Work Life Balance
Work Life Balance
Work life balance is something that comes up often in student affairs work. It’s hard to manage both the demands of the profession along with your personal needs. That is especially challenging when you’re a student affairs professional AND you’re on the job hunt.
Managing to balance both your professional and personal life can be incredibly demanding. But here are some tips can that help you navigate both of them while conducting your student affairs job search.
Start with your personal priorities
First thing you should do is determine what is important to you. The best place to start is with your closest personal relationships. That could be to your significant other; parents; siblings; pets; or close friends. Defining where those responsibilities lie is important in order to determine how you’ll prioritize everything else.
After that, you’ll need to find and establish your own personal support network. These can be the same groups of people that are priorities for you, but they don’t have to be. Having a mentor in the field is especially helpful in starting your support network. This is because they don’t depend on you for help and support. Rather, they are able to lend you some helpful and insightful advice in your job search.
There are usually two types of people when it comes to defining work life balance. They are the segementors and the integrators.
Segementors are people who draw very clear lines between their work and personal lives. These are the people who clock out when it’s five o’clock and spend their evenings at home. They spend their weekends pursuing leisure time with family and loved ones. They don’t think about work outside of the work week.
Integrators on the other hand have fuzzier lines between their work and personal lives. They come in early to work; stay late; or both. They may come in on the weekends, take use some personal days; and handle some personal responsibilities during the worki day. For them there are no clear dividing lines between work and personal life.
I’ve lived much of my professional life as an integrator; and know many student affairs professionals who have as well. It’s very hard to become segmentor when you’re starting out in the field. But as a reformed integrator, I can say that it’s possible with work and dedication. That can be accomplished by first becoming disciplined in multiple areas. First area you should prioritize is your time.
Your time is the line
The first step towards organizing your time is prioritizing when you are most productive. If it makes most sense for you to be productive in the morning before work, then schedule yourself to work on some applications, resume reviews, or cover letters during this time. Likewise, if you are a night owl and work better at night, schedule yourself to take care of these things after work hours.
Compartmentalizing and time boxing your activities will also help you set boundaries on where your professional and personal energies lie. Compartmentalizing includes grouping similar tasks together to take care of them all at the same time. You can do this with job searching by reviewing descriptions, writing cover letters, and submitting applications all during the same time of the day.
With time boxing you can limit your professional commitments to a prescribed time. You can set very clear boundaries on your time by booking specific appointments in on your calendar to work on one project or another.
A great way to start is with regular occurrences like staff or 1on1 meetings. Perhaps you first determine that you don’t need to meet with your entire staff every week. Instead, you can meet with them every 2-3 weeks and schedule “clustered” group meetings with your other direct-reports in the weeks between.
Following this structure frees up more professional time on a regular basis for you to catch a breath between responsibilities. Having this “nothing time” during your work day is important for you to re-charge between intensive tasks.
Knowing when to mix
If you’re an integrator and you know it, then perhaps you can use those tendencies to your advantage. Segementors have clear divisions between their professional and personal responsibilities: that usually also means that they have separate calendars. However, I urge you to consider combining both your personal and professional calendar into the same application. Doing so could show you how your time and energy are best spent.
That means you could gain insight on when to schedule important events and activities. For instance you may not want to schedule an important phone screen in the morning immediately following a late night on-campus event the night before. Likewise, you may also want to free up your professional schedule the day leading up to an intense evening requiring you to travel to visit relatives.
In addition, consider mixing both personal and professional contacts. This is incredibly useful to use during your job search as developing closer personal relationships can open up new opportunities for you to pursue. If you have a group of student affairs professionals that all share the same interest (i.e. running, gaming, knitting etc…) then consider meeting and networking as individuals interested in that activity rather than based on your professional background.
Making yourself #1
Perhaps the biggest priority that most student affairs professionals miss is that they don’t take care of the most important person first: themselves. That means knowing when to say “no” to an optional activity or commitment.
Most people get that Fear of Missing Out syndrome (FOMO); but there is a certain joy to opening up your calendar. You can certainly benefit from a Joy of Opting Out (JOO) that comes with knowing when to say no.
Knowing when to say no, means that you know when to say yes to something else. That could mean treating yourself to a well deserved break or activity that you love and deserve. Whether that means bingeing Netflix or playing board games: it just has to work for you.
Work life balance s tough to achieve n student affairs: particularly if you’re job hunting. But if you’ve dedicated yourself to stating your personal priorities; drawing lines; limiting your time and making yourself number one; then you can come out ahead feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
If you’re new to the student affairs job search and need some quick advice on how to’s then click here to get the FREE eBook Getting Started in your Student Affairs Job Search
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Korpob, J., & Roman, V. (2014, June 2). Tips for Finding Your Work/Life Balance - Graduate Associate Program (GAP) Post. Retrieved from https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/posts/tips-for-finding-your-work-life-balance
Rampton, J. (2019, July 4). 10 Myths About Work-Life Balance. Retrieved from https://www.glassdoor.com/blog/10-myths-about-work-life-balance/