My Semester of Not Working Weekends

Hi Everyone! It’s been a minute, hasn’t it. I thought I came up for air, only to have the semester throw more things at me. I took the winter break off and now we’re back for the second day of the spring semester. My goal, as always, is to post more frequently.

However, to start the semester, I thought it would be appropriate to reflect on a little experiment I did during the fall semester and write about what I learned.

The experiment?

I decided not to work on the weekends.

[Before I talk about not working on the weekends, I want to acknowledge that I have tenure. And knowing that I had tenure made it easier to commit to this. I’m not sure that working on the weekends all the time as a pre-tenured professor was worth it, but the reality is that job security makes a lot of decisions easier]

Every Friday starting at 7 pm through Monday mornings, I did no work. I did no class planning/grading, I did no research tasks, and I did no meeting preparation. I did allow myself to read books aligned with work topics, although to be honest, I only read one work book during this semester. I rarely checked email.

Those initial weekends were hard, as I felt a surge of guilt that things wouldn’t get done that needed to get done. But I reflected a lot on what being “done” meant in a work environment where there is always more work to do. And none of my academic work is so essential that it must be done on a Saturday rather than a Tuesday. Soon it was easy to fill my weekends doing things I enjoyed more than work!

Unfortunately, I spent the entire semester behind on certain tasks–like grading. In previous semesters, I used the weekends to “catch up” what I couldn’t finish during the week, and since I wasn’t working on the weekends anymore, that meant I never caught up. I also did not make any significant progress on some of my important writing projects. My work weeks filled up quickly with meetings/teaching/administrative tasks–I tried to limit disruptions to my schedule, but as a newly tenured professor, my committee work increased substantially. I was warned this might occur but I did not adequately prepare for it. And full disclosure–I waste a lot of time on the internet and it’s possible that prevented me from getting as much work done during the week as I could.

However, after the first month or so, I stopped feeling guilty. There is no way for me to finish “all” of my work at any given time because my work is fluid. Aside from grades being turned into the registrar, I have no required hard deadlines. I came to accept that my previous attitude of “work all the time” was based not on the actual parameters of my job, but on these notions I’ve picked up about busyness and workload. Being busy all the time is not a badge I want to wear.

By not working weekends, I also realized that some things just aren’t going to get done. I realized that sometimes I need an extension. All of this is ok.

Some people like working on the weekends. That’s great! I hope that academic people who work weekends are not working the other five days of the week, because that’s a lot of work. I love work! I love working. I love my work. But I cannot love it for the entire week.

I’ve never been one to wade into the conversations about work-life balance, although I do think it’s important to figure out how to prioritize the important things in your life–I like to fitness so I make sure I can do that every day–because making time for the things that add to your life is vital. I hope you have your own strategies that you use to make this happen.

So I will continue to not work on the weekends, and I’m going to be more conscious of my runaway internet time during the day.

Good luck to everyone out there starting the new semester!

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