Busy is Hard to Unlearn: Having It All

An article in the Globe and Mail that discussed how students today don’t really take a Summer break gave me pause. If you search the Globe and Mail’s site for students + busy lots of articles are found–including the one that I shared. While the article is dated, the sentiment is important as we get through the first month of a new year.

Once I was in high school I found a love for running and spent my Summers training for Cross Country and Track Seasons, but I also took the occasional Summer School class up at Mt. SAC. I was also enrolled in some Honors and Advanced Placement courses, so by the time I graduated I had more than the first term of college courses completed. While in university I also took Summer School and ultimately graduated with my BA in Women’s Studies and Minor in Political Science in 3.5 years. Yes, you read that right.

I was a first generation college student and the eldest of 5 kids. College wasn’t really about having the time of my life and finding myself (well, I did a little of this), but was about being  busy and serious to get it done. I had my family to think of and how they would help all five of their kids go to college or university. Three of us have degrees and the two others took some coursework, but never completed to earn the four year degree. Two of us have multiple advanced degrees.

The crux of this post, though, is the article about teenagers not having Summers today. I can recall being in middle school and getting bored after one month and I was ready to return to my school schedule. I was a good, focused student. Today, though, I am a workaholic and not saying this out of pride, but just sheer honesty. I work hard and I love my job, but I have to remind myself that I am not my job. I say this, as I want to be a good example to my own teen and her little sister. I want them to have a Summer and decompress from the busy school term that is filled with classes, competitive swimming, piano lessons, and more.

What does it mean to be so busy? What does it mean to have it all? Yes, I’ve linked to the now infamous NYT and Atlantic articles. What some of this means is that it’s getting harder to relax. I’ve blogged previously about the electronic umbilicus between me and my gadgets. I’ve also blogged about Breaking Up with Foursquare. I’m mindful of my work balance issues and trying hard for better balance. But, I also know that my Type A personality is at work, and I work in a field where my job is not the traditional 9-5 gig. I always have a project to work on, a chapter to revise, or journal article to write. And, I need to say “no” more.

It’s no wonder that during my first week of vacation I was at the office three days for meetings. Meetings planned months in advance with four or more people and our busy schedules meant that we could only find time in July–my month off. The second week of my vacation I was also at work three times. Each time I came into work the wonderful, Graduate Secretary smiled and me and said, “Now, I thought you were on vacation?” I love her to death for her humor and support! It’s work for me to relax and I’m trying to get better, as I don’t want to pass on this attribute to my daughters.

This third week, on Monday I met with some mentees and I’m finally ready to get to my own projects and writing! But, as any of us working in higher education knows, there is still work to be done on courses and other work related stuff during the month off. This post is the first in a series thinking about what it means to be busy or attempt to have it all. I think I just about have it all, but it means that I’m busy. Cue the big sigh.

Kindness in 2017

Be kind to yourself. Make this your mantra for 2017 and beyond. This is not my suggestion for a resolution, but perhaps a suggestion for thinking about the importance of self-care every darn day. Do not give into the need to prove you are worthy. You are. You are enough. Do not think that you need to list or proclaim how busy you are. We are all busy. You are important. We know this. Be kind to yourself and in turn to others around you. Kindness and compassion begins with you. A new term begins for me and my students. Don’t forget kindness.

In 2017, treat yourself well. Take moments to balance yourself so that you can function. Remember that you are happier and more centered when you have a positive outlook about your life and the way that you treat those you encounter. Kindness is contagious and is not just about you. We can be our own worst enemy. Be a friend. Don Marquis noted, “The chief obstacle to the progress of the human race is the human race.” Do not be an obstacle to your own happiness and success. Be an asset. This short post is not filled with platitudes. No, it is a reminder about the importance of kindness. Think about what you want. Happy New Year! Think about your super power for the year! I am sure flying would be great or being invisible would be awesome to awkward, but I want a super power that helps me and others. Kindness will work. Compassion will work. Empathy will work. OK, those are superpowers.


Do Not Glorify Busy: Friends

This post is revised, but provides a timely reminder. Our lives are not about competing with one another about how busy we are. No one wins the busy olympics. Do not glorify busy. Do not proudly say, “I am triple booked.” One-upping does not make you more important. We are all busy.

My mantra for 2013 was: I will not glorify busy. This mantra deserves its own post, but I will speak to something more specific here. I continue to not glorify busy, since I know that everyone is busy and it’s relative to our lives. I will not make myself more busy than I need to and pass on social situations that I have to “phone in.”  This does not include work meetings or commitments, as that is different since I have to attend these meetings. I had a loved one in my family go through a major health crisis a few years ago and it was a wake-up call for better life balance and here I am thinking about things. I am better at taking time off. I have not perfected it, but I am getting better. One of the things that I am more cognizant of that is extremely important that I take care of myself. I am not talking about the basics: food and shelter. No, I’m referring to a more nuanced way of taking care of myself. If I have better balance in my life, my family benefits. If my family benefits, so do my friends, and then my co-workers and students. When my family was in crisis, I saw which friends were available and offered help and more importantly I also saw who I wanted to spend time with during my down time or me time.

I want to surround myself with people who are good friends. I want to spend time with people who are not vampires–you know the ones. You might refer to them as emotional vampires. Now, that I am trying to take better care of myself, I am more careful with my free time. Friendships are important and I am surrounded by some wonderful people in my life. But, I took stock during the last nine months and have forged some stronger friendships with some friends and have walked away from some other more shallow friendships. Surround yourself with people who have your back! This post is germane given that I am off to BlogHer and will surround myself with like-minded people. My hope it to make some new friends and finally meet some “old” ones in real life.

This post is reposted with a few things added. Overall, the sentiment is germane. Do not glorify busy. You will not get a gold medal or cookie for being busy. Take care of yourself!


Patience and Mid-Terms

I come to my classes with a sense of compassion. The first week is a major clusterbug for everyone. And, we can ratchet this higher for the new students. What I find that I need to work on is my sense of patience during the upcoming weeks. No matter how many times I gently remind students, some will not bother to review the syllabus and email me queries that can be answered ever so quickly with a glance to the course syllabus. This term I have done something different–the quiz and the mid-term have a question related to the syllabus.

I also am aware that my class is one of four or five and once the students get into the routine, they will have a better idea regarding the protocol on campus. Until then, I read the emails, pause, smile and reply that, “As the syllabus states…” If anything, the flip side, is that the student is bothering to care to make sure that s/he gets the right information and reads the material, shows up to class on time, comes to my office hours at the right time, right? And, let’s be honest, there are moments when a keen student eye finds an error on the syllabus and I appreciate it! So, I am not perfect and I know that my students aren’t either.

I also wish that patience worked the other way. Students need to remember that I am one person serving many. My office hours are limited to some 4 because I have to teach my classes, get some administrative work, prepare for my courses, and possibly steal time for my own work. We are at the start of month two of the new term, and I am sure it will be another great, busy one. At this moment, I am thinking of Guns and Roses. Smiles. This is a reference to their song.

Reminder: Breathe

Mid-terms are about to begin and I’ve been struck with a few things. I can announce things in class, send messages via our on-line learning platform, hold office hours, and attempt to hold G+ Hangout office hours. But, there are those moments when students just do not pay attention. It’s not yet important, as the assignment or exam is weeks away. Then, snap, suddenly everyone needs me. I had to remind myself of a few things in the last week.

1. Keep the hockey schedule in mind. Some of my students are avid hockey fans and my office hours cannot conflict with the game.

2. Remember that instructors need to remind students. They are taking three to five other courses and have multiple deadlines and are juggling so much. The majority will need the reminder. Move on.

3. Be more patient around this time of the term. Students will appreciate the patience and the last thing they want is for you to chastise them. Really–do I need to put any emotional energy in chastising students? No. I have other places to expend my energy.

4. Related to the previous point, I need to also be more available the week of the mid-term. I am also juggling multiple projects, but my first job is teaching and I know that this week my students need me.

This short  post really serves as a reminder to me–patience, compassion, and support. These are the three things that I must have this week. Wishing all students good luck on their mid-terms. And, sending an extra deep cleansing breath to other instructors, mentors, and ancillary staff who work with students. Ommmm!

These post its work for this week!

These post its work for this week!

On Saying No and Setting Limits/Guest Post

This is another guest post via Breathe Now by the especially talented Janice Mansfield. This post resonates with all the busy women. It is OK and necessary to say no and set boundaries. It can be hard to do so, but it is something that we all need to get better at doing! This post was originally published on July 3rd at http://breathenow.ca/2011/07/on-saying-no-and-setting-limits/. You know the axiom–if you want something done– ask a busy woman! Well, busy women (and men for that matter) need to not feel guilty at occasionally saying, no! 

Sometimes you just need a big karmic bitchslap before you’ll sit up and pay attention.  That’s kind of what this week has been like!

I’ve been feeling stretched thin the last little while, and had agreed to stretch myself a little thinner than normal by taking on a favour which I was hesitant about, but didn’t want to say “no”.  My husband did give me a little warning “… are you SURE you should be taking this on?” — should’ve probably listened to him, but the universe obliged with a little firmer follow-up later in the week.

The irony was that myself and one of the other Breathe Now co-founders found ourselves talking with Rona Maynard, one of our keynote speakers about the direction for her keynote address, and I found myself having to physically take a moment to calm down — mind and mouth racing in two directions at the same time with all the madness of the week going on.  The good news is, the moments spent with Rona on the phone did provide a little oasis of calm.  The bad news is we finished the call, and I launched right back in the crazy-making of the week — a week made busier than need-be due to my not saying “no”.

This week culminated in a high followed by a complete low point!  The high point being my friend Aaron Hall, asking me to film an episode of his new food show Delicious, at my house!  An honour, and quite interesting to see all that goes on behind the scenes!  The low point being the favour I had agreed to do, completely falling through into a complete sh*# show (sorry, no nice way of putting it!).  As I said, sometimes the universe just decides you need a giant kick in the rear before you’ll get it!

So the upside of this week is a giant re-realization that

  1. I should probably heed my intuition when I’m feeling like I’m overextending myself, or a “favour” does not line up with my business goals.
  2. I should probably also pay more attention to my husband when he gently reminds me of (1).  Thankfully, he has just shaken his head, and not given me the “I told you so”!