Post Academic

Dealing With a “Flexible” Job

Posted in Transfer Your Skills by postacademic on August 6, 2010
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Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox ExtensionSo you accepted a flexible job–Hamster, Academic or Other–and you’re turning into a contortionist? Unless you have an escape hatch, these tips can help you create a more reasonable work-life balance:

Start automating tasks. Evaluate the grunt-work that you have to do. I had one job in which I had to pull crazy hours to meet work goals. I did this for a while, and then I lost my damn mind, and I realized that the workload wasn’t going to let up. So I bought a book from Lifehacker, and I figured out a way to automate cut-and-paste tasks using macros, and I started turning to spreadsheets to keep a tally of what I accomplished. A little Spreadsheet Fu made my job somewhat easier.

Do not answer e-mails immediately. If you are offline, then be offline, and stay offline. Turn off the Crackberry at night. If it can wait until the morning, let it wait. Some things are going to be urgent and will require your attention, so prioritize and answer e-mails only for major events or deadlines.

More tips for surviving a flexible job below. Image from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Give up saving your own skin. You may think that you are impressing your boss by being available all hours of the day or night, and you hope that you’ll survive in the event of a layoff. Take it from someone who knows–effort will not save you in a layoff. Your whole company might be shut down, and a boss can’t save you no matter how much he or she loves you in that event. Focus on quality, and produce the type of work that you would be proud to show your current boss or a potential employer.

Keep a timesheet. Long ago, a boss had us fill out a timesheet listing which client we were working and what we were doing for the client. Oh, I hated this, and I made “TPS Report” jokes galore. Good thing my boss was cool and had seen the movie. But it was important because these forms showed us how we could be more efficient and where we were losing money. (It can also prove how much time is wasted in meetings–a major benefit!) If you think that you could make your hours more reasonable by cutting down on meetings or on specific tasks, you’ll have more ammo to bring to your boss if you have a timesheet.

Remember that it’s an 8-hour day for a reason. I’m a freaking huge workaholic, so this number will vary for you and your work addiction, or lack thereof. But once you log 8 hours on your spreadsheet, it’s time to consider going home.

One Response to 'Dealing With a “Flexible” Job'

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  1. I agree effort won’t save you in the event of a layoff, and I especially agree about logging your time to save your sanity. Unfortunately, the melodramatic performance of putting in long hours is often an effective means of sucking up/making yourself look like a good employee in certain work environments. Until the culture itself changes, an insistence on protecting your time carries a certain amount of risk in such situations.

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