New Year’s Resolutions
For people who work in higher education, the phrase “new year” is just as often associated with August as it is with January.
Coming out of the pandemic and (for many of us) returning to full face-to-face instruction for the first time since 2020, this new year is even more of a transition than most.
I stopped making real New Year’s resolutions a long time ago when I realized there was nothing magical about January 1st that made them stick and that I’d have to actually do things like exercise. But for better or worse, I’ve always found it easier to invest time in improving my work life, so even though it’s already become trite to talk about the lessons any given industry has learned from operating during COVID-19, it is something I’ve been giving a lot of thought. What will we take with us into this new year? What changes should we make not only to how we approach processes, but to how we approach people? When we weren’t surrounded physically by the energy of colleagues and students, what part of our work felt different? And how will we preserve our morale and pride in our work moving forward?
On the practical front, it’s become painfully obvious that even my fifteen-year-old law school was behind in digitizing our student services. I had to finally spend time making forms fillable, creating a self-booking system for student meetings, introducing a new office inbox for general questions, and figuring out how to explain things normally presented in person. And in considering our grading policy last Spring, we had to confront the legal education model itself in a thoughtful way, who benefits from its design, and how things like library space act as equalizers for disadvantaged students.
On a personal level, working from home really highlighted for me the importance of sleep and boundaries. I always knew I had no work/life balance, but to be honest, I never thought I needed it until I was able to truly enjoy time preparing breakfast or writing in the evenings. It also cemented for me how much I value my connections to my colleagues. Because I’m the only one with my particular responsibilities, I’ve always thought of myself as an independent worker, but I’m not. We may not be able to share our workloads, but I can no longer overlook the importance of how much we support each other and lift each other up each day, and how that translates to our performance and motivation. Finally, the personal and grand-scale losses that we suffered have put into perspective the importance of taking care of each other, acting with compassion, and appreciating the day-to-day.
I hope you’ve all been able to find the opportunity to reflect on what is and isn’t working for you and to advocate for what you need. And whatever that may be, NNLSO’s got your back.