Balancing the Professional and Personal in the Academy

One of the two breakouts sessions I attended at the Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center AEJMC Pre-Conference session in Washington D.C.

was about how to balance personal and professional roles and goals. DePaul University College of Communication Associate Dean Carolyn Bronstein offered the following tips.

  • Outsource. It may not seem like it, but you have more money than time right now. That time should be spent writing. Outsource time-consuming tasks that you personally don’t need to do. For example, consider getting groceries delivered from Peapod, Amazon Fresh, InstaCart or local grocery store; hire a cleaning service twice a month; consider finding a personal chef or loved one to cook meals a few times a week. Bronstein calls this “playing the long game”: Viewing your career in the long view and doing in the present what you need to do to make that long view happen.

  • Find the right job fit for the life you want. What life do you want to have, and is this job going to fit that vision? If you are at a university with colleagues who do nothing but work, and you, for example, want to have many children, this place may not be right for you. Pretending it is will make you miserable.

  • Avoid over-preparing your teaching plans. Excessively detailed grading will drain your writing time. Rubrics and multiple-choice quizzes will help.

  • Academic mentors come in different shapes and sizes. An “academic parent” gives life advice as well as career advice. They can help you say “no” to time-consuming service activities or projects that won’t help you reach tenure.

  • Manage your calendar. Don’t commit to something without opening your calendar and physically seeing how much time you’ll have to block off in order to do it. This will help you visualize what you are trading to commit to that activity and if it’s really something you want to prioritize.

  • and record personal events far ahead of time. Important personal events should be blocked off so you don’t “double book” with work events. Family birthdays, children’s school-related events, anniversaries … put them in your calendar ASAP.

  • Establish groups with whom you can trade off tasks. If you have loved ones offering to take care of children so you and your spouse can have a date or you can write, do it.

  • Be honest with people about the pressures of your career. Some things will have to go on the back burner while you pursue tenure or whatever goal you have.

  • Avoid perfection.