If time is money, then Pay Yourself First. In the Bank, part I.
Behind the pressing noise of the divorce, the quiet question nagging at me over the past 18 months has been this: How do I invest those rare hours each week in order to build a foundation for Bug’s and my future?
I figured my only hope was a windfall from one of three sources:
1) A man
2) A bestselling book
3) A more lucrative job
Because options 1 and 2 are the stuff of soap operas, I hurled all my initial energy into making myself a more marketable career gal. A scattershot approach was the best I could manage. I took on every additional responsibility I could at work. If even the slightest gap appeared between our team’s offerings and students’ interests, a project took root. I began to apply for a PhD. I looked into and Organizational Development training program. I explored a Public Management graduate certificate. Every conference or seminar that came across my calendar, I attended. “Need help organizing it? I’m your gal!” I learned names. I shook every hand.
Where has this left me? With the same income I had a year ago, without a single new job prospect, and exhausted.
As 2011 wound down and the start of the spring semester neared, I kept thinking, Something has to hit, right? Even as my ammunition dried up, I continued to shoot high and wide. I signed up for and then dropped one graduate class after another, desperately searching for a way to make use of the tuition waiver my job provides. What kind of bonehead wastes the opportunity to take courses for free? Especially one who wants to beef up her resume, and needs to make More Money?
Besides, I love learning. The challenge and the demands of scheduled assignments keep me hopping, and those oh-so paternal expectations of the instructor force me to reach. When I am in a class, I dig into the corners of my wallet of time, and what little I find I hand over to the syllabus and its personal counterpart: the instructor. I do not bother with Facebook or TV. I only say yes to invitations that compel me and do not conflict with assignment due dates. The teacher is important enough to pay first, and I am frugal, and I keep my receipts. The prize, supposedly, is my own improved scholarly understanding of something or other.
The problem? Every syllabus I read made me wilt like a dust bowl dogwood. I love to learn, but “Human Resources for the Public Sector?” Please. Stick a fork in my eye.
Here is what I realized. I was looking at each of the three items on my Man-Book- Job grocery list as nouns. Goals. Finish lines to cross. But if I shift the angle a bit, if I turn them into verbs, what happens?
1) Make friends. Go on dates. Enjoy getting to know people. Welcome connection and even love, should it choose to come around.
2) Write. Then write some more.
3) Work with focus and enthusiasm. Seek opportunities. Build relationships and skills. Stay one step ahead.
This lifting and shifting of my gaze peeled the haze from my surroundings. The sudden brightness brought into focus the formerly obscured direction of travel. In Tuesday’s post, “Love: Letters,” I worked my way around to admitting that my One True Love is and always has been the ink. If I treasure writing best of all, and practice sometimes brings improvement, why not Pay Myself First? No writing classes are offered here on my campus? So what? For goodness sake, design a course! If one of my students wants to study Computational General Equilibrium and no one in our department teaches it, I tell them to develop a syllabus, find someone who can guide the learning, and go for it.
So, I did. I designed a syllabus. The course is called “Process, Practice, Publish.” It lists eleven learning objectives, including these:
- Integrate a writing practice of approximately one hour (1000 words) into the daily routine
- Maintain writing “storehouses”—in print and in electronic format – for organizing writing products and research
It details four sub-sections of course expectations, like this one:
- One hour of editing is required weekly. This can be editing a single piece or a collection. This editing should take place in a discrete segment of time, separate from the writing process.
It includes a time line describing weekly assignments from January to May, including these:
- By February 7th, identify one writing group or class, and join for regular meetings with fellow writers.
- By February 21st, develop an annotated list of 3 publications and their submission guidelines.
Three weeks in, and I am already gathering speed like Hi-Ho Silver. It is a marvel, this concept. Those few feathered strands of time try to slip loose, but now I have simple instructions for how to braid them into reins to keep this filly at a full gallop.
Who is the instructor? The toughest of the tough cookies. And hell yeah, I’m going to pay her first.