academic life/work

Curt at Occupational Adventure writes that "we often have a tendency to believe that work and non-work are two separate silos - each to be lived by what amounts to two different people. Nonsense! The reality is, we are a whole system, and everything is interconnected. We don't exist in work silos and life silos. Work is a piece of us, just as non-work life is a piece of us. "

I'm always interested in reading new suggestions, plans, etc, for defining one's goals, managing one's time, and generally improving the quality of one's life. But for an academic, one of the frustrating things about most such books or systems is that they assume a defined work space, and/or work schedule -- which academic work doesn't always have. So Curt's comments about the intertwined nature of our work selves and our life selves make sense to me intuitively as describing what brought many of my friends and colleagues into this crazy business in the first place: that in researching, creating, and teaching, we can integrate our intellectual passions with our day-to-day existence on the planet (and hopefully in a purposeful manner).

But why is it that the cultivation of guilt is such a feature of academic life? At any social or even departmentally-required-social function, you'll hear someone say "I really shouldn't be here, I should be working on my paper about Mesopotamian Limericks" or whatever. Sometimes that's a form of boasting. But often it's just an eruption of the collective sense of overwork and frustration. There are so many things that can get in the way of sustained intellectual output, which is difficult to measure anyway: which is more important, the day I write 3 pages, or the day I think of 3 new project ideas?

(Similarly, the academic cult of martyrdom: "I'd love to learn fencing, (or go to Paris, or whatever) but I have to finish my book (or get tenure or get promoted) first." )

Even early on in graduate school, my frustration with these aspects of academic culture led me to focus on creating a balance between work and life, work and play. It doesn't always stick, like now, at the end of the term. But maybe I have to move away from thinking about balance towards thinking about integrating the two even more solidly.