Thursday, September 29, 2016


Remember how my therapist wanted me to start thinking about where I want to be in 5, 10, 15 years? Well, I am doing a faculty development course this year, and the very first assignment was to write a 15 year life plan! I actually put some thought and time into this, and I found it really helpful to try to visualize where I saw myself under ideal circumstances.

The course utilizes this book, which title non-withstanding, has absolutely nothing to do so far with being a "leader" in the traditional sense (leading a group). Its actually about work/life "integration" (as the author urges us to think about it) and how to take control of your time and energy and create the life you want for yourself. Obviously this concept is something of great interest to me and my readership, so I thought I'd share some insights.

The book proposes a "four way view" of life, which includes work, family, self, and community. At the first meeting we did an exercise in which we had to assign a % of importance to those 4 areas. We then had to assign a % of time currently devoted to those areas. Everyone had the same dilemma---we found all the areas important, but devoted the vast majority of our time to work.

I was obviously not surprised by this.  Actually, I don't know how honest people were even being with the exercise. The cult of busyness, and bragging about how much you work to the exclusion of all else is huge here. I am always hearing disparaging comments like "who has time for THAT?" when discussing reading or other hobbies. Its basically OK to talk about spending time with children and working. Anything else is clearly a waste of time and a signal to all of your lack of dedication.

Someone actually brought this up, by contrasting her experience at another place with what she's noticed here. This led into some really interesting discussions about the culture of our university, and the emphasis on work to the exclusion of other pursuits, and whether there was a way to shift the culture that over time. 

One part of this course involves using peer to peer "coaching teams". I was randomly teamed up with 2 guys, both with vastly different work and non-work commitments from me. We started off talking about our goals and what we saw as obstacles to meeting them. Then we helped each other think through solutions. I offered visionary advice such as "make a list", "sync calendars with your spouse", and "work from home on occasion if people keeping interrupting you in your office". I was given the advice to spend some time on Friday planning out the week ahead---to include work and non-work commitments, and to leave 1-2 days a week free from any meetings.

Cheesy as it seems, the "4 way" thing is actually working for me. Our 15 year plans had to include our visions for all 4 aspects, and I realized that certain things ARE important to me, but woefully neglected. I really value the idea of community. We live and work and play and learn all within a 1.5 mile radius. In fact, we spend 90% of our non-work time within a few blocks of home (this includes the elementary school, which is 1 block away). Being involved in our community in a more meaningful has always been on my "someday" list, but I realized that there are definitely things I can do now. So I said YES when I got the email to help out with a fundraiser 5K for the school (and I'm running in it). I am going to the school PTA meeting next week (its at 5:30 PM, not 10AM!!). I was tired, but I went to the neighborhood book group meeting, and despite the last meeting being awkward (I didn't know anyone, yet they seemed to be friends), things really clicked and I had a great time (even though we were only drinking tea).

I think I'm doing a better job than most in the category of "self". I have pinpointed what I need, and my workouts and sleep and alone time are non-negotiables in my life. My family obviously gets a large amount of time and energy, though maybe 99% of that is my kids, and I need to shift a bit of that to poor neglected G and even to keeping up extended family relationships (so I've been calling my parents & MIL and texting my sister more).

Its such a great coincidence that this course focuses on the exact thing I've been pondering and planning on my own (when I applied for it, it was unclear exactly what it entailed, but it seemed prestigious and a friend/colleague recommended the experience). Astute readers may notice that some of what I wrote here matches up exactly with my previously stated September goals! Reinforcements from all sides definitely make my resolve stronger.

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