School, work, and life: The graduate school trifecta. It can be demanding, especially around finals week. Thankfully, the only thing at stake is our futures, a fact we’re so much more aware of than we were as undergraduates. So no pressure.
Everyone’s work-life situation is unique to them; the only thing we have in common here at Ooligan Press is that we’re all studying book publishing at Portland State University. The rest is up for grabs. We work, we have families, we’re looking for jobs in the industry—we’re trying to get enough sleep. It’s impossible, and that’s why we keep blogging about it.
For me, the work-life balancing act usually feels more like a juggling act. It’s pretty difficult to edit a manuscript while creating a portfolio for class, so multitasking is out the window— everything I’m doing for school or work requires my full attention while I’m doing it. This obviously makes time management crucial. And when I forget to employ my time management skills (read: procrastinate), I rely on my ability to work well under pressure and on very little sleep.
One of the challenges of being a busy student is remembering the end goal. For some, it’s getting a job in the publishing industry. For my friend and fellow Oolie Brian Parker, it was starting his own publishing company. For me? Well, it’s a bit complicated.
The short version is that my end goal is to make a living as a freelance editor to support my writing habit. I actually started my own business, Broken Top Editing, before I started graduate school. But when it’s week eight of a ten-week term, and you have projects and papers due, and your boss at your part-time job just called to ask if you can fill in for a sick colleague at work tomorrow, it’s pretty easy to lose sight of that.
Those kinds of things happen, so you triage your tasks and prioritize what you have to for the short term. But when the dust settles, you have to take a step back and remind yourself about your priorities for the long term. As much as I enjoy my part-time job, I have no career ambitions with that company, and I have to remember that if it comes down to continuing to work there or growing my editing business, the editing business has to take precedence. That may seem like a no-brainer, but when you’re in the thick of it (and the fact that I have a very strong sense of loyalty doesn’t help), it’s actually rather difficult. I literally have to remind myself.
But Rachel, what about life? You’ve mentioned school, and you’ve talked about work. What about the third branch of the trifecta?
I’m glad you asked.
You see, when you’re a full-time student, a part-time employee, and a part-time entrepreneur, you don’t have an overabundance of free time. And when you spend some of that free time starting an arts ministry at your church, and the rest of it being a writer . . . Your days get pretty full. If you want to hang out with friends or family, you’re either sacrificing writing time or procrastinating homework. This is how it works, and most of the time it’s no big deal—you don’t write today; you do the assignment tomorrow. Those relationships are important, so you do what you must in order to enjoy them. But if you’re reckless, either with how much work you take on or how much time you spend having fun, you end up throwing your work-life balance out of whack.
I could give you a list of all the things that help me juggle my crazy life, like making to-do lists, reading for class on my bus commute, or deciding to quit the volunteer activity that I used to love doing (because, unfortunately, you can’t actually do everything). I could tell you about ways to prioritize tasks according to deadline, importance, or how much time is needed to complete them. And those things really do work. But sometimes, despite your best efforts, chaos descends.
When that happens, all you can do is hunker down, stay hydrated, and remember: you can sleep next week.