Friday, May 13, 2011

Reflections on Working and Going to School

The end is in sight. Just two more weeks and I’ll have completed my first seminary class. The first of twenty. Just in time to dive in on the next one: I’ll take a week of vacation time in June to fly to South Carolina and take a one-week intensive on “Contemporary Issues in Missions.” I will have some work to bring with me; Missions Catalyst must go out. But I’ll be in class from 8am to 5pm each day. And before the class starts I’m supposed to do about 30 hours of reading. Well, you know me; I can do it in less than that. Some of it I’m pretty familiar with already. But it’s still going to take some attention. Then, depending on how long the post-class assignments take me, I should have about a month off before I have to start work on my fall class (another online one, August 22 to December 6). Since it's a continuation of the course I'm taking now and I already have the syllabus, I might be able to get started early...

When I made the decision to go to graduate school while working full-time I knew it would be a challenge. I had a great sabbatical in 2010. Now, I wondered how I’d do on work/life balance when it really came to the test. It was one thing to live a sane and healthy life with all pressure removed, but how would I keep my head above water in the “real” world? 

It would be nice to cut my work hours back, but I don't see a way to do that within our organization's policies. Cutting back on work would really mean going to school on their time and dime. It’s a great agency, and they certainly encourage professional development, but they can’t fund or reimburse the expenses of schoolwork that’s not required by the job. The IRS doesn’t like it either. On the other hand, a recent large donation to my ministry account from a supportive friend may justify giving myself a raise to help cover tuition. I haven’t done that yet, but I could.

I also wondered how much time I should really expect to put into schoolwork. The syllabus for the three-credit course I’m taking now suggests investing 135 hours over the 13-week period; about 10 hours a week. Apparently that's typical for these courses. I may have done it in a bit less; not much. We’ll see if the 15 hours I put into the 8-10-page (OK, 11-page...) paper was sufficient; the syllabus suggests 30 hours.

While I may not have a heavy workload with my job this summer, this first class coincided exactly with what will be the busiest 13 weeks of my year. If you count all the travel time I’ve worked an average of nearly 50 hours a week since school began. Giving 10 hours a week to my studies on top of that – or, thanks to the travel, sometimes overlapping with that – made me one busy camper. 

I know, I know, a great many people in our world work 50+ hours a week (or more with a commute) and do it as a matter of course. It’s not like I have some kind of “right” to keep my hours down. Nor should I complain (or boast) when they are up. Yet I’ve found that, for me, a 45-hour workweek is optimal. If I go over that on a regular basis, my work and life start to show the stress fractures...

The hardest part these last few months has been time management. I couldn’t figure out how to take downtime. When I wasn’t focusing on work, I was busy with school, and vice versa. I ended up using my less-productive midday hours on school (which was more passive), and doing work stuff (which took more thinking) in the evenings. It worked pretty well for both, but I often felt guilty, like I was cheating at my job by not “going to work” all day, every day. 

Even when I was busy with school or work, I wondered if I ought to be finding a way to get more rest. Too many things on every front were not done until the last minute; too many relationships were neglected. I didn’t meet with my mentor or my pastor, didn’t make those spring appointments with my doctor and my dentist. Half a dozen things around the house are broken and I haven’t done a thing about it. Even when I could not make the conscious decision to rest, my mind and body rebelled and sought gratification in compulsive, time-wasting activities that hurt more than helped me, as such things usually do. When you’ve got too much to do and kind of resent it, procrastination is a natural response. I think I do it kind of on purpose. I want to fall/fail and get off the hook. Not a very healthy pattern.

Well, I'm not a total disaster, but I'm not functioning in top form, either. As I wrap up this school term and go into the next, I’m asking myself and the Lord: what must be adjusted? What can be adjusted? I’d appreciate your prayers, and any advice would be welcome too. 

By the way, "BIB5112" has been a great class! Watch this space; maybe I'll post about a few of the things I've picked up.

Marti's Upcoming Travel / Schedule
  • Feb 28 to May 27 - spring term (online)
  • May 27 to June 5 - trip to see Chris (Oregon)
  • May 30 to July 26 - summer term (live + online)
  • June 12 to 18 - to CIU for class (South Carolina)
  • Unscheduled but anticipated: more time in OR/WA
  • Aug 22 to Dec 6 - fall term (online)
  • Sept 29 to Oct 1 - "Reset" Conference (Arizona)
  • Oct 2 to 4 - teach Perspectives (Colorado)
  • Oct 6 to 7 - Multi-Cultural Colorado Conference (Colorado)
  • Oct 16 - teach Perspectives (Utah)
  • Nov 13 to 19 - agency meetings (Florida)

1 comment:

Megan Noel said...

these thoughts have been on my mind, too, as i am starting to think about school. well, not really thinking about it, but thinking about thinking about it. i also found school + work stressful. if i need to go to school to get a job i guess.. uh, i don't know. plus it depends on what it is and how long the program is. i am starting to think some of my skills are dated. still useful skills, but i have not kept up with all the new tech. some of it, but not all of it.