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It is okay to take time for yourself

Region IV-W
January 8, 2020 Thomas Strahan

How many times have we heard that in our career and not taken it to heart. Whether being told to do so from co-workers, a supervisor, or even a student (wild right); this is one of the best pieces of advice for a new professional in student affairs. We are so eager to impress and do a good job that we over work ourselves, and are burned out by the end of the year. Then those work habits follow us into mid-level and more administrative positions as we advance, and somehow we recreate the process.

I found myself struggling with this when I started out, because I felt like I had to be at everything. I felt that if I didn’t go to every meeting and event that I would be out of the loop somehow. Or that the students I advised would not make a wise decision, and that decision would reflect back on my work. I was afraid if I didn’t go above and beyond people would consider me lazy. It was chaotic and problematic. This is no way to live life! It took me a while to figure out how to change all of this. I wanted to share my insight into how to take care of yourself as a new professional while also crushing it at work. Here are my thoughts!

  1. Sleep.

If you are coming from grad school, your sleep schedule is probably all over the place. Most of you are going to bed at 2:00 am, having to be at work at 10:00 am. You need to come up with something a little more regular once you graduate because once you are on that 8-5 work schedule, you are tired all of the time.

  1. Exercise REGULARLY.

I do not mean once a week. I mean at least three times a week, if not every day. It does not have to be marathon training, but something that gets your heart rate up for about an hour. I highly recommend working out in the mornings before work. Simply because most of our programs are in the afternoon/evening, this way you can stick to a steady schedule.

  1. Use your vacation time after stressful weeks, events, even semesters.

You accumulate this time for a reason. You need to use it.

  1. Understand sometimes a student’s problem might not be your top priority.

We deal with this a lot in student affairs. A student comes in with a problem, and we immediately make it our top priority to fix it. Sometimes it’s not, and it’s okay to say that. Think back to a time where a student has requested something from you and the deadline is the next day.

  1. Maximize your 8-5 work day!

Try to fit student meetings into your 8-5 work schedule. Yes, this is extremely hard to do especially if you work in student activities, housing, or FSL. If you work with a student board of some type there are many people and pieces you are trying to work with. Use a doodle poll or some other type of system to make meetings fit into your work day. That way you aren’t having to stay after hours, or come back to work at a later time.

  1. Let the students learn.

As a young professional, do you really need to go to every student organization meeting? Do you really need to go to every event your students are putting on just to make sure everything is perfect? The simple answer is NO. This seems simple, but is easier said than done. It is hard for students to learn if you do not let them do it on their own. Sometimes we feel that a student’s mistakes reflect back on us. Thinking, “If I would have been there, I could have handled this and it would have been prevented,” which is not always true. Students are not going to do everything correctly at every meeting or event. Our responsibility is to have taught them well enough so they can arrive to the right decisions on their own at the right time. It is called student learning for a reason!

Whether it is taking a vacation or taking a day or two to read a book and sit around the house, use YOUR time. You’re no good to anyone else, unless you are good to yourself!