Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Is the concept of work-life balance still relevant for the modern academic?
One thing about academia is that you never quite seem to finish your to-do list. There is always something that you could spend a little extra time on - more research perhaps or, dare I say it, achieving an empty inbox. My argument is that this idea of work-life balance is an outdated and stress-inducing concept that no longer works. Besides this, do you know anyone who has managed to achieve an ideal state of balance between work and personal commitments? No, me neither.
That doesn’t mean to say it's all work and no play. It’s just that the concept doesn’t quite fit with how we live our lives now. At the moment most of us are in our busy season - the height of the academic semester and this is compounded with hopeful thoughts of achieving personal and professional goals in 2019. So, as you try to meet your expectations and endeavour to push ahead with your aspirations for the year here are some thoughts to ponder...
Take a more fluid view of your week
Scrap the idea of Monday to Friday as your working week. As much as we love reaching "Fri-Yay", our brains are not wired to intake information solely between the hours of nine-to-five on weekdays. Making the choice to work in academia, I expect you have come to the realisation that you will work weekends, evenings and on the bus home just to keep on top. But rather than approaching these moments with a heavy heart lose the expectation with yourself that everything needs to get done at certain times whether personal or professional and don't attach a negative stigma to evening/weekend work activities. The rigidity of Monday to Friday is rather crippling I find. Similarly, build more fun into your working week however you wish.
It's not a glamorous subject but try and book every key work task into your diary (tackling that marking, reviewing a journal article that is overdue, your lunch break (yes, you have a right to take lunch not glued to your Mac). That way you can see realistically what time you actually have to play when accommodating other projects and when you need to push back. We also write so many to do lists, notes and diary appointments for the working week so give your weekend some thought and planning as to how you want to spend it - give your weekend the attention it deserves too,
When do you work best? Is it first thing In the morning, or late at night when everyone else is asleep? Try to make the most of these times and do your most challenging tasks then. That way you are not running at full beans 24/7. While I could could do this with some flair in my 20s I now require sleep, and some over-priced face cream in order to function effectively each day.
Look after yourself
Everyone has different responsibilities and a different schedule but take some time for yourself. It is easy to say, oh i’ll just give this or that a miss. It can be easy to let work tasks creep into all of your free time, so make time in your schedule for the good stuff. I schedule in Tennis just like any other meeting. I'm not brilliant at tennis but it's fun and i'm not going to get any better if I don't go. So here's to taking out time for self-care.
... Scots are apparently quite good at tennis, in case you didn't know.