I finished my 2013/2014 semester exhausted. I had months of summer ahead of me, and I had imagined spending them reading, writing, traveling. By the end of the summer of 2014, little reading and writing occurred. When I set my work goals at the start of the fall 2014 semester, I had only one that really mattered--finding a better balance between work and life.
Adopting a "Just Say No" attitude seemed a necessity. Word spread and people knew not to ask me to join any more committees, take part in task forces, or help with a new initiative. When staff emails flooded my inbox with requests to serve on this or that, I would open them, quickly read, and delete, feeling a bit of power at reclaiming back my time I had so willingly given over. Initially I felt a bit of guilt, unaccustomed to saying no when asked to do something additional at work. Over time, though, I found my schedule opening up and no longer was clocking a 60-70 hour work week every week.
During the fall semester, I took two writing workshops, carving enough time to attend to that which truly mattered. Reading happened, my own reading rather than just student compositions and prep for classes--8 books that were not required for any courses taught. Eventually, I found that I had stopped complaining about being overworked.
This semester, I've stopped instantly deleting work requests. I read through them and ponder whether they're something I truly value, something worthy of my time. Most often, I say no. What has changed though, is I am starting to occasionally say yes. Not to too much. Not because I feel I have to. But because I have the space. The time. A bit of balance.