Monday, June 7, 2010

Appreciating Memorial Day

In addition to having a long weekend, Memorial Day should be appreciated for its original meaning.  And during the actual day or during the weekend, we should all make time to remember, reflect and honor those who gave their lives to protect our country and our quality of life.

For many people, in higher education and in many other areas, the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend is an extra day added to the weekend. But for me, the day serves another vital function for which I am very appreciative.  It is the first catch-up day after the spring semester.  In higher education administration, meetings are a fact of life.  A University functions best in an environment of collegiality and collaboration.  This doesn’t happen without good continuous communication and meetings are a crucial facilitator of this good communication. External relations, which are also vital to a University, also require continuous communication and they typically also take place in formal or informal meetings.  Add to this the ever escalating number of emails, the new issues that arise on a regular basis, a mini-crisis now and then, and the day is complete and fully occupied.

I’m not complaining (and I enjoy my job) but in addition to needing time to  think through issues, there are always responsibilities that are part of virtually any position that need not be done in the moment but certainly need to be taken care of.  For thinking through issues, I recommend a combination of a very early start time in the office plus lap swimming.  Going back and forth in a pool is mindless and consequently for me the perfect opportunity to think without being interrupted.  But as we all know, different strokes for different folks.

Under necessary responsibilities, especially at this time of year, is going through all the materials on your desk, and organizing the materials.  What better day than that Friday to start going through the piles of paperwork.  Phone calls were at 25% of their normal level; emails were also at the 25% level and meetings were almost non-existent.  I might be lonely if I didn’t have all those papers and memos to keep me company. And by the end of the day, I’m pleased to note that there were patches of wood among the sea of white paper.

Working the Friday before Memorial Day works for me but it clearly doesn’t work for everyone. And everyone has to do what works best and makes the most sense for them.  Time, for all of us, is a scarce resource.  The balance of your job responsibilities so as to do all that needs to be done and the balance of work/personal life responsibilities are challenges we all confront.  And we should all realize there is room for improvement.

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