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Academic Coaching & Writing

XIV. An Academic, Writing: Creating Work-Life Balance

Feb 20, 2013 by Lee Skallerup Bessette

Finding a good writing routine has been important to my productivity, as well as my professional well-being. Pushed by my academic writing coach, Moira, I’ve examined not only my writing routine, but also my writing habits and practices. I now use a standing desk model for writing, and I have cleaned up my writing space to have fewer distractions around me when I write. I’m also learning what works and what doesn’t work when I write.

But all of this careful, purposeful analysis and planning for my writing has really put into focus how little purposeful analysis and planning I have been putting into my life outside of writing. I wanted to get back in the pool and swim, but I couldn’t find the time. I wanted to make sure that I devoted enough time to my teaching, but always felt like I was overwhelmed by the demands of a heavy course load. Although my sacred writing time has, indeed, become sacred, the rest of the hours of my day (when I’m not teaching) have been and still are a mess.

Moira and I sat down last week and looked at my days, hour by hour to evaluate how effectively I use my time. We sought to strike a balance between what I need to get done and my personal priorities to write and to swim regularly. To make a long story short, I discovered that I was wasting a lot of time because I wasn’t planning my days very well. What was I doing all afternoon? I felt like I had no time, but I was shocked to see how much time I really had that I was misusing or misappropriating.

Using a Schedule to Achieve Work-Life Balance

With Moira’s help I created a schedule of what I want to accomplish each day. I printed a copy of the schedule to put on the fridge and another to put by my computer in my office.

As I write this, it’s only been two days of following my schedule, but I’ve already experienced benefits. I’ve managed to get into the pool and go swimming, something I haven’t done in almost three months. My kids are providing the accountability I need by asking me if I went to the pool on the days that my schedule says I would!

I’ve found that when I swim, I am less stressed. When I am less stressed, I am more productive, particularly when I write. I often take the time when I am in the pool to think and reflect. The rhythmic quality of swimming, not to mention the silence of being underwater, allows my mind to wander and work through issues I have been having with my writing and my work. I’ve been to the pool twice this week, and I can definitely feel the difference. I sleep better. I’m more focused. And I’m happier.

In creating my schedule, I allocated only an hour to work on teaching (which includes answering student emails). Seeing the posted reminder of how I have scheduled my time has helped me become more focused and more productive. Because I am more productive during the time I have allotted for each activity during the day, I also find that I have less to do in the evenings. This leaves me with more time to do the activities that I value, such as spending time with my family, reading, and other activities that I find fulfilling. And, I am way less stressed.

I’m excited to see that I’m reaping tangible benefits from the schedule I set for myself. It’s proving to be a valuable tool to help me achieve work-life balance, providing the time I need to write and to take care of myself, too. I anticipate that setting and following a schedule will provide additional benefits as I continue to incorporate it into my daily activities.

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