Why Bound When You Can Blend?


Nearly every interview I have attended (on both sides of the table) asks the question about balance. Namely, how does a person maintain sanity, stamina and overall health while working in dynamic, fast-paced, student-centered environments that may extend beyond the 9-5 workday.

I believe that the key to avoiding burnout, maintaining enthusiasm for the job and limiting frustration in the elusive quest to have a “balanced life” is to resist the urge to create steadfast boundaries and instead look for ways to blend your life.

A few examples:

If a university employee brings their child to a work event where children are encouraged to attend is that work time or personal time?

If I shop on-line for a gift for a friends’ wedding from my office computer is that work time or personal time?

If I go out for coffee with a good friend from another department during the day is that work time or personal time?

The answer to all of the above is “both.” And that is OK.

I have found that some of the most unhappy people in our field are professionals who create rigid boundaries that clearly define work and personal time.  One example of this is the folks who turn off their email at 5:00 pm on Friday and don’t check it again until Monday.  On one hand, I applaud them. It’s fantastic that you can focus solely on your personal pursuits over the weekend.  If that works for you, I say go for it!

But oftentimes these are the same people who feel overwhelmed on Monday with the amount of voicemails and emails that they have to respond to.  Or they may feel out of the loop if an email conversation occurred over the weekend and a decision was reached without their input because they did not respond right away.  It’s all about the priorities you set and how you choose to manage your time.  Choose what makes you happy, but be prepared to handle the drawbacks–there are some no matter if you choose to draw clear boundaries or lead a blended life.

A blended life means that each day is filled with all of the duties, responsibilities and opportunities that I have as a person, employee, wife and friend—and often the order of those roles differ, depending on the day.  I have found a joyful life in both taking a couple of hours on a Saturday morning to work on email as well as leaving work early to take a yoga class.  If one stops keeping score and just enjoys life as a whole person, you win every time!

Do you prefer to bound or blend your life?  Share your strategies for success here!

To see another perspective on this issue, check out Stacy Oliver’s post at: http://stacyloliver.com/

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About annmarieklotz

I write about all things education, personal & professional development and growth. Once is a question, twice is a discussion and three times is a blog post! Born and raised in Detroit Michigan but currently calling the Pacific Northwest home. I work at Oregon State University and belong to a fantastic community of higher ed professionals around the globe! Lover of theater and the arts. Live your best life!
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21 Responses to Why Bound When You Can Blend?

  1. Awesome post! Ironic, really, a colleague and I are talking about doing a presentation on tips for how to live an “integrative” life!

    I think this philosophy can be applied to more than our field and I would encourage many people to strive for this kind of way of thinking – or to at least try it out.

    • Thanks Ryan! I think every person has to to create a system that works for them but I have felt that this style allows for the most flexibility, productivity and happiness–key factors for me!!

  2. Joe Ginese says:

    Ann Marie,

    Love the “bound or blend” language. This is the key part, in my opinion, of what everyone needs to keep in mind, “Choose what makes you happy, but be prepared to handle the drawbacks–there are some no matter if you choose to draw clear boundaries or lead a blended life.”

    People are seeking advice from others and I expect even reading your post in hopes of finding the “answer to balance” when really they need only look to themselves to make it.

    In any field there are people who are constantly hoping to discover the silver bullet of work/life relationship and, as you say, it is really up to you to decide not for someone else to dictate.

    As I shared on Stacy’s blog, I use this to justify shutting down my e-mail and not checking over the weekends, “The work will be there tomorrow, today won’t be.”

    Have an awesome Monday – great collaboration between you and Stacy.

    Joe

    • Joe, you are totally right. It’s just like what Glinda the good witch said to Dorothy–“You had it in you the whole time” 🙂 People just have to decide what that looks like for them. Thanks for reading, commenting and always being so incredibly supportive of people in our on-line community!!

  3. I’m totally comfortable with blending, but obviously that also depends on your environment. For instance, if you are ok with checking your e-mail at home or staying late to get work done, does your supervisor or institution offer you the flexibility on the other end? When you ask if you can come in at 9:30 instead of 9 are you told “well, the office opens at 9”. We do have to be cautious that our own styles not make us vulnerable to being taken for granted or, worse, being taken advantage of. We may think we’re ok with it now, but there will eventually be a breaking point and how much we have chosen to blur those lines will make it more difficult to address when we finally reach that point. We also need to be mindful of this in our own supervision styles. If we have one person who chooses to blend and another who is more rigid, but both do their work, we have to be mindful of balancing the workload and how we reward.

    • Absolutely, Chris. As with everything in our work life, our supervisors’ style and office culture are the lens through which we navigate–for better or for worse 🙂 I think the best thing we can do for the people we supervise is provide them with a framework to understand their job and the campus culture…and then step away and let them do their work, however they see fit. I don’t particularly care about their strategy as long as their work product is excellent. Why not allow people to chart their own course?? Thanks so much for reading!

  4. ashleynrobinson says:

    Great post and perspective, Ann Marie. I have often found that the blending strategy is looked down upon and we who operate this way are called “workaholics” or accused of not having balance because of choosing not to compartmentalize the different parts of our lives. This is certainly a personal choice, but there is no need to make others feel guilty or conflicted based on work style so long as everyone pulls their weight. Thanks for offering your insights.

    • Thanks Ashley! I personally rarely feel overwhelmed/worked because I subscribe to this notion of blending. But you are correct, other folks can struggle with this if they perceive that you are a “workaholic”. We all should assume that every person is doing their very best each day–no matter how people choose to negotiate work and life! 🙂

  5. Sarah says:

    I’d like to think that I bound AND blend. I definitely agree with not feeling overwhelmed/overworked on Monday morning, because I’ve usually been checking my email occasionally throughout the weekend, and know what needs to be addressed. On the other hand, there are times when my work email goes OFF (vacation is one).

  6. I blend. For me it’s about getting what needs to get done (both personally and professionally) in a way that makes sense (and respects expectations set for me by my office/supervisor). Time in office doesn’t always equal “time on task.” Sometimes I’ll write my dissertation at work, in the morning (when my thinking is clearest) but do data entry or data management at home (when I don’t need as much focus) in the evening. All the things get done…but just in my way.

    For me it comes down to letting people decide how to manage their time as much as possible.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Stephanie! You are so correct–“time in office does not equal time on task.” Good things for us to remember–especially during this busy time of year!!

  7. Shelly Shimon says:

    AMK-this blog post is awesome as I enter my first professional work experience as a teacher. The horror stories I hear about the lack of a personal life outside of teaching during the first year is incredibly daunting, but reminders like yours keep my breathing steady! Thanks so much for this post, you are an amazing female role model in the education work force for me! Hope all is well!

    • Shelly–thanks for reading! Congrats to you–Lane Tech, right? They are very lucky to have you 🙂 Good luck as you navigate the first year. You are ready! Hugs to you!!

  8. genarstack says:

    As silly as this may sound, I’ve found that turning off the email notifications on my phone helps tremendously. I can still access and check my email from my phone any time I want, but the little icon isn’t there jumping out at me every time I look at my phone to check the time. It’s a little less invasive and I find it much easier to detach.

    • Good idea, Gena 🙂 We have to decide when technology can assist us and when it annoys us, lol. Thanks so much for reading!!

    • Jessa says:

      I so agree! For me blending is about consciously understanding when you perform certain tasks best. If my email goes off while I’m sleeping or enjoying time with my partner I worry that it might be important – but nothing ever ends up being that serious.

  9. Hi Ann Marie!

    When I worked at UW-La Crosse, I remember Dr. Nick Nicklaus asking us if we thought a “balanced life” was really achievable. That discussion really shaped my thoughts on the subject and my perspective as a supervisor today. Our work is just too unpredictable to draw rigid lines that may not always apply to what we are facing. I think the key is to have honest conversations about office expectations and take active steps to reduce the tendency to compare how many hours people are putting in and equating success or dedication to that number of hours. As long as shared expectations and goals are being achieved, people should be able to work with their supervisor to find the blend that works for them! As a supervisor, I think we also need to take steps to make sure our decision making is as inclusive as possible to avoid people with different styles missing out on conversations.

    We all work in a profession that really never stops, so it’s a necessity to be flexible!

    Thanks for the post!

    • Hi Paul! Isn’t Nick the greatest?? Flexibility is key and allowing people to be their very best selves requires letting go of traditional notions of what work time looks like. Thanks so much for sharing! Take good care of yourself. 🙂

  10. Pingback: Always Say Yes | annmarieklotz

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