The door in my head remained wide open

This video hits close to home. I think most of my anxiety about work can be attributed to a habit of ruminating rather than recharging. This quote in particular struck me as telling:

“We don’t stress about work at work the same way we stress about work at home.”

Guy Winch

I’ve been giving more thought to how I can do better at compartmentalizing my job. I’m forcing myself to sleep instead of working an extra 2-3 hours every evening. I’ve turned off push notifications from almost all of my mobile services. Moreover, I’ve been working to stop thinking of my profession as a part of my identity.

Constantly tweaking the work-life equation

Living in a large, urban area has afforded me the luxury of being able to work for multiple academic institutions without having to relocate. Unfortunately in academia, moving around is the norm and, as Margaret Kosmala points out, is risky for individuals and families alike, especially those who identify as racial or ethnic minorities, are part of same-sex relationships, or come from underrepresented groups in higher  ed.

“Frequent moving needs to stop being the norm for early career academics. It’s harmful in many, many ways.”

Kosmala looks at how this practice in academia negatively impacts diversity as well as its extremely harmful effect on mental health. In the same vein, Marria Accardi has written a post about keeping burnout at bay. These are the types of posts that catch my attention of late.

In my own life, I’ve adopted practices similar to those in Marria’s post, including scheduled quiet time, meditation, weekly pre- and post-review sessions, and daily walks. I’ve also begun meeting regularly with a therapist to address my (albeit mild) anxiety and depression, exercising a few times a week, and dedicating myself to 7-8 hours of sleep (infant and toddler notwithstanding). This of course means sacrificing some projects and quite often saying no to new ones.

The most difficult practice for me has been changing the way I react to stress. When someone walks into my office with an urgent concern, I try to make a conscious effort to remain detached and examine the issue as a puzzle to be solved, not as a fire that needs to be squelched. I am guilty more often than I care to admit of making too much to do of what objectively are minor issues and this undoubtedly contributes to my elevated stress levels.

The one problem I have yet to solve is the lack of time for research. This can’t happen at home (unless I am willing to sacrifice sleep or attention to my family) and so my only option is to find time during the work day. I am currently experimenting with various scheduling methods and tricks, like setting meetings with myself and slightly closing my office door, but these are often undone. If anyone has solutions to offer, I’m all ears!

An academic librarian through and through

The get-more-done, put-off-leisure mindset that is common to American work culture can easily be found in the library professional as well.

Hi, my name is John, and I’m a workaholic. 

I love what I do and get immeasurable fulfillment from my work as an academic librarian, but I also realize the need to step outside Libraryland to recharge.

Liz Danzico has good advice for people like me. From “Banking time“:

“While we’re taught the value of saving money, we’re never really taught the value of saving time. Not saving time so we are more efficient elsewhere, but actually banking time. Saving it for later.”

Danzico briefly offers five recommendations:

Max out your vacation days: I’ve already put in a request for a day off in Febrary “just because” and I’m planning a family road trip for the summer.

Keep 10-20% of your day, every day, free: This is more difficult. I have a rule that nothing goes on my calendar unless it must be accomplished at a specific time. Blocking off free time works against that philosophy, but I could do a better job of saying no to meetings that phone calls could easily replace.

Schedule make-up events on a monthly basis: If it’s an important event/meeting, I should do this. I may start making this part of my weekly review on Sundays.

Pay attention to recurring meetings: I have 24 hours of recurring  meetings each month. It’s hard to figure out what I could ignore. I could certainly reduce some of those down to 30 minutes, especially if I did a better job of planning what I want to accomplish ahead of time.

Promote your time of: Last year, I detailed my work week. I’m planning to do that again in my new position but I also want to do a librarian anti-day in the life during which I record everything I do during the week that isn’t work related. It’s not much, but it’s worth celebrating.

When it comes to my relationship with the profession, “work-life balance” is not an ideal to which I aspire. Instead, I try to focus on the creative benefits that time off, reflection, and distance can bring to my work. I also try to remind myself that stress in any portion of my life can negatively affect my productivity, my relationships with others, and my health. There are some portions of my life, mostly family related, that I keep separate from my work, but for the most part I am an academic librarian through and through.