Studying and Working: Too much?

I just had an email from the head of the programme I have enrolled in, saying this:

Hi Jenn

I was passed your note about your plans for enrolling in the Graduate Diploma in Career Development.  What you are suggesting is possible, but it will be a heavy load.  Students who have enrolled in four papers per semester have found that they had little other time for work, etc.

It will be important for you to seek support from your lecturers if you do have any difficulties with the material or work load.

Look forward to working with you in the Grad Dip.  Let me know if you have questions.

Regards

Dr X (not his real name, but it sounds cool, right?)
Programme Leader | Graduate Diploma in Career Development

So, what I’m wondering is: just how hard is it going to be?

Part of me has faith that I can do it.  I’m a quick reader and a quick worker.  And often having a lot of things to do increases my productivity and effectiveness.   I did 4 papers per semester every semester of my degree.  And some of those were hard papers.  Once I did 10 papers in a year.  During that time I worked 15+ hours per week.  I still managed to go out most weekends and spend most Sundays doing VERY little.  And my grades were good.

But on the other hand, I’m worried.  I’m working 25 hours per week, and want to continue that while I’m studying.  And sometimes I’ve struggled just to get anything done…  My motivation has definitely not been the best the last year or so.

And even if I can cope, can I do it WELL?  I’m not going back just for kicks – I really want to make this change and do this properly.  I’m taking it seriously this time around.

At this stage, I’ve chosen to stick with the 4 papers.  But I’m also going to wait to see what the workload’s like before I commit to doing the same in the second semester.

And the next step is coming up with a plan of how I can deal with it.  Even if I can do it, it’s certainly going to take some organisation and motivation.

Wish me luck!

Any time management tips for me?  Good books to read on the topic?  Good strategies for balance?

Personality Profiles

Okay, I have to confess something.

I love personality profiling.

It’s not altogether cool to admit that, but I don’t care.  I find it fascinating.  Each time I try one, I find some new insights into myself.  Or I get reminded of things I already know, which is often just as helpful.

And over the months of making my career change, my love of personality profiling has really gone into overdrive.  In my quest to find the perfect job, I’ve looked at:

I don’t know what, if anything, this stuff means.  But I find it unbelievably interesting, and it has really helped me come to terms with some things about myself, particularly some of the things that come out strong when I’m stressed.  It has also confirmed why some of my previous paths haven’t worked out, and why working in careers might be better.  My previous jobs, from most recent:

  • Learning and Development Project Manager:
    Project management requires a lot of organisation which is hard for a Myers Briggs P like myself.  The job also meant a long commute and a lot of hours, which didn’t fit well with my Lifestyle Career Anchor.
  • Learning and Development Officer:
    This job was pretty darn close actually.  Great team, met most of my requirements.  The main thing was that it wasn’t high on the anchor of Technical Competence.  The job is easy, and once I’d mastered it, I got a bit bored (I also got wooed away with promise of a great opportunity, which didn’t quite work out – see above).
  • Technologist:
    This actually failed on so many counts.  My HBDI desire to relate to people and to contribute to strategic thinking were often not met, the job required me to be very organised, there wasn’t enough of a Service element.
  • Technical Graduate:
    This one was once again, quite close.  It used my Input strength in a big way, and fit perfectly with the Lifestyle anchor and my Investigative nature.  However, the Social and Service elements were missing once again, and that just didn’t suit me.

And what’s next on the cards?

  • Career Counsellor (fingers crossed):
    Pretty strong on most aspects actually.  The main things it lacks are significant Strategic components and the Entrepreneurial Creativity.  However, I think that if I strike out on my own, which I definitely intend to do, that will bring those elements in a way that works for me.

(And the best bit?  I get to become an expert in personality profiling, and help other people reach these sorts of conclusions.  For a personality test junkie like me, it doesn’t get much better than that!)

Work lessons from the back country

A tramping trip (that’s hiking for those of you unfamiliar with our antipodean lingo) doesn’t seem like the most likely place to learn things you can apply in your job.  But I’ve found that you can find lessons in the strangest places, and a 4 day trip along the Heaphy Track over New Years was no exception.

I was a LONG way from the office, enjoying some amazing scenery, and working hard to walk 20 km+ (12.5 miles) per day, but the trip gave me a lot of time to think.  And, being in the process of finding my purpose in life and a job in which I can move towards it, a lot of that thinking came back to work.

The thoughts that just kept on coming back were some great lessons:

  • Switch off to switch on
    Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet and my cell phone and my iPod.  One of my 5 StrengthsFinder strengths is Input, which basically means I love finding things out and accessing new information, so the internet is a wonder for me.  But  in the back country you can’t access the internet, which is a reminder that technology is not the only way to find information (in the current world, it’s easy to forget that fact).Switching off occasionally and forcing yourself to focus on your environment and the people around you really refreshes your mind, and might even give some new perspective on your work.
  • Create a routine
    The first day of our trip, the packing and unpacking was slow, we took a lot of time to find what we needed, and the day was a bit disjointed.  But as we moved on through, we all settled into a routine.  It was little things that changed, like packing things in the same place every day, and leaving the breakfast supplies out the night before so that the first person up could start the porridge (oatmeal), but it made a big difference, and by the last day we were flowing.Simple routines can affect any job.  If you’re doing the same thing day in day out, routine is unavoidable.  But even if your job changes day to day, certain routines shape your day and allow you to be more effective.  Whether it’s checking emails at set times, setting aside 1o minutes at the end of each day to plan the next day, or calendaring time with key people to ensure you catch up regularly, elements of routine can get you in the zone and make you feel a lot more positive about your job.
  • When it gets hard, take a break, but don’t stop for long
    When you’re walking so much, your legs do get tired.  I usually started off fresh and keen in the morning, but by the time I saw the “Hut 1 km” sign, I could not wait for that hut to arrive.  And when it got hard, it was oh so tempting to just have a big rest.  But as soon as we stopped for more than a couple of minutes, legs started to seize up, and it was so hard to get going again.  So we took quick breathers, but mostly pushed on slowly and steadily to the huts.And this lesson is true (sometimes) in work too.  When something gets hard, and you want to give up, a quick break is refreshing, but a long break often means not getting back into it at all.  This is particularly true for tasks with a deadline looming.  Like the hut, you have to get to the deadline, and if you take too long a break, the process of getting back into it takes up precious time.  Usually, pushing slowly and steadily to the end is far more effective.

That is far from all of the things I came up with on the trip.  Solutions to the world’s problems, how to deal with grumpy old men, best card games, how best to make pancakes on the trail were all discussed.  But these were the biggest lessons I’ll be taking back to work when I start.  And to my life in general.

In fact, my monthly theme (my version of resolutions for 2012) for January is ‘Creating Effective Routines’ (lesson 2).  And part of that will be instituting monthly ‘Amish days’, where I’ll be switching right off (lesson 1) and spending time thinking and talking.

Just goes to show that inspiration can come from the most unlikely places, and work can come to mind even when you’re out in the middle of nowhere!

Back to reality

For the last two and a half weeks I’ve been away from home.  I have been visiting my Mum, Christmassing with family, driving to old hometown, catching a ferry and driving to Granddad’s house, staying with Granddad, tramping, staying in random small town, returning to Granddad’s and then old hometown, staying with in-laws, driving home.  It’s been a big couple of weeks… (Fantastic though!).

And now we’re home.  We’re lazing around, hanging out together, seeing the cats, and relaxing.  It’s great.

It’s also (kinda) back to reality.

I may not be going back to work tomorrow, like most, but it’s certainly time to stop holiday mode, and get back into life.  It’s weird, but I’m quite excited about it.

In the next couple of weeks, I’m focussing on:

  • Sorting out our holiday luggage
  • Developing a good routine
  • Setting up my organisation systems, including creating new pages for my diary
  • Getting back into exercise, and using my gym membership
  • Refocusing my internet time
  • Reading and catching up on podcasts
  • Practising my bike riding

It’s a lot to do, but I’m looking forward to it!

(And sometime soon, I might even write up something on the holiday and all the things I started thinking about…)