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A Balancing Act by Deanna Calder

We have all heard about work life balance. It is an idealistic balance of all of the roles, relationships, and responsibilities we have in our lives. As you begin to navigate your graduate program, I have no doubt that someone will tell you the best way to balance your apprenticeship, family, friends, and more. You may receive some incredible advice. You may even hear some pretty bad advice! The important thing to realize is that everyone thinks about their time differently.

Deanna Calder, Graduate Apprentice for Undergraduate Programs in School of Engineering and Computer Science

My supervisor likes to refer to her sense of work-life balance as a process of time negotiation. We hold all of these different roles in our lives (such as daughter, friend, church member, graduate student, wife, dog mom, etc.) and we have so many responsibilities attached to each of them. I can’t stop being a daughter just because I have a paper due the next day. Instead, I have to keep all of the pieces of my identity in mind as I approach my responsibilities.

Time negotiation sometimes means making tough choices. I truly think it starts with an honest conversation with yourself. At the beginning of the week I sit down and try to think about what I need to be focused on during the week. If it’s a crazy work week and a lighter academic load, I may try to manage my time so that I can pursue excellence in my apprenticeship. If I know that one of my friends is going through a difficult time, I make sure to prioritize my time to insure that I can be more present in their life.

The Chronicle of Higher Education occasionally has guest columnist write about the process of setting expectations with peers, professors, and supervisors about time. In a recent article, Jason Jones argued that “if you set clear boundaries about your time and attention, and manage other people’s expectations about your time, then you can probably balance your life a little more steadily than you think. Not perfectly! Not without seasonal variations!”

There is certainly a way to go about these difficult conversations that benefits all parties involved. As you approach your work, think diligently about the time you need for yourself, your church, your family, and your work. There is nothing wrong with seeking boundaries, but please realize that we work in a highly-flexible, highly-adaptable field where college students are involved in activities 24 hours a day.

We are called to pursue excellence in all that we do, but the truth is we need to be mindful of our limits. I don’t know about you, but it is really tough for me to give 150% in every part of my life without feeling completely burnt out. I’m alright with prioritizing and negotiating my focus from week-to-week. Take some time and think about how you will balance or negotiate your time as you approach this year.

megan_michener • September 19, 2017

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