Things were already bad. You were already more tired than usual before the break. Maybe you’d just started getting your head around how to keep going in a pandemic, even if you didn’t like it much.
The readers of this newsletter are based in a whole range of countries so the specifics of what changed at the beginning of January vary. Local rules about the pandemic might have changed in ways that have a significant effect on your ability to work. The events in the USA are disturbing wherever you live, but affect some people more directly. Brexit may be affecting you or those close to you, or you may be worried about how it’s going to affect you over the next few months. There are things happening where you live that I may be only vaguely aware of.
Work? Politics? Both? Neither?
You may wonder if it’s even reasonable to keep going in these circumstances. The answer is going to be different for everyone. You get to decide how to respond to the particular combination of politics + pandemic where you live. I have written some things over the past few years that might help you sort out your thoughts so you can make that decision…
- Juggling in dystopian times, part 1 was written almost exactly 4 years ago and addresses the question of making political activism a priority.
- Juggling in dystopian times, part 2 was written in August 2017 (was that the Charlottesville protests? or something else?) and reminds you that your work is important, though you might want to refocus on the parts of your work that are particularly meaningful to you.
- Being an academic in dystopian times was written after the UK election in December 2019. It revisits the importance of doing your work, especially as the world burns.
This is a tough decision. Different people can make different decisions and everyone can make the right decision for them. Keep your eyes on your own path. You can revisit your decision regularly.
Self care is crucial.
Whatever you decide on for question one, things are difficult. You are more tired going into the next few months than you would normally be. The emotional impact of all of this (*waves hands vaguely at everything*) requires energy. You have no choice about that. I am firmly on #TeamNoBurnout.
By reading this blog (or subscribing to my newsletter) you have indicated that you are at least interested in working out whether you want to be on #TeamNoBurnout. (I recommend it. Burnout is no fun. It’s mentally and physically awful.) If you do nothing else in response to all of this, please look after yourself.
Sleep and rest are key. You do not need to earn rest. You get to rest even if your work is not finished. Your work will never be finished anyway. Whatever your own religious beliefs there is a set of 10 basic laws that have hung around for several thousand years now and the 2nd one (to paraphrase) says “For the love of all that is holy, take a day off every week.” If you aren’t sure how to do that, I’ve written some tips:
- How to take the weekend off (I might update and republish that one day.)
- Plan to rest helps you figure out what is restful for you and how you will fit it in.
Nourishing food is also crucial. Unfortunately it requires a lot of decisions, as well as the physical work of shopping and preparing food. Time, cognitive capacity (for decision-making), and energy are already in short supply, but especially so at the end of your work day when you normally eat your main meal of the day.
- Are you dropping the eating well ball? has been substantially updated. Feel free to browse the comments and add your own strategies too.
Movement, exercise, whatever you want to call it, is also important. This is the one I find most difficult, especially at this darkest time of the year here in the UK. It’s crucial for all kinds of things, including processing stress hormones. This can include anything from stretching, yoga or a short walk. Do what you can.
- What yoga has taught me about life, writing, and work covers the emotional and long-term aspects of regular movement and consistent practice for mental, physical health which in turn helps my working life.
Managing energy at work
In a group coaching session in the Studio we started to map out the next 3 months in relation to energy levels.
- Start by assessing where you think you are now. If you were a phone, what would the battery indicator say?
- Then look at the next 3 months and identify where the recharging points are. Where can you take some time off to recharge? Where do you have lower intensity work?
- Now identify the crunch points over the next 3 months. Where will you need extra energy?
In addition to taking at least one day (and hopefully a whole weekend) off a week, and stopping work at a sensible time so you can rest in the evening and sleep well, you can then map out intense weeks and lighter weeks. If you can charge up before a crunch point, do so. Also always give yourself time to recover. Aim for 40-hour week as an average (not a minimum).
I wrote Enable low power mode as a strategy for getting to the end of term when already exhausted. You can manually turn on low power mode on your phone to make your battery last longer. You might want to seriously consider doing that figuratively for this whole 3 months…
You can do this!
This post was originally sent out to recipients of the newsletter on 15 January 2021. Sign up here to get first access and make sure you don’t miss a post! lightly edited and additional links added 27 June 2022.