It’s no secret that I disagree with the general academic credo that geography matters less than getting a job in your field. For many of us, location is at least important to our long-term happiness as the job itself.
I know a fair few people who landed an academic job in a location they didn’t prefer, and, in the end, the lack of resonance with the place undermined any goodness they were finding in the job. Then they were faced with either going on the job market again, with a more limited geographic range, or leaving academia. It just postponed the dilemma.
As in all things, people vary. I also have friends who landed academic jobs in Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Georgia, Alaska, and Arizona who have grown to love landscapes and cultures they were not previously part of. It’s not that you can’t possibly make a good life somewhere you might not have otherwise chosen to live.
But if you turn out to be unable or unwilling to put down roots somewhere, that doesn’t mean that you’re a failure, or that you’re insufficiently committed, or that you really just do need to suck it up.
Your Place or Not Your Place
For all kinds of complicated reasons, we resonate with some places and not with others. It’s not that any place is bad; it’s that some places are Our Places and some places are Not Our Places. Even if a place has everything you think you want, it can still be Not Your Place.
The metaphor I always use is dating. You’ve probably had the experience of meeting someone who, on paper, seemed like a perfect fit for you — and you had no desire to ever see them again. Maybe there was nothing wrong, per se, but there was no spark, no connection.
I’m a Navy brat. We moved less than some — only about every three years — but every move was over a significant body of water. While we (nearly) always lived on coasts (did you know the main supply base for the Navy is in the middle of Pennsylvania? Neither did I), Scotland is not Puerto Rico is not Virginia is not Hawaii. After I left home for college, I started in Illinois, went to Pennsylvania, then West Virginia, and then DC.
In other words, I know from moving geographies and local cultures. One of the skills I got from that upbringing was the ability to root myself and make a home anywhere.
I can move and make a really good life anywhere. And there are still places that are My Places and places that are Not My Places.
DC is a liberal, vibrant city with lots of culture and a good public transportation system. It is Not My Place. I have friends for whom it is definitely Their Place. It’s not whether DC is good or bad — it’s whether I have a connection to the place, whether we resonate together.
There’s a study that agrees!
A recent study looked at residents of Boston and San Francisco, cities that on paper have a lot of similarities but which are very different. It found that residents of those cities had different definitions of success and happiness. If you’re a person who experiences success the way Bostonians do, you won’t be super comfortable in San Francisco and vice versa.
Place matters, and not only because of the landscape. Place matters because every place grows and attracts a certain kind of person, for whatever reason. If those people feel like Your People, the place will work for you. If they don’t, the place probably won’t. If the place feels actively antithetical to Your People, run. You will be miserable.
It’s not as simple as coasts v. “flyover states” (how I hate that term). It’s not city v. country, or blue state v. red. It’s this particular culture in this particular landscape with these particular people.
You can certainly surprise yourself by discovering a Your Place that you didn’t expect, or not resonating with a place you were convinced would work. I have a friend who dreamed of moving to Taos, who moved to Taos and hated it. Life can be surprising.
Your choices are legitimate
If you choose geography based on a job, that’s legitimate.
If you choose geography based on the needs of your family, that’s legitimate.
If you choose geography based on the kind of life you want to live, that’s legitimate.
If you choose geography based on weather and climate, that’s legitimate.
If you choose geography based on people you like, that’s legitimate.
If you choose geography based on a whim, that’s legitimate.
Geography matters. Of course it matters. And you’re the only one who can decide how it figures in to your decision-making, and whether a given place is a reasonable choice.
When the eight months that marked finishing the dissertation, defending the dissertation, and being on the academic job market simultaneously finally ended with an accepted offer, all I could do was exhale. Well, exhale and lay on the couch blearily watching television, sick as a dog.
Once I recovered, I was in touch with the committee who hired me, letting them know when I planned to arrive in town (a month and a half before my contract started) and that I would get started program-planning once I got settled in.
I immediately received an email in return from one particular committee member, castigating me for working ahead of my contract and announcing (with plenty of cc:s), that clearly I wasn’t up on the most recent Marxist theory. (Thank goodness Marxist theory wasn’t my area of expertise.)
The rest of the committee, to their credit, swooped in to blunt the damage of that email and make me feel welcome.
The problem is, he had a point
One of the problems of academia is that it has no boundaries. The vaunted flexibility that means we don’t have to be in an office between 9 and 5 every day also means there’s no container for our work.
Despite media and political claims to the contrary, academics work far more than 40 hours a week. In fact, you could argue that academics work all the damn time. They work evenings. They work weekends. They work holidays. There’s always more work to be done, more tasks that need to be squeezed in between classes and research and advising and all of the other commitments that constitute academic work at every level.
And yet despite working around the clock, on vacations, on holidays, (American) academics are typically paid for the nine months of the year that map onto the fall and spring semesters’ teaching. (Yes, some schools pay the 9 months’ salary out in 12 months, but that’s not the same as a 12 month salary.)
And that’s only if you’ve been lucky enough to get a tenure-track or post-doc position – adjuncts get paid by the course. The logic of the academic wage is made most explicit right there.
Forget overtime. There’s an immense amount of unpaid labor built in to the academic system under the rubric of vocation. You’re supposed to love it so much that you do it even though you aren’t getting paid. One might even argue that you’re structurally forced to do it, because it’s all that unpaid labor that gets you tenure or a promotion or a slim chance at a job that 400 other people are also applying for.
The unpaid labor is what is structurally rewarded. The less-valued labor is paid for.
This is some messed-up shit.
Straight to burnout
The most successful academics I know said no. They said no to committee work that didn’t serve them and wasn’t in line with what their colleagues were doing. They said no to being too flexible with teaching schedules. They said no to working all their waking hours.
And yet, the job market being what it is, graduate students are urged to take on more, do more, publish more, teach more, serve more, all in the name of trying to beat out peers to win that job that has, let’s face it, something like 400:1 odds.
Better departments protect assistant professors so they can achieve tenure, but the downsizing of the faculty means that assistant professors, more and more, are being burdened with too much work to do the work that gets them tenure.
This is unsustainable. It’s unsustainable personally, and its unsustainable institutionally.
I hear story after story of people who are burnt out, who have no enthusiasm or energy left for the work that they love or at least like, because they’ve had no time to recharge.
This does not make for happiness, and it’s unlikely to get better.
There are other options
There are options other than working crazy hours for not enough pay.
Set reasonable time boundaries, and triage your work. You know as well as I do that some work actually matters, and some doesn’t. Spend the bulk of your best time on the work that matters. Do the rest as well as you can given the time remaining.
Benchmark yourself against your colleagues. If you’re doing more than they are, either in teaching or in service, let some things go.
Know that there are non-academic options that really are 9-5, which leaves an unbelievable amount of time free for things that aren’t work. And they pay all year round, too.
Value your own time, work, and expertise. They’re worth a lot.
Know you’re leaving but not sure how to actually make that happen? I offer two things that might help: a resume and cover letter writing service and a class designed to help you create a successful job search system.
Now that the academic semester is ramping up, everyone I know is starting to wilt.
The excitement of new classes and new students have worn off. Committee meetings and other service has begun in earnest. Students are actually showing up in office hours. And all those great plans we had for being organized and on top of things are starting to fray.
It’s not just academics, although the vagaries of the academic semester make it more visible. Many workplaces are a little more casual over the summer. People are on vacation, so decisions happen more slowly, and work slows down as a result. But once Labor Day passes, everyone’s back. The cooling of the air makes everyone a little frisky. Suddenly it’s a long, hard slog to the holidays.
All those things you wanted to accomplish this semester or season are starting to feel further away and less possible.
You need a routine.
What we know about people
For a long time, we understood “willpower” to be characterological. That is, some people (the good people) have it and some people (the bad people) don’t. The good people were able to make the “right” choices (always the ones aligned with longer-term goals) because they were simply better or stronger.
It turns out that, like most cultural characterological judgments, it was completely wrong.
It turns out that willpower, otherwise known as the ability to make decisions and favor the logical brain (the long-term plans) over the emotional (whatever I want now) brain, is a limited resource in every single one of us. We can easily exhaust our store of willpower, making it impossible to force ourselves to choose along our long-term goals. Instead we fall into habit, fall into whatever we want in the short-term, or simply get paralyzed.
No matter what your long-term goals are – whether it’s a dissertation, your next book, your next project at work, finding a way to get out of academia altogether, or running a marathon – to meet a long-term goal you need the willpower to go on that run, head to the library, sit down at the computer for a frustrating session of writing. These things aren’t necessarily fun, even if we value the long-term goal. That’s why we have to bring our willpower to bear.
Most of us have had the experience of running out of willpower right when we need it. It’s cozy and warm inside, and it’s cold and dark outside, so maybe I’ll run tomorrow. I planned to write tonight, but I’m tired and there’s good television on, so I’ll write tomorrow.
It’s totally normal.
It’s easy to get mad at ourselves later, castigate ourselves for lack of willpower, but what we know now is that if we’ve exhausted our store of willpower and it hasn’t had time to replenish, then we can’t actually force ourselves to do anything that doesn’t appeal to us right this second. No one can, even those people who think they have so much willpower.
This is where routines come in
We often think about decisions as only big-picture things – where to live, what to study, where to work. But we make decisions all the time.
What should I have for breakfast? What time am I getting up? Should I read this research or grade papers? What should I wear? Should I go to the wine bar with X or get Thai food with Y? Should I start this article with this anecdote or that quotation?
If you actually recognized how many decisions you make every day, you’d have to go back to bed from the sheer exhaustion of it.
If, then, you have a long-term goal that is important to you, invoking the power of routine will enable you to conserve your willpower for the places you actually need it to make that long-term goal: going for that run, sitting down to write, logging on to research alternate careers.
What we mean when we talk about routine
A routine is nothing more than a single set of decisions that play out repeatedly. That is, you decide once instead of over and over – at the beginning of the semester, say, or once a week for things like meals.
You decide to get up at the same time every day, which means you don’t have to think about what time to set the alarm for.
You decide to spend Tuesday and Thursday mornings at the coffee shop writing, so you don’t have to think about what you’re doing today or when you’re going to write.
You decide to go running every evening after the kids go to bed, so you don’t have to decide how you’re going to fit it in today.
All those decisions you don’t have to make give you space for the decisions you do have to make. Do you want to run a marathon? What will you write your next book on?
It’s infinitely easier to tackle big, long-term projects when you aren’t exhausting your ability to figure things out on stuff that doesn’t actually have a meaningful impact on your life.
It doesn’t have to be boring
Many people despise routine. They despise anything that doesn’t vary.
Fair enough. I know plenty of people who feel that way. And if you do, and you’re able to get done the things that march you towards your long-term goal, then power to you. Seriously. Routine is a tool, not a manifesto.
But plenty of people who despise routine are also struggling to get things done. If you’re that person, then build variety into your routine.
For example, if you would love to plan the six dinners you’re going to cook at home, because deciding every single night what you’re going to eat frustrates you and takes forever, but you can’t bear to stick to “Monday is spaghetti night,” pick six meals, make sure you have the ingredients on hand, and pick one at random every night. You still get variety and surprise, but you aren’t having to make a decision or choose between options.
Routine doesn’t have to mean rote. It simply means taking as many decisions off your plate as possible to make room for the ones you want to be making.
Work with yourself, not against yourself
We humans like to think we’re so logical, and if we can just convince ourselves of X, we’ll do it.
But we’re messy, complicated, layered organic systems. There are parts of our brains that developed when we were consumed with finding food and avoiding being eaten, and those parts aren’t so much into things like writing books or running marathons. They’re older and much bigger than the parts of our brain that can read text and plan things out for the next five years.
That’s why we have to pay attention to how we actually function instead of how we’d like to function.
So think about what you can automate. Think about what you can decide once instead of over and over. Think about how to put those decisions into practice.
Experiment. See what happens when you block out your time based on your classes or your projects or your commitments. See what you get done. See where things fall apart.
There’s no virtue in routine. There’s no virtue in willpower, either. We all have it, and we all exhaust it.
Like any tools, routine and willpower are available to help us reach the goals that matter to us, no matter what they are.
Academia tends to spin our emotional compasses until we don’t know which way is north. If you’re feeling lost, I offer one-on-one coaching to help you figure it all out.
I told you a while back that my wife is starting graduate school in the fall. Theological school to be exact, and last week we went to the first orientation meeting.
In some ways it was entirely standard: These are the classes you need to take in your first thirty hours, here’s how you register, here’s how the money part of it works, please don’t mess up your student aid, really we’re all here to help you so please ask for help before you drown.
What wasn’t standard (for me in my experience of academia, not for them) was the praying, the references to the Holy Spirit, and the singing. (I’m pretty grateful my entering class did not sing at orientation. I heard them sing later, under different influences. It was all for the best.)
Two things stood out for me, though, in this orientation, two things that I think academia as a whole could do better to emulate.
Thing the first
First, the entering students were told to think about what they would have to give up in their lives for graduate school. This wasn’t particularly original, but the tone of it was. When I’ve heard this advice before, it was in the spirit of lovers throwing themselves at the feet of the beloved — you should want nothing more than this, and anything less than total dedication is a sign that you don’t love it enough.
Here, though, the advice had a different cadence. This is likely the only time, they said, when you have the opportunity to do nothing other than study. Most people who get the PhD in this field do so while working as ministers, so they’re part-time students while juggling full congregations. This three-year period really may be the only time to immerse themselves so wholly in the intellectual and spiritual engagement with the subject.
In some ways, this is also true of non-theological-graduate school — despite all of our myths to the contrary, professoring is anything but sitting around and thinking Great Thoughts. Publishing, teaching, and service are all necessary and even rewarding, but they aren’t the same as immersing oneself in the field and swimming around gladly. The early years of graduate school may be the only time that’s possible, with all of the stress and pleasure that come with it.
What this amounted to, in her orientation, was a focus on the experience and goals of the students themselves. Discipline, I’ve heard said, is remembering what you really want, and they talked about focusing on what you really want and prioritizing that during this period.
That raises the question, though, of what you really want. It’s a question too few graduate students ask themselves as they get caught up in the flow of graduate school and the expectations and ambitions of advisers and professors and administrators.
I’d argue, though, that it’s a crucial question — no matter where you are in the process. What do YOU want from this experience, this process, this degree? Why is that important to you? And how can you arrange things to meet your own goals and expectations.
Thing the second
In contrast to programs that ask you to declare your subspeciality as you walk in (more and more common these days), this program admitted from the outset that as students experienced the program, their goals, their ambitions, and their career paths would change. Because they would be learning and growing.
This is another one of those things that varies (um, like everything, really), but the impetus in most graduate programs is the Creation of Professional Academics. Everything is geared towards that end, despite the long history of degree overproduction and despite the obvious evidence that not everyone wants that outcome for themselves.
There is no way to go to graduate school and remain unchanged. It’s too long, it’s too immersive, it’s too mind-bending. But it was refreshing to see a program acknowledge and plan for the fact that people will change in ways they didn’t expect. They will become people they didn’t foresee.
All of which is to say, if you’re starting out, expect your own unexpected growth. And if you’re already in or through, it’s okay that you changed in ways that didn’t fit the linear model.
Everything in its season
Both of these themes suggest something else as well: That there will be a point at which you add things back in, because your goals are met, your changes experienced, your life in a new place.
I’ve seen too many academics come up for air and realize that they’re unhappy, not because they hate their jobs, but because they have lost contact with all of those other parts of themselves — their creativity, their joy, their playfulness, their sense of fun, their ability to relax.
It’s easy to defer them. You’ll relax once the dissertation is defended. You’ll return to your hobbies once you have a job.You’ll embark on that new thing that looks fascinating when you have tenure. There’s always something else pressing, something else important.
But if you’re unhappy, it’s worth looking at what you’ve given up, and what it might be time to add back into your daily experience of life. Because no matter where you are in the process, this IS your real life. This is the only one you have. And if you’re unhappy, it’s time to make change.
I read a fascinating post the other day about the difference between a manager’s schedule and a maker’s schedule. Here’s the gist of it:
There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.
When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.
Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.
When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
Naturally, this made me think of academe. (What else do I think about, you ask? Good question.)
The problem of both
One of the challenges of academia is you’re never just a manager or just a maker — you’re both.
In your role as teacher, adviser, and administrator, you’re on manager time. Tasks can usually be broken down into half-hour intervals, and often we’re grateful to break them down into shorter intervals just to put some boundaries around them and avoid drowning. (See: grading.) Meetings abound, and you’re generally running hither and yon with a few stops to chat with people doing the same.
In your role as researcher, however, you’re on maker time. Sure, running a database search for relevant articles may be able to fit into manager time, but brainstorming, reading, thinking, and writing are all tasks that work best when you’ve got nice chunky slots of uninterrupted time.
Which means it’s kind of no wonder that most academics bemoan an inability to get research done. It’s not just avoidance or bad time-management. It’s a lack of the kind of time that best allows for getting that work done.
Yes, people do manage it
I know some rockin’ mama professors who manage to schedule time and work on their research and writing with focus — and they get a lot done. If you can do that, power to you.
If, however, you need longer stretches of time in order to get momentum on your project, knowing that is half the solution.
The other half is finding / making those stretches of time appear at regular intervals.
Planning, planning, planning
It’s easy to get caught up in the “as soon as I do X” sort of thinking. As soon as I’m done with this grading, I’ll make time. As soon as I’m off of this committee, I’ll make time. As soon as this personal problem resolves, I’ll make time.
The problem is that this isn’t so much “making” time as “finding” time — and believing in a mythical future when there won’t be as many demands on the time you do have.
That may work in the “as soon as the semester is over and I can hibernate for three months” situation, and in fact, frontloading all other work during the school year and keeping the summer free for research works for many people. (Beware the need to teach for summer salary, however.)
But if summer brings kids home from school or the need to teach or family obligations or whatever, then making time is your best bet.
That might mean setting aside one day a week for research and writing. It may mean sitting down on Sunday night and blocking out a morning or afternoon (whatever happens to work that week) and planning to get tasks done around it. It may mean clustering other tasks and activities so that stretches of time previously full become available.
Just how you, personally, will create maker time for your maker activities, will be unique to you and your life and priorities. But making time for your inner maker can relieve a lot of the “but I should be getting more writing done!” stress that’s endemic in the halls of the academy — and you’ll get more done, to boot.
One of the biggest struggles a lot of us had / have in academia is the problem of overwork. At 7pm on Sunday, there are nearly always papers to grade. Over the winter “break,” there are syllabi to write for the following semester. Summers often require teaching to pay the bills, and research happens in the nooks and crannies of time left over from the teaching and administrative tasks we’re actually paid to do.
Add in a family, a hobby or two, and some friends, and it’s no wonder so many academics are running around bemoaning their to-do lists and glaring at their calendars. In fact, the sheer levels of exhaustion many people experience in academia directly contribute to their misery in the profession.
Think about that for a minute. There are many people — and you may be one of them — who love this profession, love this work, and yet are miserable because they’re always buried under more things that need to get done, more people who need to be taken care of, and fewer and fewer opportunities to do the things they themselves love, including spending time with their loved ones.
That’s more than just a recurring personal problem. Academia needs the people who love it, and it needs them whole and happy and engaged, because the work people do in academia — expanding the world of knowledge and ideas and training up the next generation of professionals and thinkers — it’s vital, important work.
Now, like most jobs, the structures of academia aren’t set up for personal satisfaction or balancing anyone’s workload. But unlike many jobs, academia comes with few boundaries around time or work. It’s the dark side of all that vaunted flexibility — sure, you can get your oil changed at 2pm on Wednesday, but your whole life can get eaten up with the kind of work that expands to fill the time it’s given.
In other words, we have to set some boundaries. And before we get started, let me say this: I’m not pretending any of the below is easy. It’s not. It’s incredibly difficult because of the way we’ve been socialized into the profession, because of the way the profession is structured. And so, in enacting some of these things, it’s important to listen to the resistance that comes up and investigate it — because often it’s the messages we’re sending ourselves that keep us trapped.
A few practical strategies to see the forest instead of the trees
So let’s talk about some strategies for managing all of the overwhelm.
Know that you aren’t alone. For all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is that everything is judged by a jury of one’s peers, academics tend to boast both about their endless, overwhelming workloads (and there’s a kind of perverse competition — whoever has the worst one wins) and yet imply that while they’re harried and can’t possibly do what you’re asking, they’re also on top of it better than you are and if you can’t handle the heat, best get out of the kitchen. It’s a lie. Every academic I’ve ever talked with has struggled to figure out how to balance everything, and then they have to do the same thing the following semester when everything changes.
Think A B and C time. Some of the best advice I ever got about writing my dissertation was from a book by Eviatar Zeruvabel called The Clockwork Muse, and it’s applicable much more broadly. He pointed out that we all have times when we work best and times when it takes all of the caffeine in Starbucks to get anything out of us. (Okay, he didn’t say it like that, but you get the point). If you can figure out what your personal rhythms are, you can schedule your work to take advantage of them.
I, for instance, am a classic morning person. My best thinking time happens between, oh, 8 and noon. I’m okay in the afternoon until about 4, and I’m useless for thinking work after that. For me, then, blocking off morning time to write, teaching and having meetings in the afternoon, and relaxing in the evening worked well. A friend of mine was useless early in the day, needed something scheduled to get him going, was okay in the afternoon, and really hit his stride after 6pm. He liked to teach in the late morning to get himself out of bed, have meetings and do teaching-related work in the afternoon, and write after dinner.
Whatever your particular rhythms are, the more you can let them drive what you’re doing when, the more energy you’re going to have for the right tasks.
Learn to say no. Service tasks proliferate, and they’re a direct consequence of faculty governance. However, younger professors, and especially women, can get buried in endless committees and support work. Figure out where your contributions will be the most valuable (because of your particular skills and interests), say yes to those, and say no to everything else.
One of the most successful female academics I’ve ever known was a master at saying no. Now, she didn’t say no more than the boys did — but she said no a hell of a lot more than the girls did. And she got her book published and sailed through tenure when most of the other women we knew were sweating it out.
So it’s not about not doing service. Service is a crucial part of participating in the academic community and making the whole enterprise work without creating a cadre of managers who aren’t on the front lines of teaching and research. But it is about being choiceful, doing what you can excel at and manage, and not picking up work because “someone has to do it.” Someone may have to do it, but it doesn’t always have to be you.
Build in self-care. Self-care tends to drop to the bottom of the list, because there are so many other things to get done and they have deadlines! And people who will be disappointed! And there’s a tenure case or promotion case to build! But let’s face it — we’re none of us as effective when we’re exhausted and stressed out as we are when we’re well-rested. Have you ever had the experience of taking a really good vacation, the kind where you spend three days face down and by the end have actually rested enough that you’re excited to go home and pick your work back up? What would it be like if you could do that every single week? Every single day?
Don’t you think your teaching would be more energetic, your research more creative, your service more effective, if you felt filled up with the joy and fun of the universe? Build it in not just because it’s a good idea or good for you — build it in because it’s critical to your work.
So figure out what fills you up and what helps you recover and relax, whether it’s cheesy novels, hikes in the woods, playing fetch with the dog, sleeping in late, or painting. Build it in.
Good enough is good enough. There’s no clear finish line for any academic project, whether it’s teaching a class or writing a book or chairing a committee. There’s always another source to read, another experiment to conduct, another hour you could spend preparing for next week’s lecture. Instead of torturing yourself with what else you could be doing for this particular task, figure out what “good enough” looks like in terms of the objectives and hit that. Then stop.
No one makes it out of graduate school, in my experience, without a pretty crazy work ethic. In fact, there’s no way through graduate school and the dissertation experience without a pretty crazy work ethic. So when your inner critic starts flagellating you for “not working hard enough,” take a real look at what it’s talking about — because I’d bet cold, hard, cash that it’s not operating in a reality the rest of us would share.
Create no-work zones. Having defined periods of time when you are not working — not answering work email, not grading papers, not planning anything, not writing proposals or articles or book chapters — can help you be present to everything else in your life. And in doing so, it can help you be fully present to your work when it’s time to work because the rest of your life has already been attended to.
So consider closing down work email after 7pm. Consider reserving Saturday or Sunday as a no-work day. Consider blocking off an hour for lunch every day. Consider taking a solid week over the winter holidays and two weeks in the summer for the rest of your life and only the rest of your life. Everyone’s no-work zones will be personal and particular — but having definite time will help limit the resentment and enable you to actually get some energy back.
Academia, because of the way it’s structured, doesn’t have many boundaries. Long before smartphones and vpn let everyone else take their work home with them, academics had little separation between work life and home life. And so we have to impose boundaries upon it, because those boundaries are what enable us to work in academia sustainably and happily.
If you really love the teaching and the research, if you thrill to watch a young adult finally find the thing that excites him or her, if you’re passionate about education, don’t let academia walk all over you until you hate it. It’s too important and you’re too valuable.