Coping with the stressors of being a chair
Being a department chair can feel like being on call 24-7. Make sure it isn’t. Down time and purposefully taking care of yourself are vitally important. The job is a marathon, not a sprint, so plan accordingly. This section presents you with ideas and suggestions toward self-care that will support you, your well-being, and your success.
- Find a routine that interrupts your time at a computer or desk. Build in a daily walk around the block, for example, or a workout – something that requires some level of physical exertion that has nothing to do with work.
- Once they are again offered following the passing of the pandemic, consider free fitness classes for staff and faculty. In the interim, look for such classes online.
- Consider the many offerings through Well@du, many done as part of the wellness program with Kaiser.
- Finding time for yourself requires intentionally scheduling that time. Self-care will not happen on its own.
- Reduce ambiguity by building an annual calendar of deadlines, activities, etc. and use it to assist you in planning your calendar.
- Using Outlook calendar can help reduce the time and stress of scheduling emails. Keep yours up to date and let people know that they can check your calendar to find your availability. Ask people to send calendar invites when they schedule meetings, so you can easily add meetings to your calendar by accepting the invite.
- Build in blocks of work time:
- Consider breaking down tasks and fill your calendar with time for those tasks.
- Consider holding weekly office hours that are bounded by day and time so that faculty, staff, and students know they can drop in during specific periods.
- Protect other parts of your day, to the extent possible, for the other demands of your job (research/creative work, committee work).
- Block off time for class prep and teaching, as well as for other regular tasks (grading, answering emails, etc.)
- Research, creative work, and scholarship are the lifeblood that sustains many academics. Consider carving out time each week – even if only an hour or two – to continue advancing your scholarly agenda, including new opportunities like academic blog posts on leadership and management. Blocking off the time on your calendar (and moving it to another slot if a can’t-miss meeting is scheduled for your usual scholarship time) will help ensure that it happens each week.
- Make sure you also build in time for yourself – in other words, schedule time away instead of leaving it up to chance. You are in a position in which people will want to make their priorities and timelines yours; you must decide whether they are or not. In doing so, be careful that you don’t forget the need to have time for yourself.
- You are in a position that is defined by loose ends, so unplugging is an important skill.
- Taking time off on the weekends and for vacations is essential. Consider using the away message function in your email.
- Once they are again offered following the passing of the pandemic, consider centering activities such as on-campus yoga and meditation classes. Similar to fitness classes, look for such classes online in the interim.
- Learn how to delegate and avoid the Atlas complex – the sense that you have to carry the world. The art of delegating, of shared responsibility, is essential in this role and in your peace of mind.
Community and Support
- Connect with other chairs, either in existing chair groups in your unit, others outside your unit, or colleagues at other universities who can provide advice and support.
- The Chair Advisory Board (CAB) is a fantastic resource for advice on emergent issues. It offers quarterly problem-solving clinics and office hours for confidential one-on-one meetings.
- Identify a mentor who is invested in your professional development and well-being. Set regularly occurring meetings with them at the start of each term to ensure you are receiving their support consistently throughout the year.
- SupportLinc is part of the Faculty Staff Support Network and offers several bilingual, confidential and professional support resources at no cost to you or your family. Through this service you can address a wide array of personal and work-related concerns.