Dear Matt: I'm a working mom who is also going back to school this fall. Not only am I busy with work and family, I am now going to add school to the mix, taking weekend classes. I'm worried about making this all work. How do people do it?
Matt: This situation hit home for Catherine Byers Breet, a Twin Cities-based career coach, strategic recruiter and author of the "4 Steps to a Great New Job Workbook" (arbez.com). Just last year, she launched a new Job Hunt Coaching System, started a weekly networking group and increased her speaking opportunities - all while gaining a new client that would demand over 60 hours per week of her time.
First, says Byers Breet, you need to be clear on your intended goals. Why are you going to school? What will you, your family and your career gain in the end? You and those who are supporting you will need reminders on this as you go. Once that is defined, these suggestions can help, she says:
Set priorities. Some things will have to give. What are they? Make a list of all the things you need to get done, and then rank them in order of importance. Once you've identified something that has to "give," decide how you are going to get it taken care of.
Manage your time. If you do not already keep a personal calendar and a family calendar, get one. Block out time for your daily and weekly things that must get done (including homework). Be prepared for it to not always go as planned, so give some leeway if possible.
Communicate/set expectations. Once you figure out your priorities and plan, sit down with anyone who is affected by your tighter schedule, and rework it. It's critical to listen to them, too. Communicate at work and school as well. You will not be able to lead every project, but you will need to be sensitive to others along the way.
Recharge. Self-care will be essential. Eat healthy, sleep well and make sure you recharge your battery. What works for you? Exercise? Reading? Movies? Find time to recharge and have fun as a family, and as an individual.
"Once you lay out your plan, revisit it often," says Byers Breet. "Pay attention to the people who matter most in your life and sit down with them again when you feel the tension starting to rise. It was not easy at times, but in the end it worked out well."
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