Thursday, October 28, 2010

Time Management - blending school and job

A few students have asked me for advice relating to various aspects of balancing school and job. One asked what to do when an employer makes it difficult to attend school while working. Another asked for advice regarding how to negotiate with employers to get time off for school work.

School and work conflicts can be very difficult. First, in most cases, employers have no responsibility to help you fit school into your life. Some employers may even resent that you are putting time, energy, intellect, and creativity into something other than your job. Moreover, some employers fear that once you get the next degree, you will then be looking for the next job. Nonetheless, here are a few ideas:

1. Blending school and work. Look for opportunities to combine school and work. This won't be possible for some students. However, many students in graduate school are studying something that is directly work-related. Attempt to combine school assignments with projects that need to be done for work -- maybe the research can overlap, maybe you can write a school paper about an initiative or challenge at work.

2. Scale back at work. Clearly, you need to get the job done. But most of us are so in the habit of taking on extra work, volunteering for extra committees, projects, etc.... that we don't even realize we're doing it. While you are in grad school, be conscious about your choices and try to pass on everything that is optional.

3. Reclaim your lunch hour. Similarly, many folks get in the habit of working through lunch and don't give it a second thought. Reclaim your lunch hour and find somewhere quiet to read, write -- do some homework!

4. Share the benefit. If your supervisor and colleagues are open to it, share anything relevant that you are learning. This might motivate your supervisor to be more flexible.

5. Ask. Ask for for the time you deserve and/or for more flexibility. If you work a number of extra evenings or weekends, ask for the comp time. Or, ask for a more flexible schedule -- maybe longer days MWF and shorter days T/Th. Look for the work of Linda Babcock and Barbara Laschever to help you learn to negotiate.

Other ideas? Anyone else? Other suggestions about how to carve out time at work to make time for school?

Cheering you on!

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