When I was in college I worked in the Dean of Students Office at Belmont. For some reason the Dean there trusted me to take on a lot of pet projects and provided a lot of guidance and opportunities for my track to become a student affairs professional. He has the ability to be encouraging and challenging and I still value his perspective even though it’s been years since I worked for him. The intentional choices he has made professionally to keep his family and faith first while pursing excellence in his work is something I admire and hope to emulate as I grow more seasoned. Recently I discovered that he has a blog online and I subscribed. Each reading feels a bit like I’m sitting with him over coffee at Bongo Java receiving a lot of professional wisdom.
One post in particular has stuck with me lately. He recently published a series titled “The Season of the Firehose“. I’m pretty sure that everyone can relate to this season regardless of occupation. One of his posts in this series is about creating margin when “too much of your life is work”. I read this post earlier this week and it’s really been on the front of my mind lately. While much of what Andrew wrote here has challenged me, this particular part has me really thinking:
You can … change the proportion of your life that is consumed in the flood, by adding more to the part of your life that is about something other than work. You can make sure there is a bigger picture.
It’s no secret that I take my work really seriously and personally. For me this means that sometimes I don’t create much margin at all, firehose or not. I love the work that I get to do and want to do it excellently always. I often define myself by my success in work. This isn’t all bad but sometimes this becomes a problem.
There are seasons of my work that I can clearly label as a firehose season. Orientation, move in, the start of the fall semester are all crazy times. But in February my assistant transferred departments (ironically to create some margin in her own life as she prepared to become a foster parent) and that really started a long season of standing in a flood. We finally filled the position the last week in October. To say life has been a little busy is an understatement. During this season, I found myself stressed and feeling like I can’t really control circumstances around me. As someone who has responsibility in her StrengthsFinder results, the knowledge that I won’t get everything done is incredibly disappointing to me.
In reflecting on Andrew’s post I realized that I have not created enough margin in my life, especially during this season. My initial response to busy seasons is to not do anything outside of work except catch up on my DVR. I’m beginning to wonder, however, if that isn’t the wrong response. Andrew’s post has me thinking that perhaps the best way to survive these seasons is to have something else in the wings. Something that is fun, meaningful, enjoyable,etc. That’s not to say that my work is not all those things, because really it is, but my life cannot be solely student activities.
I also believe that I need to find where the dry land is in the chaos of my work day. Between student visits, phone calls and emails I am consistently accomplishing nothing on my to do list each day. Being a balanced professional means I need to learn to respond to these things, because they are my work, while also completing the rest of my job. This means not only do I need to find dry margin outside of work, but also during it.
I do not necessarily have an answer to what those dry pieces of land are. I think writing is in there somewhere. But given by the fact this post was started in mid-September and is not being published until November tells me I still haven’t quite figured it out. As we are approaching the end of the fall semester and the year 2012, I want to be a bit more intentional about finding key pieces of dry land. I know when I do this I will be a better leader and friend.