Retrospective Perspectives

By Kathryn Magura

Ever come up with a title for a blog post you like so much that you feel like maybe you should quit while you’re ahead? Yeah, me neither… Just kidding, I’m pretty proud of this one. But what the heck do I mean?

This week I’m working remotely (shout out to my awesome University for allowing me to do this. I know I am fortunate to have the ability to flex my time this way.) and taking care of my niece and nephew while my brother and sister-in-law get a well-deserved vacation. Before you send me an “Aunt of the Year” mug, I should be transparent by saying the prospect of spending so much time alone with my niece and nephew stressed me out big time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my niece and nephew. At ages 11 and 8 respectively, they are at a great age to be engaging yet independent. My fear stemmed more out of the unknown for what was to come. What would we eat? How would we stay busy after school? What if they don’t like having me here this long? What happens if I let the rules slide a little?

I got lost in the “what if’s” game when I should have focused on the precious opportunity I was being afforded. I have a great niece and nephew who love spending time with me. I have a great job and colleagues who are willing to step up and allow me to take this time to be with family. What a gift all around!

As this post goes live I will be about halfway through my week of time with my favorite kiddos. As I continue to reflect on the time we have spent together so far, and how needlessly I worried as we approached our week together, I am reminded of how I feel when taking on a big new project or job. It’s a big risk to get out there and try something new and unfamiliar, but most of the time the rewards far outweigh the potential costs. Even if things don’t work out exactly as planned (and trust me, some of us plan a LOT), we truly are better for getting out there and giving things our best shot.

Retrospective Perspectives

The Importance of Breaks

By Brenda Bethman

If, like me, you work on a campus that follows a semester schedule and also doesn’t have a fall break in October, you likely are currently dealing with zombie students, faculty, and staff. And not because of Halloween, but because at this point in the semester, those of us who didn’t get a mid-semester break are (to put it mildly) exhausted. It’s the time of fall when I start fantasizing about excuses I could use to cancel class (I don’t use them, but I do wish I could some days), when said classes are sparsely attended and the students there lethargic, when faculty and staff have shorter fuses, and when it feels as if Thanksgiving will NEVER get here.

It’s also the time of year that reminds me that taking breaks and practicing self care are just as important as work (and maybe even more so) as it’s the breaks and care that allow us to do the work in the first place. We’ve still got three weeks until Thanksgiving and the longer break that I am craving, though, so in the meantime I’m finding ways, some utilizing technology and some tech-free, to help me take mini breaks. Here are the ways I’m coping at the moment:

  • BreakTime (Mac and iOS): BreakTime is one of my all-time favorite apps. Its use is simple — set a timer that tells you to take a break at pre-determined intervals. To help make the break happen, the app will freeze your computer or phone for the duration of the break so that you can’t ignore the reminder and continue to work. If you have trouble remembering to take breaks, this app is a great way to force yourself to do so. (Windows users can download Breaker, which is a similar app).
  • Exercise (or just move): I traveled a bit more than usual in September and October, which wreaked havoc with my exercise routine — and I am feeling it. For November and December, I am recommitting to spending time in the gym or outdoors as getting exercise and/or fresh air in my day definitely helps with my energy levels. A midday workout or walk is a great way for me to get through the afternoon slump.
  • Take a break from technology: Recently I found that being on Twitter felt more draining than useful, so I drastically scaled back my use of Twitter (to the point where I’m essentially not using it at the moment). Lately, I’ve been thinking about doing the same with Facebook and other social media as it seems that using social media is more stressful than fun at the moment.

What about you? How do you survive “Zombie season” on your campus? Share your tips in the comments!

The Importance of Breaks

Best Practices: The Myth of Being Busy

By Kathryn Magura

It’s September, and I work at a quarter school. Over the next month I will be training staff and getting 4600+ students moved onto campus. I will certainly be busy, and justifiably so. This is the busiest month of the year for me, and I expected as much when I got into this work.

That said, I think there’s a degree to which we find a certain satisfaction in being busy. Busyness equates to self-worth and job security in a way that is often more smug than accurate. As I watched most of my colleagues around the country go through their busy season in August (yay semester schools always being ahead of the curve), I took mental notes of things I’d like to try on my own campus, or lessons I could learn from others. I never questioned the fact that when someone mentioned they were busy that it was true, because I know what they were going through.

Busy starting (or ending) an academic year is one thing, but at what point are we always busy? I see a lot of posts on Facebook from friends who seem to always be working, and always be looking to be told how great they were for always working. What’s the point? When do you stop working and start living?

A couple of friends posted this article on Facebook over the weekend that articulates very well how we seem to equate how busy we are with our importance – like some sick status indicator. I work 14 hours a day, which means I’m more important than you! Ridiculous. So how do we keep from perpetuating this busy culture?

  1. Don’t take on more than you can reasonably accomplish. Seems like a no-brainer, but it seems that we’ve created a culture where people feel they have to always take on more tasks or they will replace you with someone who will. Are we really that insecure? I really don’t think our supervisors are that cunning. In my experience, a good supervisor may not know how busy you are unless you tell them. If they try to give you a project, and you have another deadline looming, tell them you can’t take that on and why you can’t.
  2. Schedule your time better. Some of the people who I’ve heard complain the most about being busy seem to have plenty of time to do things like play on social media all day. It’s these same people who get “surprised” by a deadline because they didn’t manage the time they had wisely. Try scheduling time on your work calendar to work on a project to see if this helps you with time management. Also, if you can’t balance the time you spend on social media vs. the time you are working, then I suggest you stay off social media.
  3. Ask for help. This one seems to be the hardest thing for most people to do. For some reason, we seem to have an insane amount of ego wrapped up in being the “go-to” person at work, which results in long hours and eventual burnout. No one expects you to work 15 hours a day in order to get everything accomplished! Who knows, maybe asking for help will result in the addition of staff to assist getting the work done.


These are some of my ideas on how to keep from perpetuating the busyness myth. What are yours?

Best Practices: The Myth of Being Busy

Considering the Classroom Technology Policy

By Anitra Cottledge

Somehow mid-July has creeped up on us, and I am beginning to think about teaching in the fall, and useful ways to integrate technology into my course curriculum. This is a conversation that I’ve been having with a number of people; I even had one conversation recently where a group of people contemplated the feasibility of building an entire curriculum around TED talks. (What do you think? Do you think that could work?)

TED talks and their ubiquitous awesomeness aside, I am wondering about the utility of having some sort of technology policy in an age of smartphones, iPads and tablets. I have a faculty acquaintance who is real serious about the use of technology during class. For them, the act of Student A texting during class is both rude and akin to that student flushing their discussion/participation points for that day down the toilet. How can one participate in a class discussion if they’re playing Candy Crush Saga on their iPad?

I get that approach and am in favor of stating expectations around technology usage upfront and in the syllabus. The sticky wicket is, how do you formulate a tech policy that allows for some use of technology that may help students engage with a topic or idea? What if you want the whole class to experiment with Twitter during class time? What if you have a great idea for students using Facebook as a means of sociopolitical engagement?

Of course, engaging in some of these experiments during class time comes with an assumption that every student has access to the tools (i.e., phone, laptop, etc.) that will enable them to participate and/or that you have access to the resources that will allow you to provide those tools to everyone. There’s ways around this, of course, and possibilities that take into consideration both accessibility and creativity.

So, to those of us who teach, how do you manage all of these issues? Do you have a technology policy? I would love to hear your ideas and reflections in the comments.

Considering the Classroom Technology Policy

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer = Break Time

By Brenda Bethman

In the previous best practices installment, Anitra wrote about summer projects — and I, too, have a list of summer projects that is longer that I can accomplish. For this post, I wanted to talk about the importance of making sure you find time to relax during the summer as well. As we all know, it’s easy to get wrapped up in summer projects and forget to take care of ourselves. So here are some things you can do this summer to refresh you:

  • Install an app like BreakTime on your computer and get out for some fresh air and sunshine every 1-2 hours (BreakTime is for Mac, but there are apps for Windows-based machines as well).IMG_1057
  • Go on vacation (or staycation) and turn off your email. Really. All the way off. It will be okay.
  • Play Dots (or some other addicting game).
  • Read a good beach novel — my favorite author in this genre right now is Elin Hilderbrand. Don’t like beach novels? Try a good detective novel — Yrsa Sigurðardóttir from Iceland is a great writer with a feminist protagonist.
  • Explore your area — is there a museum near by that you’ve never been to? Check it out.
  • Go to the movies.
  • Hit the beach.
  • Do all of these things at least once.

At the end of the day (summer), it doesn’t matter which you choose — the key thing is to remember to take some time to recharge and relax. Student affairs folks are notoriously bad at self care, so be sure to include some break time in your summer. The work and the projects will still be there after you get back. I promise.

How do you recharge and relax in the summer? Tell us in the comments!


Best Practices/Making Life Easier: Summer = Break Time

Lean In with #femlead

By Brenda Bethman

Technically, this post is not really about technology (although Sandberg does work at Facebook) — but it is about women, which is the other focus of this blog. And it’s cheating a bit as it’s a cross-post from my personal blog, but it’s April and I’m sick, so it will have to do. Enjoy!! And join us tomorrow and May 14 on Twitter to talk about the book.

lean inIf you’ve been conscious and tuned in to the media at all over the last 6 weeks or so, you have probably heard that Sheryl Sandberg, COO at Facebook, wrote a book that people are talking about (just a bit). You may also have heard that there is a fair amount of disagreement in feminist circles about Sandberg’s book and whether it’s helpful or harmful to women.

We at #femlead decided these were questions worth pursuing — so the next two #femlead chats (4/30 and 5/14) were be dedicated to a discussion of Lean In as well as the discussion around it. The chats will be facilitated by me and the fabulous Liana Silva. We hope you can join us and below are some links in case you want to do some pre-reading.

Joan C. Williams and Rachel W. Dempsey, “The Rise of Executive Feminism” in HBR

Anne Marie Slaughter’s review in the NYT

Lean In and One Percent Feminism” in Truthout

Feminism’s Tipping Point: Who Wins from Leaning In?” in Dissent

Jill Filipovic, “Sheryl Sandberg is More of a Feminist Crusader..” in The Guardian

Catherine Rottenberg “Hijacking Feminism” on AlJazeera

Jessica Bennett, “I Leaned In: Why Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Circles’ Actually Help,” in New York Magazine

On Lean-ing In” at Racialicious

Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean in” Message Not Enough for Women, Especially Professional Latinas” at Huffington Post

The Feminist Mystique” in The Economist

Joan Walsh, “Trashing Sheryl Sandberg” at Slate

Questioning Sheryl Sandberg: We’re Not “Trashing,” We’re Exploring” at The Broad Side

Tressie McMillan Cottom “Lean In Litmus Test: Is This For Women Who Can Cry At Work?”

Elsa Walsh, “Why Women Should Embrace a ‘Good Enough’ Life” in the Washington Post

Originally published at

Lean In with #femlead

Linkage Love: Finding Recipes Online

By Kathryn Magura

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a cook, but I like to try. I am one of those people who needs to follow a recipe, so I frequently find myself combing the internet for good recipes on the web. For today’s linkage love, I thought I’d share some of my favorite websites to check for good quality recipes.

  1. The Pioneer Woman: I don’t remember how I stumbled upon the Pioneer woman, but I’m sure glad I did. I enjoy her free thought blogging style as she walks us through her recipes, and the pictures of her food are simply stunning! I’ve never seen such wonderful pictures of food. I have a feeling that Ree Drummond (the actual Pioneer Woman) would be fun to hang out with as well.
  2. Epicurious: If I have some random ingredients in my refrigerator, but no true inspiration for what to make, I’ll plug the ingredients into Epicurious and see what recipes come back. I’ve found a few good recipes this way, and when I’m feeling adventurous about food, this is where I’ll go to satisfy my craving.
  3. Skinnytaste: In my quest to try and eat healthier, I found I’ve tried a few recipes from this site, and I’ve found them to be very tasty. The fact that they are also healthy is simply a bonus.
  4. Chocolate-Covered Katie: While this one may seem dessert focused, I actually found it while looking for some healthy breakfast options on Pinterest. While Katie seems to be a big dessert fan, she seems to find ways to make them as healthy as possible. Katie provides a lot of healthy substitutions that allow those of us with a big sweet tooth to indulge themselves without too much guilt.
  5. Pinterest: One of the things I love about Pinterest is how easy it is to find great recipes there. I find a lot of fantastic recipes to try just by perusing my feed from the recipes my friends post. I’ve also found success typing keywords into the search to find recipes as well.

So what are your favorite websites for recipes? I’m especially fond of good slow cooker recipes, so feel free to make recommendations in the comments!

Linkage Love: Finding Recipes Online

Best Practices: Making Life Easier at Work

By Kathryn Magura

How often do you find yourself having conversations with friends or colleagues about how to make life easier at work? It seems that many of us (and this is not just a Student Affairs problem, I should say) take on too much at work, and have a hard time prioritizing what needs to get done by when. Many of us complain about wanting to find balance at work while still managing to make it home to have some semblance of a life outside work. I don’t profess to have this completely figured out, I just want to offer some tips that have worked for me. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

  1. Learn to delegate: One of the greatest lessons I have learned as a professional has been the art of delegation. Know what needs to be done by you, and what just needs to get done. As a perfectionist, it was hard for me to delegate things to others when I knew they couldn’t do it the way I would do it. After going through a period where I was doing 2-3 jobs, I quickly learned that as long as the task got done, that was far more important than getting it done exactly my way.
  2. Schedule your lunch: About a year ago, I made a reoccurring appointment on my calendar from noon-one for lunch. I did this because: a). I was tired of people seeing this as a free period for meetings, and b). I needed some time to just eat and be at peace. I frequently eat lunch in my office during this hour, but I close the door, eat, and try to take some time to get my mind off work. Other people in my office use this time to get to the gym for a bit, or take a long walk. What a great way to recharge for the second half of the day!
  3. Examine your work environment: Does your work space “fit” you? We spend 8+ hours a day in these places, if you aren’t comfortable in it, can you be as productive as needed? Make sure your office space represents you: bring in pictures from home, inspirational cards, even an accent wall color (ask your supervisor first). Also, it’s important to make sure the ergonomics of your desk and chair work for you. If you are not physically comfortable in your work space, how can you be productive?
  4. Make to-do lists: Not everyone is a to-do list person, but if you are, keep your list updated and be sure to cross things off when you complete them! If you are looking for a good application to use for your to-do list, I recommend WorkFlowy.

I hope this list helps you out, or gets you to think about how to improve your work life so you can be your most productive self. If you have any tips to add, please share them in the comments.

Best Practices: Making Life Easier at Work

Getting Your Inbox to Zero (or Almost Zero): Yes You Can!

Spoiler alert: there is almost no possibility of anyone keeping an inbox at absolute zero for an extended period of time.

However, keeping your inbox neat and devoid of clutter is well withing your sights. Recently, I read a Chronicle article (shocking, I know) about the idealistic notion of keeping a zero-base inbox, and while I found valid points, I think that having a nearly zero inbox is absolutely attainable.

For those of you who haven’t met me personally, you may not know that I am a “judging” type – I constantly feel the need to keep order in all aspects of my life. And since I work in student affairs (and am a graduate student… and a Millennial) email strongly influences my everyday experience. So, what do insanely organized, Millennial student affairs grads do to their inbox? They wipe it clean. Every. Day.

Now, clearly I realize that many of you do not fall under those categories, but there are a few tips I would like to share for those of you, “who comfortably live with an inbox hundreds-of-messages deep, [and] who often don’t answer their messages,” (at least, that’s how Brett Foster of Wheaton College puts it).

1. Start organized. Stay organized.

  • Create folders for each of your areas or projects. You can even go as far as creating sub folders for those emails that are less important to remember or reference. Think of it in terms of organizing your book shelves or dresser drawers – you feel more relaxed when everything is in it’s place right? It’s the same thing with your inbox.

2. Take time each day to devote to emails.

  • I know we’re all incredibly busy individuals and work-life balance can be a precarious line we walk, but taking a set amount of time each day to only answer emails is quite helpful. For example, I get into work at 8:30 AM each morning. From 8:30 – 9:00 AM I clean out my inbox; anything information that I can scan and archive I get out of the way first. Once I’m through with that, I prioritize the rest and move from there. Maybe 8:30 AM isn’t good for you, but I bet you’ve got 30 minutes in your day somewhere that you spare.

3. Read. Respond. Archive.

  • Read it, respond to it, and get rid of it. If you already dealt with whatever issue the message presented, there is no reason for it to sit in your inbox. Clutter begets clutter. Cleanliness begets cleanliness.

4. Abide by the 48 hour rule.

  • Unless you’re on vacation, at a conference, or sick at home, you should be answering your emails in a timely fashion. If it truly warrants a response, that response should be drafted and sent within two days of the arrival date.

5. At the end of the day, keep no more than five emails awaiting reply or action.

  • Say what?! Yea. I said it. No more than five emails. It may seem like a lot, and I know there will be days where that is near impossible, but if you keep it clean, the emails won’t accumulate over time and turn into a heaping mound of agony.

Sure, there are exceptions to these rules. And maybe not everyone can function with such a structure. But for those of you who want to change, try it out. I bet you’ll find a huge weight lifted from your shoulders.

Getting Your Inbox to Zero (or Almost Zero): Yes You Can!

Best Practice: Making Life Easier

By Colleen Riggle

Back to school, back to school…

Summer is officially over for us and as we embark on the beginning of a new academic year I wanted to pass along my tips for making life easier!

1. iPad and Tablet Devices – it will reduce the stacks of paper you will have piled up throughout your office by the end of the first month or semester!  It will help you keep up to date with your calendar, notes from one meeting to the next and what I love about my iPad is being able to pull up a website reference when we are in a meeting discussing or sending off that email right as we’re talking about it! And let’s be real, Scrabble can always fill some time during a dull meeting too!

2. Calendar – own your calendar, don’t let it own you! Go through before the busy time of year and block off lunch or an hour at the start of end of your day to make sure you have time to prep! While those hours aren’t set in stone, I like having the flexibility of deciding whether I need that time or if I can schedule a meeting. It’s important to stay balanced throughout the year and being in control of your own time will be important! Oh, something else is to put personal appointments on the calendar too or maybe even carve out some time for  a mini vacation before the end of the semester, 16 weeks can be a long haul with no reprieve!

3.  Social Networking – I don’t know about you, but I rarely have the leisure of sitting down and reading a newspaper, let alone a book (unless it’s on my iPhone) so what I do is fill my Google Reader, Facebook and Twitter with lots of resources to keep up to date! It helps me stay in tune to what’s going on in the world, and also keep a pulse on campus too!  I find that I get much of my in the moment news from Twitter (especially HUGE traffic issues that might cause me to be late to work or picking up from day care).

As we begin the semester, I encourage you to take a moment and pause as you prepare! Consider my top 3 suggestions and also to think through what ways technology has assisted you in a smooth start and semester!


Best Practice: Making Life Easier