• Tom Boyd Headshot

    By Tom Boyd, Dean, School of Business and Information Technology

    Originally published in The Water Cooler,School of Business and Information Technology Faculty Newsletter, May, 2012

    Over the (many) years, I have found that I am happiest and most productive when I have an outlet for different areas in my life. I believe this approach aids productivity and has helped me through difficult times, like being widowed when I was forty and having a close friend die unexpectedly of a heart attack in my arms.

    I think of this approach as taking care of my four corners, and this is how I do it:


    My own sport is swimming, but I’ve done triathlons and marathons, been kayaking, hiking, and enjoyed other sports over the years. Landscaping works too; physical does not have to mean exercise, it’s just taking care of my body’s need to work. Walking on the beach is also a favorite activity that doubles as spiritual (see below). The fact these are all solitary probably tells you a lot about me.


    Because I work in an intrinsically intellectual profession, I sometimes just need to relax and be silly, but I find that what works even better is finding different exercises for my mind. Reading and puzzles work on a nightly basis, but on a macro scale, I try to keep sharp with new challenges, often in the form of a new job or a big project. Sometimes it is a project in my work, a new research area, or once it was a big national survey for a nonprofit. The one time I let this lapse, after getting tenure, I found myself feeling profoundly unhappy and unchallenged. Starting a new research area and starting on a book project fixed that.


    People always assume spiritual is religion, but it does not have to be. For me, this has been filled not only by religion but also by yoga, meditation, reading about others’ search for meaning in life, choral chant, and believe it or not, walking my dogs and thinking about things like unconditional love. For me, spirituality is about reflection on beliefs and values, and knowing my relationship to my world. It’s about setting aside the time to stop—and think.


    My preferred outlet for art is singing. I sang in a professional quartet for a while and have been in community choruses and church choirs most of my life; I even sang counter tenor in the Duke Chapel Men and Boy choir for a year. Those are all an art fix of a sort, but singing is pretty structured and sometimes we need to be truly creative, so doing something like planting a new flower bed, making a terrible painting, or writing an essay or short story all can work as well. Heck, I play the guitar and piano badly, but they still work!

    Often, one activity covers more than one area, and that’s great. But the point to this whole approach is to try to have some small aspect of each in my life at all times. Sometimes that’s really difficult and sometimes it just takes care of itself, but I find that things feel more effortless when the four are somewhat balanced along with work.

    I think we should all have a place to share our four corners, any ideas?

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