What to Do If the Culture on Your Campus Is Keeping You Overworked and Overwhelmed

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Too much to do, too little time

Last week I wrote an article on the “10 Unconscious Obstacles to Effective Time Management and How to Overcome Them” because I wanted to help higher education leaders understand how and why they were getting in their own way.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how much interest the article generated. Many of my readers could relate to the difficulties I explained, given that they are particularly common in higher education administration.

Challenging the culture

Today I invite you to reflect not only on your own habits and time management practices, but on your organizational culture.

On your campus, what kind of example does your leadership team set? Do people take pride in being busy and overworked?

When administrators don’t follow-through on their commitments and drop the ball, is the behavior accepted because it seems inevitable? Is chaos implicitly condoned? What has become “normal” on your campus?

Are leaders evaluated based on their actual performance and effectiveness or on the amount of effort they seem to make? If managers don’t work more than 40 hours/week, are they being judged negatively?

What continues to baffle me is the difference between leaders who choose to work with me for a couple of months to regain control over their schedules and find work-life balance and those who think that being overworked and overwhelmed is inevitable so they don’t even attempt to improve their situation.

Why such a drastic difference in beliefs? It is in part due to the person’s upbringing and values (here is another article on this subject) and to a great extent due to the culture on their campus. If the culture fosters and rewards excessive self-sacrifice, leaders will be hesitant to deviate from the norm.

Time for a wake-up call

Do you hear yourself telling your staff to go home on time, not answer e-mails at night, and use their well-deserved vacation days, but you don’t take your own advice? What causes you to have double standards?

While the nature of your job may come with important responsibilities that require you to be more accessible and more dedicated than you would expect your staff to be, I invite you to take a critical look at your work habits and stop doing what isn’t essential and focus on what is truly important.

You may be over-sacrificing unnecessarily and setting a poor example that perpetuates the problem.

If high sacrifice automatically meant high value and service to your institution, I would find it honorable (to a certain degree) and not suggest changes, but it simply isn’t the case.

Overworked managers tend to be exhausted, disorganized, reactive, less effective, less creative, and have a lower overall quality of life. They also tend to get triggered and have more challenges with interpersonal communication and professional relationships because they are under too much pressure to be able to show emotional intelligence.

The leaders who thrive and inspire others are those who have healthy boundaries, a high level of organization, and take good care of their health and emotional wellness. They may choose to work long hours but it is because of their enthusiasm, energy, and dedication, not because they are desperately trying to get caught up.

What kind of leader do you want to be?

So… what will you decide?

How about starting a conversation with your leadership team to discuss standards and expectations and question old assumptions? Someone has to step up and take the lead on making cultural changes that will benefits both individuals and the institution as a whole.

Remember, you can be part of the problem or you can be part of the solution. The choice is yours.

If you like the idea but you are not sure what can be done to improve time allocation and effectiveness, I invite you to schedule a call with me to discuss how I can make the process easy for you.

If you would like to start making changes right away, you can register for my online self-study course on “How to Accomplish More in Less Time in Higher Education Administration.”

If you have read this far, it means this subject is important to you. Don’t add it to your to-do list! Decide right now what you are going to do and do it. You’ll be glad you did.

About the author: Dr. Audrey Reille has empowered thousands of professionals through one-on-one coaching, group coaching, speaking engagements, online courses, and interviews on international telesummits.  Audrey is the go-to coach for leaders in higher education administration. She empowers them to thrive by reducing stress, optimizing strategies, improving professional relationships, and developing a strong and empowered mindset. 

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