Teaching Tip: Have a PEACEful holiday

Feeling stressed out?  Not happy with the balance between your teaching, scholarship, service  and – well – life?  You’re not alone.  Research suggests that university faculty experience higher levels of job stress than the general population, so it’s particularly important for us to be pro-active in dealing with stress and strain.  And Adjunct faculty are certainly not exempt — balancing primary employment with teaching commitments and home life.  In her Monday Motivator email this week, Kerry Ann Rockquemore uses the acronym PEACE to help readers think about ways to plan and implement changes that will help them thrive.  I’ve condensed and commented on her remarks.  You may not read this until after finals are in, but I hope you’ll come back to this idea and find some ways to make next semester more peaceful and productive.

What do you want?  How can you get it, or make progress toward getting it?  What’s MOST important and are you really putting your time where your priorities are?  In CrazyBusy, Edward Hallowell talks about leeches and lilies.  Leeches are projects, activities, beliefs, attitudes and/or people who drag us down, suck the life out of us and waste our time and our attention.  Lilies energize us, excite us and help us feel happy and fulfilled. They keep us going.  Hallowell advocates systematically analyzing your time and effort in order to use them effectively to maximize your lilies and reduce your leeches to the minimum. The book is short and interesting (although I find all his made-up terms a little silly).  If you want a more interactive planning structure, Kerry Ann Rockquemore is offering a free semester planning workshop on January 12th, 2011 for the first 500 people who sign up.  Her primary focus is new faculty but a little planning never hurt any of us!

Experiment (with tested strategies)
You don’t ignore prior research findings when you plan a scholarly project, so why would you do it when it comes to making changes in your life?  There are models for time management, increasing writing productivity, reducing stress and more that have proven effective.  If you don’t know what they are, the CTE is happy to help you find out.  For starters, check out these Inside Higher Ed columns, also by Kerry Ann Rockquemore:  1) The Sunday Meeting, 2) a daily writing practice, 3) tracking your time, and 4) holding yourself accountable on a regular basis.   CrazyBusy is another good choice, as is The Pomodoro Technique (best for writing projects)  and David Allen’s Getting Things Done.

Pick an approach, try it for a month and check to see if it’s helping.  If it is, GREAT.  If not, you may need to re-examine your goals (Is this REALLY my top priority or is it what I think I’m supposed to want?), or your methods (Was it totally unrealistic to commit to two hours of writing a day?).  This step is often overlooked.  If something doesn’t work, we tend to shrug it off as a useless approach without digging a little deeper into the “why”.

We all have beliefs and attitudes that hold us back or empower us — leeches and lilies again.  You read about an approach to time management and immediately decide it can’t work for you.  You just know you don’t have time to exercise or join a book group or start a new research project.  Challenge your knee-jerk reactions and examine them.  Whose voice are you hearing?  Is the belief you have left-over from another part of your life?  Are there things you could let go of that you don’t because of some old script in your head?  Changing beliefs or attitudes, or actions isn’t always easy, but if you’re unhappy now, choosing not to change will pretty much guarantee continued unhappiness.  Waiting around for others to change or for “the situation” to change usually isn’t too effective either, unless your unhappiness is caused by a temporary condition that’s out of your control.  That’s why it’s so important to be sure the goals you are setting are truly your highest priority.  Are they worth working hard for?

Establish (a community)
Achieving work-life balance is hard enough – don’t go it alone.  It can be online or face-to-face, weekly, monthly or ad hoc, at Marymount or somewhere else, but find a community.  One of the most common comments I hear at CTE events is “it was so great to talk to other people about this issue…we should do this more often.”  And I totally agree.  Next semester we will be sponsoring a lunchtime journaling group and we hope to have a writing group as well.  And if you’re interested in forming another type of community, the CTE would be happy to try to help.  Whatever type of community or group you join or create, it’s the collective wisdom and support that matters.  Sometimes people feel that group events take up time they don’t have, but I notice that those who make time generally are more efficient and productive  in other ways as well.  You can add to our community right now by commenting on this post!

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.” -Albert Einstein

You can sign up for the Monday Motivator or explore all of Kerry Ann Rockquemore’s resources at her website, the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.

This will be the last Teaching Tip until classes start again in January.  Best wishes for a happy holiday and a joyous 2011!



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