Defensively Scheduling Your Way to Work-Life Balance
I’m an academic, and let me tell you, the academy doesn’t “get” work-life balance at all. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional intellectual, you aren’t supposed to complain about your workload, or express a desire to cut back on any responsibilities. After all, you are fortunate to be living a life of the mind. That means you don’t get to complain about being exploited.
In academia, faculty are constantly expected to join new initiatives and committees, and take on an ever-expanding array of administrative and mentorship duties, all while teaching a full course load and conducting research. Saying “yes”is the only way to show you care about the work. If you think students need more writing support, you must volunteer to be on the writing assessment committee. If you think first generation college students deserve mentors, you better sign up to become one. If you are a person of color, or you are LGBTQ, you better be willing to lead anti-bias workshops and attend meetings about diversity and inclusion.
This doesn’t just happen in academia, of course. I see it all the time in nonprofits and arts organizations, too. If you are lucky enough to be working in a job that is creatively or morally fulfilling, it seems you have no right to any work-life boundaries. If you believe your organization is doing good work, you better be ready to hand over a ton of sleepless nights to it. If you’re blessed enough to get paid as a performer, you’ve got to be willing to do so much additional work for free that it kinda all washes out.
This dynamic also plays out in the corporate world, where employees must smile and lie and pretend they believe in the company’s “mission”, then deliver on that lie by attending lunchtime talks, vision meetings, and a panoply of after-hours social events.
I hate to see people being run ragged like this. Our workplaces have browbeaten us into having a very warped sense of consent. If we care about something, we are expected to bleed for it. If we said yes to a responsibility once, we are doomed to say yes to it forever, no matter how over-extended we become. I have watched many people spiral into burnout because of this…