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The Adjunct’s Lifestyle: The Need for Essential Moments of Unproductivity

The Adjunct’s Lifestyle: The Need for Essential Moments of Unproductivity

by Dr. Nicole B. Dhanraj
October 02, 2017

The Adjunct’s lifestyle

I work an average of 60 hours a week for my normal job (that’s being kind to myself) plus an additional 20 plus hours when I am teaching, and another 20 plus hours a week working on things like my side hustles, writing, researching, and yes looking for my next “opportunity”. Opportunities that are part of the adjunct’s lifestyle include looking or applying for more online teaching gigs, entrepreneurship/passive income ideas, conferences to submit papers to, and anything in general that theoretically will enhance my life. All these opportunities mainly for monetary and/or career enhancement in the hopes of achieving a more “free” and independent lifestyle.

Similar to my busy lifestyle, my fellow face to face and online adjunct faculty are productive junkies. The conversations are centered around how to better balance the adjunct lifestyle. That is, how do we keep on top of the numerous classes we teach, staff meetings, grading papers, engaging discussions while maintaining our jobs in a different industry, and of course the demands of our family, social life and in some cases entrepreneur life.

The journey to become an Adjunctpreneur

As adjunct faculty we don’t take too many breaks during our work day. We constantly try to get ourselves in order to remain competitive, marketable and on the path to become independent adjunctpreneurs. The dream as an adjunctpreneur is to have the job and life we want… on our terms. In this role, we can get the salary and the work schedule desired, not to mention the significant tax savings and the ability to say no to the low paying jobs we would have otherwise have to do!

A debatable subject is whether this adjunct lifestyle is “balanced”. Like many adjuncts, when I am working, my brain seems to jump from one task to the other somewhat seamlessly especially as deadlines or end of term is near. Some of us manage our time quite well…actually so well that we accomplish many tasks, but in return, we keep adding tasks to the to do list! We can be ruthless with the number of hours committed to the things that we think we need to do to enhance our life. In my case, my eyes tend to get googly from many hours of computer screen time, or my back aches from the many hours of sitting, but breaks are still minimal and not mandatory. It’s not something I would complain about; it is an accepted way of life.

The need to be more productive

With my lifestyle as an adjunct, a mom, a business woman, a radiology director, a volunteer, a researcher, a writer (that’s the shortened list ☺ ), my real rest occurs during my commute, working out at the gym, helping kids with homework, and anything in between. Even then, I still try to do something; listen to a podcast, catch up on phone calls, emails, my volunteer work, read a book (of course the things that are supposed to enlighten my life). I cannot not multitask, I must so not to waste a minute! Many of us adjuncts are like this, but what is the intent? Only to get more done and be more productive? This behavior can sometimes lead us to focus on the wrong things in life.

When I take a “break” and watch a movie, go shopping, hang out with a friend, or just do nothing, I feel so guilty. If I want to do something for fun, for example learn how to bake, sew, or even dance, my next thought is usually, how can I monetize it!!! My husband has fallen trap to this several times, when I have taken his creations or handyman skills and posted them for sale! When I travel, instead of going for the pure vacation enjoyment, I often look at possibilities of how to leverage my trip so I can conduct business!

What’s the optimal Adjunct Lifesytle?

This behavior is the downside of us productivity focused junkies. I listen to colleagues trying to find more teaching opportunities, more ways to generate income, more, more, and more opportunities, so I know I am not the only one! When does more become enough? We sometimes stretch ourselves beyond what we can do so we don’t miss opportunities as they come. Why do productivity focused junkies behave like this? If we are supposedly intelligent, why can’t we see that this is not the essence of living? One explanation is that we get so used to working and focused on getting things done that when we are not working hard or continuously getting things done, we feel like we are doing something wrong, wasting time, or worse yet, failing. It becomes difficult to enjoy a quiet moment or an activity that does not bring monetary value to our life because at some point when a time constraint or deadline is looming over our heads, we will look at this break and blame ourselves for not using the time in a more productive manner.

Of course, it took me a while to recognize this. I spent years convincing others I like to engage in productive activities during my down time, but I have come to terms that this is not living an optimized life. I blame it on the emphasis on our get stuff done culture I am immersed in. We are encouraged to always something, make more money, build and improve ourselves to “become better than everyone else” as a means of self-actualization. Consequently, we continue working hard and building ourselves, thus creating more opportunities in the hope of achieving freedom.

Those who have attained the status of adjunctpreneurs, and achieved the optimal balance reminds us that initial hard work and many hours allows us the opportunity to have these sought after unproductive moments. Regardless, it is important to realize that not every waking moment has to be productive or coupled with a monetary reward. In terms of committing ourselves to constantly having to produce, we need to question ourselves: What is the end goal? When do we stop working nonstop and enjoy other aspects of life instead?

Essential moments of unproductivity

Unproductive moments maybe a luxury and an option not available for everyone, as some of us need to make use of every minute to work in order to make ends meet and pay the bills. Nevertheless, I am sharing this in case you have this luxury. I encourage you to pause for a minute to realize that we can put in long hours and still enjoy life in ways that is not necessarily focused on accomplishing something or do I dare say it…. making money.

Hopefully you understand that it is ok to do activities that adds no profitable value to your life. There is no need to feel guilty. Productivity does not have to be linked with our self-worth. When you choose to do nothing, it does not have to feel like you are doing something wrong. Remember, being alive is not necessarily only focused on accomplishments and career status. It is ok to release the things that need to get done momentarily to have fun. Life may not be balanced all the time but in the 1% of time you take a break, it’s important to realize that breaks are not guilty moments. If you keep that mentality it will take away the fun, you intended to pursue. Or in my case, you will start to associate relaxing with being lazy.

Our life journey is typically busy for most of us. Instead of stopping to smell the roses along the journey, everything is consumed about leveraging that journey to gain something out of it. This is a reminder for all my fellow productivity focused junkies to go ahead and take a break. It can be 10 minutes, 10 hours, or 10 days, however long you want or can afford. Indulge the senses, be vulnerable, engage the brain lobes that have been long awaiting new stimulation.

Welcome new moments of unproductivity. Do something fun without feeling guilty, or better yet, do nothing at all and soak it all in with that same satisfaction of having accomplished something! That my fellow junkies does not have to wait till we achieve the optimal life as adjuncts!