I felt it in my chest.
It was the third week of May, and as I was headed out to the Sugar Shack to get in a few hours of work before picking up Happy from preschool, I felt an expansiveness in my chest that I wasn’t used to having there.
What’s that, I wondered.
And then I realized that it was a feeling of relief in being without the pressure of teaching weekly for the next few months.
Though teaching at the University is, truth be told, one of my favorite things that I do and also one of the smaller pieces of my professional pie (the writing, workshop and retreat facilitating and, though I am not paid for it, supervising Circle de Luz are much bigger parts of my responsibilities), the way that I DO my teaching, the engagement that I demand of myself, the energy I put into it makes it the biggest psychic impact.
With that observation, I very deliberately enjoyed the break from teaching that this summer afforded, maybe more so than I have any other summer.
Then the calendar flipped to August, and it was time to prepare mentally and physically for back-to-school (and not just my back to school but Happy’s official start of his school career and back to school with Circle de Luz as the bulk of our intense programming schedule with the girls runs from August to June) which has me doing more than just writing my syllabus and setting up my electronic classroom. Preparing for the new school year has me thinking about my very best and worst professional (and personal) habits so that I can bottle up the good stuff from this summer and feel less of that tension between productivity and presence when my schedule goes back to its full slate of responsibilities. So, here are the habits I am focused on holding dear or letting go as the big yellow buses start rolling.
Weekly Review. The weekly review is my very best habit. Sitting down at the end of each week allows me to focus on what’s important on the weekends- my family- and allows me to get my head around what can and should happen the next week. It also keeps me organized and productive on a daily basis.
Keeping Mondays Open. I just don’t meet on Mondays. After I realized that running around to meetings on Mondays made me feel stressed for the rest of the week because of the huge inbox influx and the tasks that got put off, I quit scheduling things on Monday. This lets me sit at my desk on Monday and just race through all the time sensitive matters for the week (which I deliberately put on my Monday to do list during my weekly reviews) and insures that if it all fits the fan on Tuesday, I already have the most important things for that week covered.
Practicing Boundaries. If we let it, our work responsibilities could seep into everything, right? So, in general, I try not to let it. Specifically, there are two hard boundaries that I honor to help me keep that from happening. First, I don’t miss more than one school night bedtime a week. That time is just too precious to our family. Second, I don’t work for free on the weekends (I am asked to do free workshops on body image- for all ages- a fair amount on weekends). Volunteering with Circle de Luz takes a lot of my weekend time, and I am just not willing to do any more “volunteering” on the weekends beyond that right now.
Knowing when to say no and saying it. The Continuum of Wholeheartedness has made me really aware of what my yeses and nos are and I find that I am living more and more wholeheartedly with that tool in place. In fact, it is far more often that I have to say no to something I would like to say yes to then the other way around and that’s pretty good.
Work Bleed. This summer, I have worked especially hard on reducing my work bleed. What’s work bleed? When you let your work bleed into time that is not supposed to be work time. For years, the time I had allotted to work was while Happy was in preschool. 3 hours a day. But I had a whole lot more work that I needed to do. And so I tried to grab as many little snippets of time as possible to work throughout the day, especially after Happy went to sleep and way before he woke up. But let’s face, I don’t love who I am when I am that focused on being hyper-productive (a follow-up post on this coming because it actually is my very worst habit) AND I am not curing cancer so what’s the urgency? I did much more keeping the laptop out of the bedroom this summer and I want to continue that practice, even as things get busier.
Over-engage. I have a tendency to over-engage in people’s problems, being as accessible and available as possible and often probably more than they want or need. So I’ve been working on dialing this one down for a while now.
What are your best and worst professional habits? How do you manage them?