Advice and Tips

What is this “Work Life” Balance?



This academic year everyone is super into scheduling all their time and creating firmer boundaries between work/school and non-work/school activities. Seems like a pretty good idea, especially since last year virtually allll of my time was devoted to work/school. Hmmm, guess I should’ve followed my own time management tips more closely. But, even before last year I was never so good at work-life balance.

FIRST OF ALL, I don’t even like the phrasing of work-life balance. It makes it seem like there’s work i.e. this dreadful thing you do, and then there’s life which is all chocolate with no calories and bubbles. Already, before you even get started on balancing it, ‘work-life’ is bad.

SECOND, I almost always let my work become my life. Let’s see. . .there was social work i.e. the epitome of work as life and in varying degrees. There was the social work I was so emotionally invested in (child abuse investigation), and then there was the social work I hated so much that there was only being at work hating it and not being at work hating that I had to go to work (I guess that job task will remain nameless). Then there was the for-profit business world where my boss told me part of my job description was responding to calls 24 hours a day. So yeah, work-life balance. . .I’m not so familiar with. But as you can imagine I’m a fabulous employee. Ok, my stints in social work were not the ideal version of work-life but the for-profit employment was fantastic since I actually did enjoy my job meaning worklife was pretty awesome and there was no need for work-life “balance.”

Now, here I am in a new phase of work known as graduate school. One of the most recurrent pieces of advice I was given was you have to have balance. I don’t know, I guess it depends on how you define balance and the time period you’re using for your analysis.*

But, because last year was such a roller coaster of emotions due to my lack of balance or work-nonwork demarcation, I think implementing some sort of boundary between activities is needed. My cohort bestie and I had both read an article on time boundary setting for the academic year, and she decided she’s only doing school related activities Monday through Friday and giving herself the weekend to have a family activity day and a no-activity day. It seems like a pretty good plan. . .in theory. So I decided to do the same.

Here’s my schedule. Monday through Friday school related stuff and Saturday and Sunday non-school related stuff. Obviously, a few activities aren’t shown like my morning workouts and church on Sunday. (Btw, if you’re in the DMV, Bridgeway Community Church is super awesome.)



I’m totally a morning person when it comes to the day’s heavy thinking, so as you can see my mornings are devoted to coursework (readings and writings), any Research Assistant tasks, and my own research (currently data analysis is the main focus). Then, in the afternoon I have a block of time set aside for Writing Fellows training and one-on-one consultations. (As a Writing Fellow, I provide one-on-one writing consultations, think peer review, for fellow graduate students.) Later in the afternoon, depending on what day it is, I either have class or I work at the ASCDU meeting with student-athletes and supporting them as they become independent learners. Friday is all day school related work. Of course some adjustments will be made as talks and other professional development activities arise throughout the semester.

Those big blocks of time in the morning may seem like a lot, but I like to break it up into 40-minute to 1-hour chunks with 5 to 15 minute breaks. During breaks, I check email, texts, and social media.

Like I said, in theory this seems like a great plan. In reality, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll give you an update in a few weeks to let you know how successful I’ve been. Until then, I hope you’re incorporating some boundaries in your scheduling and making your time work for you!





*One of my absolute favorite articles on this exact topic is by Jen Dzuira. You definitely should read it, and then maybe you can re-conceptualize how you think about work-life balance. Could be useful to you but then again maybe you actually benefit more from incorporating weekly or monthly balance.

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