Planning for times when enough is enough

In the work of student affairs there are times when high levels of student crisis and followup seem to dominate the vast majority of hours in our work day as well as after-hours attention. There are key times during the year when we can anticipate a spike in this type of workload (near mid-terms or finals) and then there are times where it just simply hits the fan.

It’s important to have a plan in place for your well being during these times. Thinking through and developing a plan during ‘down times’ will help you be able to put your plan into action when you approach your limits.

A few questions to consider as you put your plan into place:

1. Identify your pinch hitters. Who in your work setting can you call on to help you get through the heavy and intense workloads that come with high student crisis and follow up? Write down their names, strengths, and contact information. Keep this list short. Having this list will help you to be able to quickly identify who to ask for help in whatever area you need help.

2. Identify aspects of your workload that can be delegated or put on hold. Sometimes, you just need a couple of days to solely focus on students in crisis and the associated follow up. Not all of your work needs to be done right now. The world will go on if you need to put a couple of things on hold for a few days. Periodically make a list of few items that can be easily placed on the back burner for a moment. On that list, write down with whom you need to connect to put these projects on hold for a few days. Knowing what can be put on pause and who needs to know you have pushed the pause button will better help you manage your workload.

3. Identify who can help your team. Often times, it’s not just you going through these times. Your team is helping ensure student follow up and care is happening as it should along side you. Write down a few names of people you can call on to assist your staff. I recommend writing down a few names at the same level of your staff as they understand finer details of that level often better than you or your peers do. Next to their names, also include strengths and contact information. Having this information on hand will help you to quickly ask others to step in for your staff before they reach the burn out.

4. Identify time for you. When student crisis and intense follow up situations take several days to complete, be sure to take a moment to allow yourself a time out. Then, take the time out! Contact the people you have already identified if needed to cover your workload while you step out to take care of you, even if for a moment.

5. Prep your team for these moments. Have them write down a plan. Then, during these high times, remind them of their plan and give them the permission they might need to put the plan into place.

While we might not always be able to anticipate times of high student crisis and follow, we can still plan on how to accomplish the work that needs to be done and avoid hitting our breaking point.

It’s important to remember your self care is your responsibility.  There are environments and levels where a supervisor doesn’t or no longer checks in with you as they did when you were a new professional. If you don’t develop these skills, you will continually burn yourself out and then you will not be able to serve students well.

What strategies have you put into place? How do you manage times of intense student crisis and follow up on top of your everyday workload?