Work/life balance

Being an Academic Mercenary isn’t just about teaching, it’s about life.  When I chose this career path, I made a very conscious decision to create the life that I wanted to have. This was no accident! I did not want to have a traditional academic job in a traditional academic department. I prefer working from home, and I wanted the freedom to live where I want and work from where I want. I have created that life, and it is a wonderful thing, but there are a few drawbacks, and it’s worth addressing them here.

For instance, I don’t remember the last time I had two days in a row where I had no teaching duties whatsoever. If I am away on vacation, or doing research, I am teaching and grading. I taught when I got married, I taught on my honeymoon, I teach when I go skiing, I teach all the time. Yes I have freedom of location, but the truth of the matter is, I really need a break! I don’t ever take a few days off, go camping, go somewhere where I am without my work. This is a big problem, and it’s one that I need to address, because if I’m not well rested if I don’t get away from the job, I’m not giving my students what they need from me. I feel grumpy and overburdened, and I think this is very common.

The other thing about working from home is that it’s very easy for work to intrude on my home life. I can always just answer one more e-mail, do another discussion post, or grade a couple more papers. Sometimes I’ll find myself doing that at midnight, just because I’m a bit bored. This is not healthy.

I know that to remedy this I need to work more on setting boundaries, and sticking to them. I need to have designated times where do my work, and then I need to stop. I need to set performance targets, and then feel okay about stepping away from the computer once I have set them, even if there is more work to be done. The fact of the matter is, there is always more work to be done, and that applies to me and everybody else. Students tend to be very demanding in an online environment, they expect you to respond to their e-mail 30 seconds after they send it. That isn’t fair, and just because I want to please them doesn’t mean that I should be cheating myself on the time that I need to recharge.

Been enjoying reading the work of Jonathan Fields at www.jonathanfields.com and www.careerrenegade.com. Both those sites have useful tips about how to stay sane and how to stay directed when working from home, and while carving your own niche in the world. It’s important to remember that if you choose to build a career as a Cyber Prof, that you may have less in common on a day-to-day basis with your fellow academics, and more in common with entrepreneurial types. I’m hoping to learn more from others who have chosen the roads less traveled to help me manage my work/life balance so that I can get the most from everything I do. One thing I’m going to do with the reduced workload this summer is make rest and recreation a priority.

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Online Educational Specialist