The Trending Prof

Anita Woods Ph.D., University Educator
Navigating Academic Overwhelm: Small Steps to Sustainable Workflow

Navigating Academic Overwhelm: Small Steps to Sustainable Workflow

Every May for the last few years, I have felt the aftermath of the academic year press upon me. An exhaustion so heavy, that my usual ability to make decisions and respond to requests becomes paralyzed. I really thought this year would be different. But again, crises that I didn’t expect occurred, workload that I couldn’t have anticipated showed up at my door. I worked through it all, and sacrificed my nights and weekends to get it managed, and it left me entirely empty. I am VERY good at working through crises. I am very good at working hard in general. I take on challenges like a champion, but I’ve realized that it isn’t sustainable.

Although I have colleagues who have managed to keep their evenings and weekends protected, I know for me, it isn’t as straightforward of just choosing not to work those hours. The work still needs to get done. So I am on a journey, to restructure my work days, to choose what I say yes to, and how I do those tasks in a way that still meets a standard of excellence that I am okay with. I recognize that I can’t do it all, and I will need to let go of some opportunities, but if I remember what my goals are, it will help prioritize how I spend my time.

Much of my inspiration for change has come from a podcast that I used to listen to help organize and manage my home life. I have recently come to realize that the Lazy Genius method doesn’t just apply to making choices for what is for dinner, or how to organize my pantry, but it can most certainly apply to my daily work rhythm. As I listen to episodes, I am reminded of a major principle of the author, Kendra, is to start small. Making big changes at all once can be overwhelming and unsustainable, and her recommendation of taking small steps really resonates with me.

My goal is to document these cumulative small changes and to name the goals that are driving my choices. I am feeling encouraged and hopeful that by September, I will be in a much better state that is refreshed and ready to carry into the new academic year.

Here is one thing I am changing, and this idea comes from another podcaster that I love. Emily P. Freeman, in her “The Next Right Thing” podcast, a recent episode about people like me, who are “yes” people….the over-eager, captured my full attention. Her recommendation is to say “let me think on it” when a request comes our way, instead of just going with the default of “yes”, which is what I typically do. And if tomorrow, I still feel like it is a good thing to say yes to, and if I think I can fit it in, then the answer can be yes. But my answer can also be “no”.

This is my first small step to wellness as an academic. I hope to continue to post what I am choosing, where I am changing and reporting if it is working. Are you in the same place? I’d love to hear about what changes you have made in your work flow, and how those changes have had positive impact.

Leave comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.