16. März 2018

In Search for Work, Life, Study Balance

Since September I am juggling a job, a master's programme and a life. Please leave a comment if you're in this situation as well, so I know I'm not alone out there. For my part, I'm just starting to learn how to stay sane in the midst all of it. I'll need to cut some aspects of my job – and not my most important relationships. Read on for the painful process that led to this newly found wisdom and I how I plan to execute on it.
open laptop on a wooden desk with magazines, a notebook and pencils
Photo: Jasmin Alber

Looking for New Adventures...

After working as a marketing manager for a few years I was yearning for new input, more knowledge to trigger my brain cells and bring fresh ideas to the table. Content marketing has taken my professional world by storm – and my marketing heart as well. Thus I kept my eyes open for training opportunities in that field. I read dozens of blog articles and eBooks, completed several Hubspot trainings and finally stumbled upon the Content Strategy Master's Programme of the FH Joanneum, the University of Applied Sciences in Graz, Austria. I was instantly intrigued: This programme would go far beyond content marketing. I would broaden my skill set in so many other exciting fields as well – and the best part: This master's programme is designed for people with jobs! Most of the courses would take place online with some presence weeks in beautiful Graz.
I applied right away and was accepted to the small group of 25 students (from 80 applicants if I may add with some pride). The first semester is now over and I'm in the midst of learning my first life lesson – after already learning a lot about content audits, content briefs, buyer personas, copy writing, Markdown, basic coding and so much more.
woman sits at a table and writes into a notebook
Photo: Jasmin Alber

…Without Being Ready to Give up Old Ones

In order to make studying possible I cut my hours at work, from 40 hours a week to 34. I would still work full time when I was in Nuremberg and built up overtime for the presence weeks in Graz. To compensate my absence I got a working student for about two days a week. I thought I was so well organized and that it would work out no prob.
How wrong I was! The courses, home works, group works and presence times hit me in the face hard. Although I love everything we learn and I especially enjoy working things out with my fantastic fellow students, I completely underestimated the work load of it all. At the same time I overestimated the load a working student would be able to take off my shoulders. I got a really bright and hard-working one but he is still a student and I cannot hand over anything strategic.
So I worked, studied and slept, neglecting my friendships, my marriage and myself. It's only two years, I told myself. I can do this for two years. My body didn't think so. I hardly ever get sick. By now that last sentence is past tense.

Learning to Find Balance the Hard Way

I've been sick three times since I started to study six months ago. When I got sick first, I understood that I can't neglect relationships. I knew I had to make time for the most important people in my life and I did. When I got sick the second time I knew it was from stress but ignored it. I could rest when I was dead, right? I've always wanted to be strong – and perfect at everything I do. I don't think it's wrong to be a bit of a perfectionist but I keep forgetting to choose my battles. I want it all, and all at once.
This attitude has brought me to my knees now. As of today I've had a severe cold for 10 days. Last time I was ill this long I was in preschool and suffered from Scarlet fever! A cold never lasts longer than two days with me so I asked my doctor what was wrong. His answer couldn't have been clearer: "Your immune system has been weakened for some reason." Whoops. Call me a moron but I still tried to work from home until I couldn't even get out of bed anymore. I had to promise my husband that I will change my ways so he wouldn't have to make tea for me that often (okay, the reason he wanted my promise was probably a bit more romantic).
woman sitting at a laptop with one hand typing and holding a cup of tea with the other
Photo: Jasmin Alber

Big Plans for Small Changes

As I've said I know I cannot go on in my job pretending I still work full time. Not only is it not true but it really isn't helpful for anyone in the office if I get sick more often and they cannot count on me anymore. For me this will mean a few small changes that are still big steps for me:

1. I'll have to stop being so nosy

I love to know everything that's going in, in every department of the company. I keep up with parts of the intranet that don't even touch my work because I'm so curious. I love to see how other teams work and what they are working on. As much as I enjoy that part, I will have to cut it severely – at least for the time being. I will have to focus on my fields of work and on improving those.

2. I'll have to let go of administrative stuff

I love being in control of my stuff and thus I like to keep files, documents and check lists up-to-date myself. This is something that students could do, though. And it's time to let them do it. It's so easy to write this down but it will be hard. They will probably do it a bit differently than I would and I can be a bit anal about formatting and naming conventions.

3. I can't try to be perfect at everything

Sounds like a no-brainer but deep inside I guess I still believe that I can do it all. Time to focus on the really important things. Working on a campaign or an important business relationship? Time to let the perfectionist take over. – Working on an internal report? Keep it short, concise and informative. This all sounds so logical, I wonder why I'm not already doing all this.
Let's see how my battle plan works out. If you are in the same situation: How do you guys cope? I'm thankful for any ideas on how I can better balance this new life situation. 

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