My #oneword2012: UNPLUG

My #oneword2012 is UNPLUG.  This might be shocking to most who know me, so let me explain.

Whether it be for work, or for personal use, I am always connected.  I love the accessibility both my iPhone and iPad afford me.  I can readily access emails, social networks, news, video, etc.  I also spend a lot of time in front of the television or playing my XBOX 360, which is my most frequent form of stress relief.  Somewhere along the way of increasing my social media network and gadget use, I got too caught up in constantly being plugged in.  In 2012, I need to unplug a bit and do some other things that are important to me.  Here are some things I plan to do instead….

  • Exercise more – 2012 WILL be the year I take back my health
  • Spend more unplugged time with my wife and our dog
  • Reconnect with old friends
  • Travel to places (near and far) by taking road trips
  • Spending more time outdoors and exploring new hobbies
  • Reading more – I have accumulated many books I have been meaning to read and unplugging will help me to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, I will continue to be connected to my social media network, will continue learning about social media and technology, continue to work on my blog, and yes will play an occasional video game or two.  However, I will be more focused and intentional than I had been in the past, so I can make time in my life for other important things, such as those mentioned above.

What will your #oneword2012 be?

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Shared learning: a call to action

Everyone has something to share and we can all learn from one another.  I have read a lot lately about exercising your brain, reading more, staying current on news events and things happening within your one’s own profession or field of study.  It is no doubt that it is incumbent on people in most professions to read to stay current, ahead of trends, and to increase overall knowledge.  Social media and technology have increased our ability to get quick and easy access to information and to share it with others.  I often share articles that come across my RSS or Twitter feeds with my Twitter followers.  However, I take it a step further.  When I see something that is worth directly sharing with someone I know, I pass it along to them in an email.  When I read an article that would help, interest, or relate to the major of one of my students, I share it with them.  When I read an article that would enhance the knowledge of or be helpful to a colleague, I share it with them.

Just today, in an attempt to expand what I read, I asked a question to the #sachat community on Twitter.  I immediately received the following two suggestions within a matter of minutes.

This further demonstrates my point of the power of shared knowledge and shared learning.

When our formal, in class education ends, it is up to each one of us individually to continue our own lifelong learning.  I encourage you all to find things that interest you, increase your overall knowledge, and contribute to your lifelong learning and share it with people either directly or through social media.  It will make you and those around you (physically or in your social network) smarter.

What are you reading currently that you think others would find interesting or learn from?  Share it by leaving a comment.

Work-Life Balance: Lessons Learned

All too often we are told as young professionals to seek work-life balance.  It is ingrained in our graduate school experiences.  We talk about it at conferences and have discussions with our supervisors and mentors.  How many student affairs professionals can actually claim they have achieved balance?  What does balance mean?  I always thought it was like a UFO; something many look for, few claim they have seen, and most believe it does not actually exist.

I have a few thoughts…

  • Balance does not equal 9-5.  Let’s face it; we all knew coming in that this field requires late nights and weekends.
  • Balance is subjective and means something different to everyone.  This is important when comparing yourself to others and when having discussions with colleagues and especially with your supervisor.  Know what it is you need to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
  • No one will hand you work-life balance or offer a magical solution.  You need to advocate for yourself.
  • Sometimes we are our own worst enemies.  (See below for some steps I have taken that might help)

I would like to share some things I have learned and some steps I have taken to improve my work-life balance that might be helpful for others.

  • Learn how to say no.  How many times are we asked to take on another advisor role for instance?  We are dedicated to our students, so we most often say yes.  I challenge you to think of balance the next time you volunteer for something.  Being an over-committed, hard to reach, always busy advisor is not helpful.  Maybe there is someone else who is able to give that organization the time and attention they need.
  • Decide whether or not you will check email from home.  This could be an entire post.  The subject is still open for debate.  The moment I purchased my first smartphone, balance went out the window.  I checked and responded to emails regularly.  I’ve learned over the last 3.5 years that you can be more effective and efficient with this.  I have stopped notifications from coming to my phone alerting me when a new message comes in.  I check it only when I have time and feel like checking it.  I use the functions afforded to me in gmail that allow me to filter out unimportant or less important emails, so the only ones I read on my phone are important.  Lastly, I ONLY respond to the vitally important emails.  See Ed Cabellon’s helpful blog post on Achieving Inbox Zero for more helpful tips.
  • Set boundaries with students.  I used to have students call, text, and email me at all hours of the day.  I have worked hard to educate my students about the difference of something that would require a phone call or text and something that can wait for an email.  With this, I also set the expectation that emails would not be answered at all hours of the day, so if something is indeed important, to just pick up the phone.  This has been surprisingly helpful and students have respected it and communications with them have improved.
  • Work smarter, not harder.  Find simple ways to make your daily tasks easier, so that you can spend your time and energy on your students and larger, more important projects.
  • Get a life outside of work!  Find hobbies and make time for friends and family.  If you are a calendar fan and schedule every daily event like I do, putting dinner with friends, a concert, date night, etc. into your calendar will help you stick to it.
  • Think about becoming a pet owner.  Pet ownership is not for everyone.  For me, it has done wonders on improving my work-life balance.  Having a dog helps me stay active (via our daily walks), improves my overall stress relief, and sometimes gives me the much needed excuse to escape the office for a little while.  Besides, my students love when she comes to visit as it provides some stress relief for them

Our pup Sadie at her favorite place, the beach!

No one knows better than you, what will work best for you and what work-life balance looks and feels like for you.  I hope what I shared will be helpful.

What do you do to improve your work-life balance?