Making Life Work with Nathan Brewer

Making Life Work with Nathan Brewer

In honor of our podcast, Making Life Work, we are interviewing our favorite creative and ambitious people. We’ve asked them to share their own schedules, obstacles and strategies for balancing work and life.

You’re going to love this interview with Nathan Brewer who is juggling a full time job in social work while working (also full time!) on his doctorate. He squeezes more into his week than just about anyone I know and still makes time for friends, family and to travel.

Check out the interview below! And be sure to subscribe to our podcast, Making Life Work.

Name: Nathan Brewer

Job: Crisis Intervention Counselor, Doctoral Student

Current passion project:  A research project looking at academic performance for LGB college students who have experienced domestic violence.

Tell us about a typical day for you.

My week is normally split into employment work days and school work days.  On a normal employment work day I am in my office, providing advocacy and counseling services to survivors of trauma.  At night after work I generally grab dinner and then do some school or research work.  On school work days, I am solely focused on my coursework and research efforts – usually this is about an 8 hour day.  I try to have a full day off in the week, or at the least two partial days off (e.g. a Friday night after work, and a Sunday morning).

What are your major responsibilities right now, in work + life? How do you balance them?

I work full time as a counselor – so I have responsibilities to my students who I see.  This also includes regular on-call duties for about a week a month.  I am also a full time doctoral student, so I normally have three concurrent doctoral courses.  I also am actively pursuing extra-curricular research with a few different research teams and independently.

I think balancing the responsibilities requires give and take, and constant reprioritization.  That means being hyper-organized with my schedule and time use, but also nimble to reconfigure when things invariably shift or take longer than expected.  I try to strategize and plan for heavy parts in one of the three areas of my life – so for instance April is a heavy workload month for my paid work, so I do my best to complete my research tasks earlier so I can focus on my paid work.  The summers are light on my paid work, so my research efforts will take center state.

Do you have any habits or rituals that help you prepare for the week?

I tend not to think in weeks, to be honest.  My schedule doesn’t really allow for true weekends, so I try to take each day at a time.  My biggest habit is scheduling and organizing.  Without that I would be lost.

What do you do to relax?

My efforts are very thought intensive – therapy, doctoral studies, and research – and so my relaxing time is often somewhat mindless:  going to the gym, TV, video games, spending time with friends, reading the news.  I try to do some mental rest throughout the day because my efforts are so heavy on thinking and feeling.  Even just playing a mindless game, like Candy Crush, between clients can be helpful.

What do you do to “right” yourself if you get thrown off balance?

Often what throws me off balance is too much work and not enough down time.  My job requires a lot of interpersonal contact, being mentally and emotionally present for people.  Generally for me “righting” myself means spending time alone and recharging my batteries.  Sometimes it is also about seeking out friends who can socialize on a goofy plane, apart from the intense clinical, academic, and research work that I do.

What sort of activities or relationships fuel or support you?

I think my relationships fall into two categories, with some overlap.  Those we are intellectually stimulating, provide advice, etc.  Those who are goofy, fun, can just be right in the moment of the time.  Having access to both (sometimes in the same person/people!) is probably the most important thing for me.

How would you describe your general mindset?

My general mindset right now is focused, organized, and determined.  I have so many responsibilities that nearly every day and most hours are scheduled and accounted for.  It requires constant revision and reprioritization – if something doesn’t get done in the allotted time then shifting the hours to make it work.

What is your favorite thing to do? 

Thinking.  I enjoy time to sit and think, either alone or in conversation with others.  This gets to happen formally with my coursework, my colleagues at work, and with my research associates.  It also happens informally with my friends and family.  I like depth of conversation; discussions of current events or social problems, particularly around social justice issues.

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