Our guest blogger, Amanda Ullman is a paediatric nurse, ICU nurse and researcher, as well as a mum and PhD student. In this post she shares tips for integrating work and life together.
Like many other stories we were told as children, it turns out the grown-ups were lying: there is no such thing as work-life balance. Technology has changed the nature of work and, for academics in particular, work is no longer 9 to 5. It is our life, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This lack of boundaries is not always a bad thing – we just need to change our goals. Instead of neatly carving our lives into portions marked Work and Play, we need to embrace the merging of work and life. We need to start aiming for work-life integration.
I have the same hectic schedule as many others – two small children, a husband who works long hours, a PhD in progress, and a part-time university job that takes up more than ‘part’ of my work time. Work-life balance is impossible, but work-life integration has transformed a potentially stressful stage of my professional and personal life into a manageable one. So here are my tips for making work-life integration work for you:
1) Like your job
Find the job that you feel passionate about. Within academia I have found rewarding work. The topic, the team, and the positive changes I see as a result of our research, all make my work time meaningful and enjoyable. If you want to find work-life integration, make sure that the work you are investing your time in is the right fit. “Choose a job you love, and you will never work a day in your life” seems like good advice.
2) Have good people
While I don’t have a wife (that would be super!), I do have an extended family that assists with the logistics of caring for my children. I also have a network of researchers and academics who support my research and studies, and accommodate my sometimes-reduced availability. Many colleagues have also become friends, which is immensely helpful when you spend large quantities of time sitting next to each other on international flights. Finding the right network of people is essential to achieving positive work-life integration.
3) Prepare the infrastructure
Technology helps provide a portable working space. Using resources like GoToMeeting and Google Drive, I am able to structure my work to fit within the confines of my life. Although this sometimes means working from home or working late at night, the reward is time with my children and my husband. To make work-life integration a reality, take the time to structure a timetable and set up a home office that supports you to work productively.
4) Take care of yourself
Invest in yourself. Work-life integration isn’t just about work, it’s also about life. So make time to do the activities that keep you healthy, both physically and psychologically. Recognise when you are feeling overwhelmed and apply your strategies to relieve stress. This investment will help all elements of your life and work.
In the song 9 To 5, Dolly Parton complained that work was “all taking and no giving”. As academics we can use work-life integration to change that. Let’s find an academic model that’s better for both our work and our lives, and develop processes to make it sustainable.
About the author
Amanda is a paediatric Intensive Care nurse who is currently completing her PhD at Griffith University, Australia. She would like to dismiss the idea that being a nurse must make her a really ‘nice’ and ‘special’ person – it just means that she finds children who are unconscious the best to work with. She is also a mum and would like to have glamorous hobbies but really she eats chips on the couch. You can find her on Twitter: @a_ullman, ResearchGate: /Amanda_Ullman and on Piirus: Amanda Ullman
Thanks to Amanda for this encouraging post, full of positive energy! You can read other’s tips and advice on the Piirus blog, and, if you have tips to offer or something to blog about, then you can also contribute.