by Eddy Gonnzalez
“Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about summer and what it means to me compared to what it used to mean to me. Summer is symbolic of childhood. Children wait around all year for those 3 short months with no school, no homework, and no worries. It’s a time for fun and rest and allows kids to recharge for the next year. It means sleeping in, playing video games, going on vacation, the beach, parks, swings and slides. Summer is a justification for doing nothing and feeling good about it. However, summer as an SA Professional does not mean that the world stops spinning like it used to. Even though most of the students are gone for the summer there is still work to be done, trainings to be planned, and so much reflection on what went well last year and what can be done better next year. Luckily I work for a department and school that is all about self-care and we’ve had multiple discussions over the year about flipping the script and thinking about the phrase “time management” and switching over to “energy management”. I believe summer is the ideal time to think and act upon energy management.
The idea behind the switch from time management to energy management is that no matter how well you manage your time you are still given 24 hours a day to do what needs to be done. Energy management is about finding what recharges your energy and realizing what drains your energy. It’s not about avoiding those energy drainers but it’s about realizing “okay, if I have a bunch of meetings today, after work I’m going to go read a book by the lake to reenergize”. It’s about being totally aware of your energy and taking care of yourself so that you may, in return, take care of others. K-States President, Kirk Schulz, wrote a beautiful letter last week about disconnecting and how important it is for us to use this time to disconnect from our work for a little so that we can truly focus on ourselves. First of all, can we acknowledge how cool it is that the President of a University urged all SA professionals to take a two week vacation separated from email and work entirely? Disconnecting is difficult I know, but as Maya Angelou so insightfully pointed out, the world keeps spinning and schools keep functioning if you are not working. If you take a vacation, time does not stop and you come back and realize everything has continued in relatively the exact same manner.
This has been my first summer as a grad student and the cold hard truth is that I am not as busy as I was over the school year. My building is a non-continuous hall so currently there are no residents and no conferences in my building during the summer either. It’s been a difficult adjustment to say the least. There is something inherently positive about being “busy”. It implies success. The image of someone running from meeting to meeting with a coffee in one hand and a pad folio in the other screams accomplishment. It’s a difficult thing to admit that you’re not busy. There is a fear of being judged and there’s a voice in your head saying “you should be doing more”. So when I find myself in my office at 2pm and my to-do list is cleared I think about how I want to spend my free time. What I’ve had to become comfortable with is saying “I’m going to use this free time to read a book, go on a hike, or swim at the pool.” These brief moments of work-free bliss are so important and necessary for the work that we do. There is always something work related we CAN be doing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we SHOULD be always working.
Taking care of myself does not make me less of a professional, and having free time does not mean I am unsuccessful. This summer will be a true test of energy management. I will try, as we all should, to truly find what reenergizes me and do those things so that when the students return I will be rested, energized, and excited to take on another busy and stressful year. Join me this summer as I work, but also, more importantly, reenergize. Good luck and happy resting!