Archive for the 'Work/Life Balance' Category

In the Zone

You know that feeling you get, when you’re working on a project — making good progress, ideas are flowing — and suddenly you look up and it’s already 11 p.m? You figure it’s probably time to close up for the night, put the laptop away, and go to sleep.

Which you do.

And then you lie there, lights off, wide awake, with a thousand ideas racing through your brain: Oooh…I should email so-and-so, to see if I can find more data for my project. What if I changed the order of my presentation around, would that make more sense? Don’t forget to add that thought to my to-do list. Wonder what the caf is serving for lunch tomorrow? (Okay, maybe not all the thoughts are productive ones!).

You can’t sleep….you’re “in the zone.” So you open the laptop back up, just to do that one. last. thing. Before you forget. It’ll help you get it off your mind, so you can sleep.

And now it’s after midnight, and you’re still at it. In. the. zone.

Do you know that feeling? Or is it just me?

Untethered, But Totally Shackled

I got a chance to play with Google Glass today, and wow — how cool is that?!? If you haven’t seen or played with Glass yet, find someone who has one and try it out. Now. Do not pass go, do not collect….well, you know the drill.

Glass frees us. It — along with  smart phones, tablets, phablets, and other mobile devices — enables us to live our lives completely untethered. On my way to EDUCAUSE this year I responded to emails from 30,000 feet in the air, and engaged with other conference goers via Twitter on the van ride to the hotel. These devices create opportunity — any location can be a classroom, every learner can create and engage his or her own personal learning network (PLN), anytime, anywhere.

But these devices also enslave us. I used to read on airplanes — real books, on paper. Or maybe I’d watch a movie. Now, I work. We used to talk to each other in person, or on the (landline) phone. Now people at the same dinner table communicate with each other via Facebook, Twitter, or text. My phone is the first thing I check in the morning, and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep at night. I sleep with it only a few feet away. And every time it buzzes or bings, I get a slight adrenaline rush. I feel compelled to check it, immediately.

I am not nostalgic for the “good old days.” I believe in the power that technology holds to transform our lives. But I do wonder, is being untethered *and* unshackled mutually exclusive, or is there another way?

A Time for Reflection

As a Catholic liberal arts institution, my college has time set aside every Wednesday from 10 to 11 a.m for “Sacred Hour”. The Norbertine’s value contemplation, and in keeping with that, Sacred Hour is a time for prayer, meditation, reflection, relaxation…pretty much anything you want except for work. No meetings can be scheduled, non-essential offices close, and the campus all but shuts down for one hour per week. Well, sort of.

Turns out that getting people to shut off or shut down for one hour is hard. With all of the talk about creating “work-life balance”, you’d think that we’d be thrilled with an institutionally-mandated break in our day and our week. Where we’re getting paid to do nothing. And there’s no expectation that we’ll have to “make up” the time. But increasingly, we’re having to *remind* people to leave their desks. Cancel their meetings. Not hold office hours or exam make-ups during this time.

Now, I must admit — I’m one of those people who strongly encourages my team to take advantage of the gift of time that Sacred Hour affords us, but spends far too much of it at my desk quietly working. It’s not that I don’t value the time. And it’s not that I don’t think it’s important. I do. It’s just that I am someone who has a really difficult time shutting down. Heck, I have a difficult time even *slowing* down.

And yet, taking time for reflection is every bit as important to being effective in your job as doing the work itself. Maybe more so, in roles where thinking strategically — about the big picture and long term — is a critical component of the job. And maintaining healthy body and mind — through exercise, sleep, eating, meditation, and more — helps us focus more, stress less, think clearer, and just generally be more balanced in the job itself. Or at least it does for me.

Today is Wednesday, and once again I spent the hour between 10 and 11 at my desk. But this time, it was a little different. Today I spent my time thinking about and writing this blog post, a form of personal reflection. So this Sacred Hour, I struck a balance. And isn’t balance what life’s all about, after all?


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