One of the wonderful aspects of working in higher education is the cycle of the academic calendar. We may not be able to predict the day to day details since we work with humans who do all sorts of interesting things at all times of the day and night, but we do have a pretty good idea by the month. For those on the semester system, August is the start of things and crazy hot, April is unbelievably busy and, in Student Affairs anyway, we go to a lot of dinners. (Make that September and May for those on the quarter system.) Semesters and quarters begin and end with a predictable rhythm and we know when we will be running non-stop and when we will have a moment to breathe. As a friend of mine posted on Facebook recently, “After 25 years in higher ed, my body is trained to make it to May and need an immediate break.”
Until this year.
I think one of the challenges we are facing right now is that our ‘natural’ rhythms and cycles have been disrupted. Even if administrators don’t get Spring Break off, it’s still a quieter week which is great in the middle of March. Except you didn’t get that breather this year.
Added to this are the increased difficulties facing our students as their expected cycles of coursework, study and end of the semester were interrupted with getting home or finding places to stay and food to eat. And I haven’t even gotten to what’s going on at home where those of you with children are experiencing the effect of the disruption of their cycles and rhythms.
This week as I’m writing about Leadership Yoga, we have come to the practice of Savasana – the ‘nap’ at the end of the class. A yoga class has its own cycles and rhythms and they always move from postures to the pause at the end. In class, it’s the time to let the body absorb the work that has been done and prepare to move out of the yoga studio into the hustle and bustle of the world outside. It is an essential part of the practice of yoga.
I’m here today to advocate that you find a way to bring that sort of rhythm into your work. We have debriefing sessions at the end programs, meetings, and emergency responses. We help students pause to listen to each other and learn from their experiences rather than running to the next thing. These are part of our cycles and rhythms. But we often short-change ourselves in this way. Particularly this year.
This is a long-term challenge with no real end in sight. The end of the academic term will bring new challenges this year rather than respite. So, each of us has to find our own time for Savasana. My challenge to you is to start to work now to reclaim a healthy rhythm, to create new cycles that allow for busy and calm. As leaders, how are you creating those rhythms for your colleagues? How are you honoring the reality that we all need time to rest while being busy, that we can’t run full-out continuously?
Today’s resources are some thoughts on ways to do this. It’s too easy to say we’re too busy to stop, our work is too important to rest. I would argue our health, our family and yes, our work is too important not to stop. Our usual cycles and rhythms have been disrupted. Now might be a good time to create some new ones.