Jenny Baker
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Editor’s Column: An Open Letter to Workload Inconsistency

./Steven Toaddy

Dear Workload Inconsistency,

I don’t know how I feel about you. I hasten to clarify: I have many confident feelings about you, but I’m not sure up to what they all add. Perhaps, like so many things, you are better in moderation, but I have plenty of extreme experience with you, and even then the jury is out.

On the one hand, you enable me to explore and enjoy the world, partake in hobbies and journeys that are inaccessible to so many because of their limited vacation time. You nominally allow me to relax at times, though at the time of writing I can’t remember what relaxation feels like, so I’ll set that one in the “hypothetical” category. You also give me the satisfaction of some truly productive days, the joy of a job well done, the exhaustion that leads to profoundly deep sleep.

On the other hand, you are the great destroyer of emotional, cognitive, and physical well-being; the disruptor of consistent sleep, healthy eating, and exercise; the merchant of strained relationships. You lead to errors, restlessness, and anguish, and you help me do one of my least favorite practices: letting others down.

Some parts of you are outside of personal control—when the phone rings, or the contract begins, or the term starts, or the issue is due, I (act as though I) must act. Most of the parts of you that I experience, though, are frankly my own doing, and that, beyond all of the above drawbacks, really sticks in my craw. I’m not only referring to that great unfulfilled promise that becomes procrastination but also the deliberate planning of swings in workload. I chose to disconnect for essentially 3 months, and I chose to stuff work into little pockets—some earlier than necessary, some as late as I could manage—intending to take the intervening time to relax. But, too many times, my mind wasn’t in that relaxation. Both of these are my fault, but what to do? Do I forego relaxation or simply forego such severe swings betwixt frenzy and torpor?

Some of the articles in this issue of TIP can help me answer these questions. From Christy Nittrouer’s example, I can consider how to set up my life well, to find balance, to set boundaries. From this edition of TIP-TOPics, I can think about setting boundaries, considering mental health systemically, and finding and implementing ways to recover (and to help others do likewise). From our Local Groups team’s discussion of technology use and remote events, I can think about how to enhance flexibility in my work by using communication technologies and how to make that work more successful and enjoyable while doing so.

Of course, the members of SIOP had the solutions for the difficulties that I have with you. In the end, though, they have evidence of the most troublesome facts: that change is hard, that change fails, that what I’m likely to do in the future is etched in my past actions, and finally, that deciding what is best for one is often a result of the arbitrary selection of criteria. I still don’t know what to make of you, but I know where to start looking.


Best wishes,

./Steven Toaddy

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