Best Advice: Balance [From the Hey Jane archives]

March 24, 2009 at 2:26 am | Posted in Hey Jane Column, Work/Life Balance | Leave a comment

Hey Jane! is a monthly advice column on the SWS listserv that addresses issues of interest to feminist sociologists and sociologist-activists. The name honors Jane Addams, a feminist sociologist not always recognized enough. This Q&A is hosted by the Career Development Committee, who solicits anonymous questions and responses from multiple SWS members.

Column 23 (January 2008)

For this month’s Hey Jane! Column I asked you to send me your “best” piece of advice.

My advice is: “Don’t put second prize ahead of first prize.” I think I made up that wording myself. But what I mean is, if you will regret never having children more than you will regret not getting tenure, then don’t wait until after tenure to have kids. You can have both, but keep your priorities straight.

Syllabus prep will take as much time as you give to it.  Therefore, resist the urge to revise your syllabus as soon as classes end in May.  Put it away until two weeks before classes begin in the autumn.  This will create at least two months of pure, uninterrupted time for you to work on your scholarship.  I have adhered to this religiously and it has made ALL the difference.  (As an aside I do a modified version of this over the winter break as well and it also works to create a good chunk of solid writing time).

As someone who let graduate school be all-consuming, when I became a tenure-track assistant professor, I made a conscious decision to live a balanced life.  I took my work very seriously, but finally learned how to set boundaries.  I chose to work from 9-5, Monday –Friday, and limit my attendance at evening lectures and events to no more than one per week. Of course there were times (grant deadlines, etc.) where I had to break my own rule, but sticking to this self-imposed rule 90% of the time, I was productive at work and maintained my mental health.  I achieved tenure and continue to apply this rule, although I now usually attend two evening events/lectures.

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