Lessons learnt in Reality

I keep meaning to post things (really, I have posts all lined up in my head!). But the Real World is unexpectedly more time-consuming, or possibly more energy-consuming, than you’d think.

Here, though, are some useful things I’m learning, courtesy of the Real World, which I don’t think I’d have learnt so swiftly if I’d not taken time out:

* Moving does not have to be a major stressor for me. Now, I always knew that, but my last major move in life, moving to uni, was extremely stressful. Moving cities has been great: I love Canberra, I love living in a real flat. I miss my friends but I’m not homesick. I’ve discovered that I’m a whole lot more confident than I was in first year, that I can make friends easily, and also elect not to make friends with people if we don’t connect easily. This really isn’t a surprising life development, but it’s nice to know that before I try uprooting myself and trotting off to the other side of the globe.

* Set work hours! My god, they’re fascinating. I’d never realised how long nine hours was – nine hours on your feet waitressing is long, but you don’t finish a shift with tangible progress to pick up the next day. You can get an awful lot of stuff done between the hours of 8.30 and 5.30 every day. You can also waste an awful lot of time, if you’re so inclined.

I suspect I spent most of my degree wasting an awful lot of time. I did quite a bit of work, too, but I had this awful ‘just start work and keep going until bedtime’ mentality. I’d be blogging, surfing, emailing, and who knows what else at the same time, all day, every day. Now, I’m finding that once I get home from work I don’t have time to keep up with the internet, which is a sure sign that I had over-committed myself online…

Do we think that if I spend two years working in the Real World, I might get into the habit of working by day and blogging by night?

* Stress happens in the Real World, too. But it’s not the end of the world. Right now, for example, my team is completely crunched: major project, already extended deadlines by about a month, and there is absolutely no way the final product is going to be as shiny and professional as we would like it.

We deal. In this case, it means getting the parts which draw the most public attention as shiny as possible, and as much of the rest of it functional if possible. I have my own little sandbox, which I thought would take me a week and has taken me nearly a month already. I’m going to try to have it finished in the next two working days. I might even put in some hours over the long weekend. But if I don’t get it done… the world does not end.

Stress is happening. I want to go into Deadline Mode (stopping only sleep, eating while working, and compulsively checking Livejournal every five minutes).  But even if I did, this is a teamwork project, and I’m the tiniest cog in the team machine. I’ve worked in teams before and I’ve worked on projects with deadlines before, but I’ve never done both at once. It’s at once incredibly frustrating and incredibly comforting. This thing lives or dies on a communal effort, and its success or failure doesn’t change my net worth as a human being, or my standing in the workplace.

Academia is a bit (a lot) more personal than that, but I shall endeavour to learn perspective.

* I went to a project management workshop the other day: a whole bunch of stuff about defining objectives, scope, processes, what have you. Dry as toast but very useful. It hit me, while we were working through this pre-designed Project Management Scheme, that this was what I’d struggled and fumbled about with at the beginning of last year: the fact that I couldn’t just pick up a book, open a document and start Thesising. I had to figure out some idea of what I wanted, where I was going, and how to get there, and I didn’t have a set framework for doing that. Now, the Enormous Project I’m involved in at the moment goes to show that no matter how carefully you Manage, it will still come down to a frantic scramble at the end. However, I can see how careful management, a clear idea of the objectives, scope, and resources, and knowing what gives and what doesn’t, is what’s keeping it all from flying to pieces before my bossess’ eyes.

Academic work projects. Rather more time consuming, ego-crushing, absorb-your-whole-life than most workplace projects, but still projects. Here’s hoping a few years in the workforce teaches me a bit about project management.

That was rather a lot of blather. Congratulations if you got to the end of it 🙂


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