Many female educators feel overwhelmed by what they have to manage in the workplace, leaving little room for other parts of their lives. During a busy semester, long to-do lists seem to be longer, no matter how much time, effort and energy it takes. Instead of getting much needed rest at night or on weekends, they often force themselves to work harder.

This lack of borders is exacerbated by the seemingly never-ending epidemic. It has become much easier to comfort oneself with the thought, “Everyone is burned now. I’ll just relax in the summer! “Familiar words?

In my work as a writing instructor for female educators, we identify the core values ​​of the client and use them as a compass to make work decisions. I would like to share how one of my clients, whom I would call Tiffany, used her core values ​​to regain control of her time.

As an assistant professor at a research-intensive university, Tiffany has worked on 12 different research projects, along with a highly packed teaching and mentoring schedule. Hoping to start a family soon, Tiffany had zero time for personal life. A self-proclaimed master delayer, he used to throw certain projects at a stage where he missed deadlines, sometimes a few months. His protracted delays provoked boundless stress and anxiety that led to negative judgments about himself and his job.

We explored Tiffany’s core values ​​to identify those that were out of balance Autonomy emerged as one of its most influential values. His definition of it: “Having a choice on how I spend my time” – something that most educators can relate to! Using this value as a guideline, it became clear that the projects that dragged on the longest were the ones that took them out of obligation or benefit rather than real interest.

I asked the young professor to rank his projects according to the amount of autonomy he felt over them. Tiffany quickly identified the three that she felt most resistant because she felt she had no choice but to do them or not. From there, we were able to devise a plan to clean these from his plate.

However, we couldn’t stop there because Tiffany still had to find the inspiration to complete these projects. Despite his disinterest, he still held himself to an incredibly high standard that made the task so difficult.

I asked where he could relax his values. Her face lit up as she replied, “None of these projects have any real career response, so I can turn them into things I want to do!” In one case, Tiffany was trying to force herself to master a whole new scholarly literature for a chapter in a book that had already passed two months. Through this new mental reconstruction, he saw how it would be faster, easier and more interesting to organize around his own research.

Once Tiffany cleans her plate of these “one and done” projects, she will regain the amount of time and energy that can be invested in creating her desired overall life. Guided by his core values, he can make more conscious choices about what to take to move forward. And with continued practice, he hopes to be able to completely avoid the overwhelming-anxiety-delay cycle.

I asked Tiffany to set some criteria for assessing future work obligations, with the goal of avoiding delays and overwhelms. He came up with three questions. I encourage everyone to ask themselves before accepting a new job request:

  1. This is something I actually want to do, and how much?

  2. Do I have any personal or professional advantage in doing this and what will it be?

  3. Do I have time to promise it (assuming it will take at least twice as long to appear now)?

Burnout is a recipe for blindly taking on responsibilities that are not in line with your values. Getting out of this cycle is easy, though not easy: don’t tell her what you don’t want to do. This is of course due to the fact that there are some things you can’t do.

But think of it this way: by rejecting some opportunities that are not internally meaningful, you are saying yes to yourself and the life you want to lead. Not saying so at first may cause some short-term discomfort, but in the long run, it will set you free.

Leslie K. Wang (he / she) is a writing instructor, author and professional speaker who helps female scholars publish important books. After spending a decade on the tenure-track, he recently moved into full-time coaching. Read more about her work at YourWordsUnleashed.com or listen to her podcast.

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