Today on Coffee Talk, I’m sharing a few things that have been on my mind lately. Things I feel so strongly about, you could quote me on it. So, grab your coffee and let’s go.
Email’s important. There’s no denying that. It’s the primary driver for how we communicate our business. But, every time your phone “dings” with a new incoming message, that’s someone else saying “Hey! I’m important! Put me first!” We need to find healthier boundaries with our email – and beyond that, just the blanket term of “media”. I want to point out that I didn’t say balance. I don’t really believe in balance. In my experience, balance is different for everyone, and the way that balance is achieved is unique to each person and situation. It isn’t a one size fits all situation. Instead of balance, I like to focus on boundaries. We’re so much more accessible now than we were a decade ago, and it’s a blessing and a curse. The key is using this power for good, and not for “I’m going to pull my hair out” evil. One tip I have for setting boundaries, especially with email, is letting someone know what your timeline is. Yes, your timeline. If Nathan and I are out having dinner, and I get a work-related email, once we’ve finished my meal, I’ll respond and let that individual know when I will be able to get back to them. Why? A lot of reasons. It sends a message, literally and also figuratively. It lets that person know that you are respectful of not only their time, but your own. By setting a standard of respect for yourself and portraying that to others, that same respect will start to manifest itself in how people address you.
The driving force behind why I started The Doctorette was in response to (one of many) someones telling me I “didn’t look like a researcher.” Instead of getting pissed off (well, let’s be honest, I did get a little put off) yet again, I decided to go high, as Hillary would say, and thus The Doctorette was born. Our society’s tendency to label, stereotype and assign a visual cue that reflects these notions is pervasive. During my 20s, I went on dates with men who, on countless occasions, would learn what I did for a living and act shocked because “I was too pretty to sit behind a computer all day.” It’s crap, and it’s time for us to stand up and say, “Hey! I’m rockin’ a bold lip and I can do a multiple linear regression analysis!” Don’t let the stereotype associated with your job influence your self-expression.
I think we get wrapped up in what everyone else is doing (wearing, dating, going, buying). We feel like we are supposed to be somewhere that we’re not, or we’re supposed to have something that we don’t, or we’re supposed to feel something that we don’t. How are you judging where you’re “supposed” to be? This was always a point of contention for me with life in academia. At the end of each year we’re supposed to submit a numerical count of how many papers we’ve published, grants we’ve received, and books (or chapters) we’ve written. The problem with all of this is, to what yardstick are these numbers being compared to? Additionally, there’s no way to control for Researcher A who published one paper from a 3-year long study, and Researcher B who published a commentary piece. One is way more time intensive than the other, but at the end of the day, all they care about is the number. The result? Publish or perish. A constant comparison game of who is publishing what, and how often. This is a salient example of me, but the same mentality applies in so many other areas of life. At the end of the day, you need to do you, and not for anyone else – for you. Definitely easier said than done. I’ve made some pretty big professional life changes (more on that soon) for the sole purpose of having the ability to be in a profession where I’m back to focusing on my goals without worrying about what others are doing around me.
Oh the joy of social comparison. We all experience it. Look, it’s easy to get jealous. It’s a lot harder to rise above and truly be happy for the successes of others. Just because someone else is “succeeding” doesn’t mean that you are failing. It’s important to remember that we get glimpses into people’s lives – especially on social media. Just because someone appears to be succeeding at something, doesn’t mean they’ve got it all figured out, and it definitely shouldn’t make you feel devalued. One thing I’ve found that has helped me with this in the past is practicing gratitude. I would write down a few things I was grateful for each day. Practicing gratitude with myself, reminded me of everything I have to be grateful for, and when you’re coming from a place of gratitude, it’s much easier to celebrate the successes of others. I think we fall into that trap of jealousy and discontentment because we feel insecure. If we can spend a little more time loving ourselves, we’ll be much more equipped to express joy in other’s successes.