Maintaining and defining boundaries

I’m horrible at setting boundaries. My life consists of me blurring the lines between things that should be kept apart. Multitasking is something I try often, and somehow something I convince myself I can do well. Sometimes they are small things like when I text on my phone while walking. Or I watch TV while I eat dinner. And sometimes it’s bigger like when I blur my work with my personal life, all the time.

As I’m stepping into a new job, one that is loosely defined and open to my interests and priorities around student engagement, I’m finding this blurring I do really difficult to stop. Some people assume my new job is my old job, just with a different title (spoiler: it’s not). I convince myself I can do all the new things with my job and still carry on some of tasks from my old position. I got so invested in some of my projects from being an evening reference librarian, that I find myself butting into things I no longer need to worry about. These side projects take time, energy, and an emotional investment. I find myself maxing out, and it seems a bit early for that.

I think a part of this comes from the pressure I internally put on myself. I expect a lot from myself. All this pressure makes me feel sometimes I didn’t finish what I started in my first job as the evening librarian (although I know I made some huge strides). As I was making the transition to my new job, it seemed like not a big deal to keep a few side projects going, because I could handle it. I wanted to finish what I started, even if some of those things will be unsolvable for a while (because intentional change takes time). I can be an incredibly impatient person sometimes, especially with myself. Even though I’m a huge supporter and believer of the concept that the process is often more important than the product, I find myself at fault for wishing we could get to the end result. Ironic, right?  

Luckily, I’ve got some good people around me who have gotten to know me well. I’m reminded time and time again that my ability to say no, to define that boundary, gives me the opportunity to focus my time and energy on something else, to say yes to a new project. As one of my favorite desktop wallpaper reminds me, I can anything but not everything. This has become my mantra as I better define (and hold) my boundaries.

Wallpaper from  Design Love Fest

Wallpaper from Design Love Fest

You also know me as a goal setter, a to-do list writer. So, in that spirit, I’ve got a few goals for me as we head into the homestretch of our fall semester. I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review called “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time.” While the article was published back in 2007, the message still rings true. Authors Schwartz and McCarthy discuss how when people flip the script and manage their energy, they can get more done while they’re at work (and maintain those boundaries). Some of the tricks they suggest include:

  • Working on projects for 90-120 minutes, without distractions, and then taking a break where you walk around and take your mind off of things
  • Get rid of multitasking since switching tasks can sometimes increase the time it takes to complete a task by 25%
  • Try some breathing when things get stressful or overwhelming

I’ve recently started to block off chunks of time to devote to various activities/projects. It makes my calendar look messy, but it keeps me on track for those areas where I really need to dig in. I’ve also started to put my cell phone on “do not disturb” when I walk into my office. I don’t need to worry about, which has been pretty freeing. Every day I try to take a small step, defining boundaries as I go.Reading the HBR article coincided with a quote in Stacey-Marie Ishmael’s newsletter, #awesomewomen.

Everything is a work in progress. What do you do when the work stops the progress? Redraw the map again.
— Stacey-Maire Ishmael

I think I tried that this weekend. I took some time off, went on an adventure to Pittsburgh, slept in, and caught up with friends. I got to reset and now, I’m ready to keep going.

Being Thankful

For the first time in 24 years, I wasn't in Wisconsin to celebrate Thanksgiving. It was weird and I don't think I quite realized how much it would impact me. I missed the Fargo clan, the homey-ness of my grandparent's home and familiarity with how things go. It's not that I've never missed Fargo celebrations before (I've missed plenty over the past six years) but that I missed one heavily rooted in traditions and memories (like making root beer in the root beer trashcan and playing Euchre even though I'm still hazy on the rules).

Luckily, I didn't have to sit at home alone, missing quaint Mt. Horeb. Instead, I am thankful that my mom's sister and family now live only four hours from me. I'm finally driving distance from a side of my family that I've been so far from most of my life. We had a relaxed Thanksgiving; I spent most of the day in the kitchen, catching up with my aunt, swapping stories, and helping cook. I made my mom's sweet potato recipe and observed the craft of making mashed potatoes (butter, milk, repeat). I'm thankful for their company and their ability to bring me into their fold. 

And I have lots to be thankful for this year. I graduated from grad school, landed an incredible job, moved all the way to Pennsylvania, became closer with my young brother and sister, and had an incredible support system of friends, family, boyfriend, and peers around me. I continue to feel like I'm figuring out how to be an adult and that the life I'm making for myself is one that makes me happy.

I'm thankful for this break too. I woke up today feeling refreshed, not tired and burned out. I forget that we all need a little rest where we read books for fun, watch calligraphy videos on Instagram (and trace the pen strokes in the air), and spend time watching Gilmore Girls and trying out those calligraphy skills. I'm still adjusting to the non-grad school, work all the time, tempo I've been accustomed to. This break recharged me.

Well, conclusions are never my strong suit, so I'm signing off. Time to work on a teaching philosophy and get my bullet journal ready for the next few weeks ;) 

Advice and Reflections a Year Out of Undergrad

Now I'm not claiming to be an expert in being an adult. Far from it. There is no handbook for being an adult and if there was, I certainly wouldn't be asked to write it. However, after my first year in graduate school, I see things differently. I've grown and consider myself more of an adult than I did a year ago. Here's my advice: take it, leave it, or revise it.  


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