The Consistent Pursuit of the Mythical Work-Life Balance [Life Post Ph.D.]

Yet another installment of ‘Notes from A Blackademic’

So as you know, ya girl’s a doctor.

And soon after becoming a doctor, ya girl got a job and I must say that life is different. Days spent huddled over my laptop and frantically searching Academic Source Complete for the perfect reference for that one statement about racist narratives in religious gender performance are now spent sending emails and confirming meetings. But what’s most different of all is my new found tax bracket of starter level ‘not-broke’. Starter level ‘not-broke’ means I can pay all my bills (including rent) AND go to multiple social events centered around a meal in one weekend. I can pay my debts AND get bottomless brunch without checking my account…Praise be to Allah!

Since graduation, I’ve become engaged, moved apartments, started a full-time job, and picked up a second gig.  All of these changes left me extremely pressed* this summer. I’ve been pressed for time alone, pressed for time with family and friends, pressed for meditation, pressed for things to move quicker,  pressed to create, pressed to express myself, and so on and so forth. All because I wanted to have some sort of balance and harmony in all aspects of my life. Though I”m sure the day will come when I effortlessly schedule and distribute my time and energy equally amongst my personal, professional, and spiritual selves, that day is not today.

So here’s a list of things that have at least made some semblance of balance possible:

Time Management

I’ve talked before about the importance of planning my week in advance and if it was helpful when I was just dissertating, it’s absolutely necessary now. When the majority of your day is filled with tasks to complete for work, you have to maximize every minute that you’re off the clock. For me, that means waking up before 6 AM every morning to work out before work and then doing any personal/professional development after work.  I’m pretty sure I believed I would have a profound amount of energy every day after work to power me through any extra tasks I needed to complete…lo and behold, I don’t, but I’ve had to make time for the things that will lead to my long-term goals, regardless of my energy levels after I’m off the clock.

Budgeting

Hip-hop icon, The Notorious B.I.G., said mo’ money, mo’ problems. I have to concur with Brother Wallace, at least in theory. I can’t say that an influx of disposable income has lead to more problems in my life but I can very well see how if I get lazy with budgeting or accounting for my coin, I can end just as broke as I was before I started working. As tempting as eating takeout every day is when you have limited time and energy to cook and meal plan, I can’t afford it. And there’s no way Church’s 5 dollar Mega Bites Box and two small okras is good for my pressure, or my heart, or just my life in general.

Get your life together

Research

My career dream is to become a tenure-track professor at a research institution and my current work is not a direct path to that end. Though I’m not spending most of my day in school it still doesn’t mean I’m not researching or working on my research agenda for a professorship. Even when I’m not hacking away at my personal research goals I’m using some type of problem-solving skill that I developed in my doctorate program. Most of building and contributing to the success of a program or objective is simply perfecting the most effective means of completion.

Goal Setting 

With there being some gap time between graduation and a professor job, it feels easy to stray away from academic work. Though I’m currently teaching, the influence to publish work or dig deeper in prior projects has been greatly minimized. Like GREATLY. I had minimal external influence prior to graduation and I have little to none now that I’m a doctor. I guess the whole point of mastering a research area is that you now are responsible for creating more knowledge about that area. But I’m still working toward the long-term goal by revising current manuscripts and submitting them for publication. It’s secondary work, but it’s work I’m doing nonetheless. Every month and week I revisit and adjust my goals and check my progress toward them. Without a regular review of what I’m trying to do in my personal and professional life, my work ethic gets dicey and I start to spend my time and energy on things unrelated to my bigger picture.

Confused Travolta
Me, running around without goals

The major thing I’m learning and growing comfortable with is ‘the only thing that stays constant is change.’ Said another way, stability and comfort are fleeting. The moment you feel you have mastered your environment is when you should start preparing for discomfort because change is coming. Life comes at you fast, but no matter what you’re better for your growth.

As someone told me today, work-life balance is a myth and we are constantly choosing where we are putting the bulk of our time and energy and many times we have to pick one facet of our life over the other. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t strive to give every sector of our lives our best, but that we have to be realistic about what we can do and what balance actually looks like.

Peace and Love,

Bri aka The Good Doctah bka Brini Weenie.

If you wanna read my dissertation, click here. It’s long but if you wanna know what I’ve been doing with the last four years of my academic life, that’s it right there.

*Pressed is the state of being stressed and/or anxious about things which may or may not (but most likely are not) be in your control to change.

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