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Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Work, Life & Engagement Blog

Keyword: life

Just as there are seasons in one’s life, there can be seasons or cycles in our work. Maybe the start and end of the semester impacts the pace of your work. Or, maybe grant writing schedules dictate your schedule. One way to manage pace changes and overwork is a strategy called Sprint-Recover.

This line of thinking can be much more liberating and powerful than a typical message of everything in moderation. This is not intended to devalue moderation at all, but Sprint-Recover tends to resonate with super-busy people who make choices to push ahead on a special project, take on one more task, throw a party, engage in extra activities, etc. It’s also very aligned with American culture and messages that we see so often around pushing oneself, going hard, being great – the Sprint. What often needs more attention is the Recover component.

Sprint-Recover can be a great perspective for work-life mix because it empowers choice to push and to rest. It can be as simple as “I’m working extra because I’m getting ready to be out for 10 days” or more complex in planning for a heavy workload/family load for the next number of weeks, and accepting that choice, knowing that catch-up and recovery time are planned. The key take away is that we need to be thoughtful about planning and taking downtime – and not feel guilty about recovering from a big sprint. 

The Sprint-Recover term as it relates to work-life mix is not widely discussed in this exact way, but two researchers at Portland State University published a white paper on this topic and they offer some nice strategies and ways to think about the Recover side of a Sprint. 

People are often talking about fitness - physical fitness, financial fitness, even mental fitness, but we rarely talk about work/life fitness. If you are visiting our website it is likely that you've heard the term "work/life balance," but does having work/life balance mean you are work/life fit? 

The notion of balance is often misleading; the term indicates that balance is attainable and if you obtain it, you will be happy or satisfied with both your work and your life - almost as if it's a mathematical problem that can be solved. But this is not always the case. Living in a strict balance, be it a balance of time or a balance of effort, can be prohibitive when your personal life demands increase or when your professional demands increase. This is why fitness is a more contemporary metaphor than balance. 

Fitness implies sprinting and recovery, and hence the flexibility to shift your focus where it needs to be at any given point. Perhaps you are pushing hard to accomplish a project at work or meet an enormous deadline; doing so will likely impede on your personal life because you allow it to. In the same regard, when personal challenges demand our time and attention, it likely impacts the ability to be fully focused at work. You might find yourself accomplishing personal to-do items while at work, or needing to take time off to focus more seriously on family needs or an upcoming event. The point is that balance is never static. More often than not, we are actively manipulating our time and energy to accomplish pressing priorities. 

The metaphor of fitness can be empowering because it encourages a personalized and flexible approach to managing our priorities, our time, and our energy. Knowing and acknowledging that we choose to spend more effort in a particular area of our lives at a given point can help us avoid burnout, so long as we plan a recovery from the sprint. 

Your work/life fit is personal, and it varies according to your life stage. Are you feeling fit or do you need to make changes? Thinking ahead about upcoming projects or personal life events can help you plan your fitness and manage your energy appropriately. The Johns Hopkins Work-Life Pledge can help you make daily choices in support of a better fit for you.