I write a lot (or used to, anyway) about work-life balance and work limits, etc. This post is about what happens when, despite my best efforts, there’s just too much to do and not enough time.
This semester, I became Graduate Coordinator for my department, a job I wanted. I also chaired a search committee, another job I wanted. I also taught my usual load plus the graduate seminar course, despite the Grad Coordinator position coming with a course release, because…there was nobody else to do it. We have no backup for the two courses I teach in Spring – or, at least, nobody who wasn’t already fully loaded herself. I also had our summer REU program basically dropped into my lap. This on top of my pre-existing committee obligations and lab students/research. Officially, I was overloaded by 20%.
In my personal life, we sold (and bought) a house between December and…well, this coming Monday. I continued to volunteer as the Treasurer of my son’s parent participation co-op preschool, and run around every day retrieving kids from school at 11:30, backstopped on Wednesday and Friday by my husband (two kids, both schools let out at the same time – on Mondays, I just have to retrieve one kid late every week).
In short…I tried to do too damn much. I didn’t do it as well as I wanted to. Some of it I “volunteered” for because if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t clear it would get done. Some of it I took on knowing it would make the semester rough. I had NO idea how rough.
So, what happens to an evangelical 40-hour worker when she’s suddenly got 50 hours of work to do every week?
In my case, mostly, I fell behind. I half-assed things. I kept my head above water and did the REALLY important stuff well and let the less important stuff slide. I didn’t, generally, increase my hours of work…but I increased the intensity of work while I was working. I ate lunch at my desk almost every day (except Tuesdays, which were promised to my daughter). I didn’t do my usual “work for 45 minutes, stop for 15” routine. I started to lose my mind from stress both at home and at work.
It’s mostly over now. Classes are done. Finals are written. Faculty hire is hired. Houses are sold and mostly bought. Preschool is down to its final two weeks, after which it’s gonna be a while before I volunteer for anything strenuous.
I guess where I’m going with this is here: I have a work limit. I’ve said it before, but I (and most people) just CAN’T put in more time and get out more work, not without the “more” work being crappier. This semester proved that to me, and on my “Now Tenured Resolutions” list is: never again. For everything new I say I’ll do, something else has to go. I already stepped down as chair of my university-level committee. In a couple of years, when gazing towards Full Professor, I’ll probably run for Academic Senate or some such thing, but for now – must cut back. Get back to balance. Stop having more deadlines than I have time.
Do the occasional blog post.