Finding Balance

I’ve written before about that search for the elusive balance between life and work. This summer, I feel like I’ve gotten closer. The key has been attending to my calendar and planning out my goals for the week. I follow Julie Morgenstern‘s advice to just write it down. If I don’t write something down on the calendar, it usually doesn’t get done. What I’ve gotten better at is identifying long-term goals and breaking them down into short-term, doable projects.

As the result of attending a workshop in Spring 2012, I now also follow advice from KerryAnn Rockquemore (National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity) and scheduled a Sunday planning session. I’ve added this to my calendar as a recurring appointment, with a reminder alarm. During the session I start by asking myself what I want to accomplish for the week. If I say something like, “Work on that new course proposal” then I force myself to be more specific: What does working on the proposal look like? What do I need to get done to move forward on the project? 

Then I schedule appointments during the week where I work on that specific task. So, Monday at 10 a.m. might say, “Write course description and learning outcomes.” Tuesday at 3 p.m. might say “Develop the sample course schedule.” I found a great paper planner at Staples that allowed me to write down everything so I could see the big picture; then once I was satisfied, I entered everything into my calendar. A little time consuming, but it helped me reflect on the “reasonable-ness” of my plans as well as all the other things I need to get done that week (i.e., wash the dogs, exercise, write, etc.).

I’m now using Google apps — the calendar and “to do” list — and am really excited about the results. Google calendar allows me to see the day, week or month (so I can toggle between detail and big picture). I can also move appointments around (rather than having to erase the entry on my paper calendar I can simply grab the appointment and move it to another time slot). I can also adjust the length of the appointment to see how much time the task actually took (did it take longer than I expected or did I breeze through it in short order?). Another benefit is that I can easily share the calendar with others. The “to do” list is integrated with the calendar, so I create the list (including the big topic and small steps to get the work done). Then I take the “to do” item and move it to a specific day. I have a dual reminder for that day: the “to do” at the top of the calendar and the appointment during the day. 

The Sunday planning session takes 30 – 45 minutes then I’m set for the week. The detailed appointments help keep me on task & ensure that I’m making progress towards the goals I’ve set for myself. I also know that when August rolls around in two weeks, I’ll be able to say, “Wow! I got a lot done this summer. I accomplished what I set out to do and I even had time for a few short vacation trips.” 

It must be nice to have summer off …

As faculty we hear that a lot and I agree that summers are nice and provide an opportunity to work differently. If I’m not scheduled to teach during a summer session, I work from home and may go to campus occasionally, but for the most part, I telecommute. This summer I’ve gotten a lot done so far: completed data collection for my study about new presidents, participated in a 14-day writing challenge (and signed up for another), completed a manuscript and submitted it to the Community College Review, finished a new course proposal and started another, and worked out the schedule for a new class I’ll be teaching in the Fall.

At the start of the summer, I set my goals then broke them into monthly goals, then finally into weekly goals. I then plan out my week so I can be sure that I’m making progress toward those goals. This has helped me stay on track, meet the short- and long-term goals, better see what’s ahead in the Fall semester, and maintain balance in my life.

Due to good planning, this has been one of my most productive summer sessions since becoming a faculty member. What I’ve also noticed this summer is that I’m now beginning to feel like a faculty member. This shift in my sense of self began last summer when I worked on my promotion and tenure (P&T) portfolio. Putting together the portfolio helped me connect more directly with the activities and experiences that define a faculty member. In the process, I could more easily see the faculty role as a faculty member – rather than through my previous professional lens of administrator. I started internalizing what it means to be a faculty member at the University – beyond teaching and research. I put together additional pieces of the puzzle:  service and curriculum development.

In Fall 2011 I joined the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Pacific. Unlike my work on the Judicial Review Board, service on the IRB is uniquely a faculty responsibility. Serving on the Judicial Review Board is a lot like work I’ve done in prior positions and what I like about it is that I work with students and staff from across the campus. Work on the IRB is particular to the faculty experience, however, and something I would not have been able to do if I weren’t a faculty member. As such, I can immediately see how my work on this committee helps shape my professional identity, my sense of what it means to be a faculty member, and what it means to interact with colleagues on academic issues.

This summer I’ve also started working on curriculum development. When I completed my P&T portfolio, I realized that one of the areas missing from my experiences was curriculum development. I started asking myself, “What curriculum  would add to our doctoral program?” I turned to some of my own research on the leadership competencies developed by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) to identify potential gaps in our curriculum. As a result, I’m currently working on a course proposal for philanthropic fundraising and another on strategic planning. After examining feedback from students, I worked with a colleague to develop a proposal for a four-unit “Dissertation Boot Camp.” I’m really excited about all three courses and believe they’ll make valuable contributions to our students’ experiences in the program.

As with serving on the IRB, developing curriculum is an essential faculty activity. These activities have rounded out my faculty experiences and allowed me to contribute to the university in new and different ways. I love how my third year pre-tenure review WORKED! The time spent reflecting led to future goals and planning that, in turn, led to specific outcomes this summer. Nice.