???
Staff Management (guidance/support/etc) 5 ???
Service activities (committees/meetings/reviewing) 2 ???
Care giving (partner/child/pets/parents) 23 ???
Self care (boot up/eating/exercise/cleaning) 5 ???
Transportation 2 ???

If your ideal and real time use are different, think about strategies to protect your time

Time for Self:

  • Make time for other interests (sports, music, reading, etc.)
    • Stay healthy (eat right, exercise)
  • Spend time with friends and family
  • Make commitments

Lose the Guilt:

  • Understand limitations, be realistic, expect imperfection
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Accept your work style (regular 8-5er or work binger)

Saying “No”:

  • Never commit immediately. Ask for time to consider.
  • Is the work something important? Something you care about?
    • Something that will help you in the future?
  • Saying “No” enables you to say “Yes” in the future.
  • When “yes”, then follow through with time, energy, and conviction.

There are numerous strategies to protect your time!

  • control your vortex of activity:
    • it feels a lot different when you decide what’s important.
    • don’t let others’ emergencies determine your day.
  • be mindful of how much service you sign up for
    • easy to sign up for too much
  • actively limit your teaching preparation time. You can’t do everything perfectly
  • you have the right to say “no” to many things; don’t hesitate
  • limit your review requests, panels, and talks
    • choose strategically
  • while service matters for tenure, you must publish solid research
    • conserve enough energies for this

Additional considerations when thinking about work-life balance

Being Present

Enjoy the moments, appreciate the “now”.

Creating a New Life

Become a social organizer! It’s easy to gather a few people for a happy hour out on the town, a game night at your place, or a special TV event (the debates, TV show finale, etc.).

Change of Pace

Find alternate places to work besides your home, office, and lab. Look for internet cafes or a park with great picnic tables, etc.

Educate Others

Educate family, friends, significant others, and students about your job and your work style. Some may not entirely understand academia or the tenure process or how you in particular are working toward your goals. These people play a very important role in balancing your life so it really helps to have them fully on board!

No one is perfect!

  • At some point you will feel
    • Incompetent (as a PI and/or as a spouse/parent)
    • Disorganized
    • Overwhelmed
    • Unable to cope
  • You will wonder if this is all worth it
  • You will wonder if you are alone
    • YOU’RE NOT!!
  • Take time to regroup, talk with people you trust
    • Regain that balance
    • Focus time on what you enjoy!

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