Work life balance – Need of the hour
CA Seema Korgaonkar |
I have been hearing from a lot of colleagues about their desire to scale back
on work. Yet, many are concerned that downshifting even for a year or two
could lead to losing status in their department or negatively impact their
relationships with colleagues and students. Emotionally, the idea of stepping
back may feel like a betrayal of their past selves, who had worked so hard to
get where they are now.
The demands of higher education are relentless for educators. We must stay on top of our research, publish papers at regular intervals, navigate our student’s needs continuously, be creative in our teaching techniques and keep up the speed with innovative teaching methodologies.
These concerns are reasonable. But despite the professional risks, if you are feeling burned out or overstretched, it is imperative to recognise when you have hit (or are about to hit) a wall. It has serious repercussions on your overall health and wellbeing. Your work or your profession is just one part of your life.
Here are three strategies you can use to make peace with feeling less ambitious even if it is conflicting with your previous vision.
- Downshifting your ambitions doesn’t necessarily mean you are throwing away your hard work or becoming a slacker. It may mean that you have finally recognised what it takes for achievement and ambition to be sustainable. Sustainability can be achieved only by keeping yourself charged and energized throughout your journey.
- Relaxation activities such as meditation, yoga, Tai chi, breathing exercises and muscle relaxation will help you stay in perfect condition. Also taking good care of your body each day, eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep will help your body handle stress much better. Staying positive and practising gratitude, acknowledging the good parts of your day and life is of the essence for your journey.
- Accept that you can’t control everything. Find ways to let go of worries about situations you can’t change. Learn to say, ‘No’ to additional responsibilities when you are too busy or stressed. Stay connected with people who keep you calm, make you happy, provide emotional support and help you with practical things. A friend, family member or neighbour can become a good listener or share responsibilities so that stress doesn’t become overwhelming.
Tips for better work life balance:
- Know Your Values: Spend time thinking about what is important to you in life. This is more like soul reflections, once your priorities are set you simply have to adhere to them.
- Practice Time Management: Time management is something all professionals do but they do it for their work and not for themselves.
- Set Boundaries: Also, ensure that you never cross it yourself but also do not allow others to cross it at your cost.
- Enjoy Your Work: If you enjoy your work then it makes you an engaged workaholic. This is discussed at length, elsewhere in this article.
- Consider Your Finances:The root cause of the majority of your decisions.
- Nurture Relationships: Unless you have wonderful relationships you cannot think of achieving work life balance. These relationships need to be nurtured actively.
- Focus On Your Health: As you advance in your career and life you will understand that the one thing you cannot think of undermining is your health. Health is wealth - Indeed.
- Have Downtime: Perpetual busyness does not translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy. It is, in fact, paradoxically, necessary for getting any work done efficiently.
One has to ensure that their work life doesn’t become their whole life. Unlike machines and software whose makers and sellers boast their uptime as high as 99.99%, that is fantastic for them. But in the case of a human being the operating system is different. High uptime for human operating systems cannot be the USP for that individual. It is certain to prove fatal eventually.
Being a workaholic is good as long as you are an engaged workaholic. Engaged workaholics are those who do feel some kind of compulsion and some guilt when they are not working but they also simply love their jobs. They are engaged in it, they are passionate about it, they find meaning in it and so these are the people who are buffered from the negative impact of workaholism. However one often comes across people who are obsessed with their jobs but don’t love them, these unhappy folks are prone to all kinds of negative impacts starting with a doomed mind and leading to an unhealthy body.
Coming back to educators, for understandable reasons they tend to overemphasize the strategies that have been effective for them in the past. For instance, if you are great at developing a new course you will keep doing it. That’s not a bad strategy in general but it becomes a liability if you fail to recognize moments when you should shift your behaviour. Creating new courses is wonderful, but the marginal value of developing a new offering is low when your students' evaluations are suffering due to, say, a lack of emphasis on your public speaking and presentation skills.
The secret, then, lies in understanding how to think in waves and recognize when it’s time to focus on another strategy. This applies within the professional realm, redirecting your professional time from developing a new course to public speaking training and beyond.
As an educator, you may have dedicated years or even decades to arduous work. It may now be an opportune moment to redirect your focus towards personal well-being, addressing neglected health concerns, or attending to your children's needs and pursuing outside interests.
While success may appear to hinge on sheer quantity, there comes a realisation that you need not more of the same but rather a fresh approach that deviates from your past efforts.
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