Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Taking Back My Summer

Noteworthy progress. In my last post, I described my failure to protect summer vacation/personal time in favor of a long list of commitments. Although most of these commitments are productive and/or enjoyable, their combined requirements do not leave a great deal of time for much-needed relaxation and not working. I'm happy to report that the tide has turned somewhat, just before the next wave of the workload hits. How did this happen, and how can I maintain balance for the remainder of the summer?

Blogging (and otherwise disclosing) helps. Once I acknowledged that I had only myself to blame for my increasing (rather than decreasing) stress, I stepped back and looked at the calendar. I took stock of what I had accomplished to that point in the summer, and how much time was left to work on the rest. I felt relief from realizing that the balance looked much better than I expected. I also asked myself what really needs to be finished this summer, by when, and whether these goals are realistic; what will I lose if I fall behind on X? Finally, I looked ahead to the 2015-2016 academic year and accepted that I cannot take on any additional commitments until next summer. And I started saying no in advance.

Travel helps. My reality-testing process received the assistance of two recent road trips. One was a four-day, combined work/leisure trip. This split left me able to feel good about getting some work done with collaborators in addition to not working and catching up with graduate school friends. Importantly, I made the 2.5-hour commutes alone, so I had time to myself to think and space out as needed. I came back tired from a strange sleep schedule, but more relaxed than I have been in a while. 

Downtown Ludlow
The second trip was more hectic: PA --> VT --> MA --> PA in four days, celebrating a wedding and an engagement. The wedding was lovely and afforded several unique opportunities. I'm not a country girl, and getting away to rural VT was a new experience. Actual country stores that are not operated by Cracker Barrel? I just wish I'd had more time to explore; I was there for less than 24 hours and it rained most of the time. But I also got to reconnect with more graduate school friends, which always leaves me feeling grounded. Then on to MA. As I'm the matron of honor* for the engaged couple (wedding in August of 2016), and as I live several states away from the action, I made an effort to fulfill some role expectations during the trip. As far as I can tell, it worked out well for everyone!
Our resort in Ludlow, VT
During this four-day excursion, I did not work. I checked email only sporadically. I responded only to urgent messages. Very unusual for me. But very healthy. And nothing went wrong without my replies. 

This is your life moment of the week. I returned to work today feeling less stressed than I have in a while, and I was able to complete tasks such as cleaning out my email inbox and writing this post. I also met with our Office of Sponsored Programs about a grant and upgraded another short trip I'm about to take. And I'll end the workday with an exercise class that makes me feel great. This is more like the summer I had planned.

*Matron? Really? Sounds so old....

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