This post is part of a new series from the Mentoring & Inclusion Committee called Dear ASA Family Section. It's a Dear Abby style Q+A where more advanced family sociologists answer questions from members.
Q: What is a small “hack” or tip for a healthier work/life balance that you have found do-able but impactful (even if only a little)?
Kristin L. Perkins
A: There are two things I do that help me maintain a sustainable work/life balance. The first thing is about work: I have developed collaborations with colleagues who are also friends. This means that I always look forward to talking to them when we meet to work on our projects, and I am motivated to make progress on our projects because I am accountable to them. It also means that I can be honest with them when I'm not sure about an analytic decision I've made, or what direction a paper should take, or when I'm unable to make progress or meet a deadline because other work or life responsibilities intervene.
The second thing is about life: I make sure to exercise in some fashion every day. Some days this is a cycling class, but just as often it is a short yoga or Pilates class, or even a simple 10-minute stretch. The format matters less than the commitment to doing something—anything—every day. Usually this is a total break from work, but sometimes I do come up with an idea for my research or teaching while I'm walking to or from my office, or when I’m taking a break to exercise.
A: One small hack I've found really helpful is to take my work email off my phone. As a mother of 3, I used to feel that I needed the flexibility to keep up with email by having access to it all the time. It sometimes takes me longer to respond now, but I'm less stressed and more immersed with my family when I'm not working. For me, that makes the crazy world of writing and teaching and job marketing just a little more sustainable!
A: One small but important thing I do is to try to be truly present with my colleagues, students, and family. I very rarely multi-task when I'm on campus (e.g., I don't reply to emails while attending meetings or research talks), and I don't check my email when I'm caring for my kids. I also try to focus on the task that I'm engaged in instead of worrying about the tasks and emails that aren't getting my attention. Note my language of "try"; my goal isn't perfection but a good-faith effort.