Lessons From a Reduced Work Schedule

10Mar12

On Friday, I return to full-time after 4 1/2 months on a cyclic schedule (6.6 hour-days). This has been an interesting period for me, and every new experience will teach you something if you let it. Here are some of the lessons I learned from my reduced schedule:

1. Just scraping by is not scraping by.

Stuff happens. People have accidents. (I actually found out about my cut in hours the afternoon after my first physical therapy visit after a bicycle accident.) People get laid off. People get sick. People have hours cut. There are always going to be unexpected costs, and there is always the potential for unexpected loss of earnings. I was unprepared. I was on the financial edge before my bicycle accident and cut in hours. Without having made some substantially different decisions much earlier, I couldn’t prepare by saving. Either event could have pushed me over the edge. My new goal is to get off the debt treadmill — then to start saving, so I can be prepared in case something like this happens again.

2. Stuff expands to fill the time available.

I found this more at home than at work. I have a lengthy series of physical therapy exercises to do from my accident. They often took me two to three hours each morning. Amazingly, when I had somewhere to be at 8:30 or 9:00, I could get them done in closer to two hours than to three. The time I spent on Facebook expanded and contracted similarly, as did other web surfing. I started this blog as a constructive use of my additional time. This is my twelfth post.

3. You don’t have time for everything.

I found this more at work than at home. When you lose 16% of your working day, it’s simply not possible to get everything done that you were before (assuming that you were working at all efficiently before). You can work more efficiently in some ways, but not all. There were some additional projects (‘other duties as requested’) that I simply could not do in my reduced day. I had to prioritize, doing the most urgent and highest priority first, and letting some low-priority tasks slide.

4. If you work for a large organization, your CEO doesn’t know or care.

I was moved to a cyclic schedule because of a departmental budget shortfall. That shortfall was created by an unannounced ‘handling charge’ applied to certain budgets, including the one that half of my salary was in. (The charge was imposed July 1; my department found out about it in mid-August, when July’s books didn’t balance.) I found out in late August that my hours were going to be cut. Between my hearing this news and my reduced schedule being implemented, my university’s president received a new contract, including a $500,000 ‘retention incentive’, if he remains an additional five years. In a statement to the student newspaper, the university’s chief press officer said that nobody was being forced to have their hours cut — despite the fact that a letter to the editor that I wrote on the issue, mentioning my cut in hours, had run in the local newspaper two days before. Clearly neither of them knew nor cared about the facts on the ground — even though their primary duty was to be a reliable source for information about the university. The bottom line is that a CEO’s responsibility is the bottom line. The responsible ones will pay attention to the facts on the ground, and make cuts (when necessary) judiciously… but you can’t guarantee it.

5. You can make time off work for you.

In addition to spending time on physical therapy exercises and on Facebook (as mentioned above), I spent time learning more about myself, reading, and applying for jobs. I also created this blog as an outlet for my creativity (and in the vague hope that it would eventually come to earn some cash — but at 12 posts and a just over 100 total views so far, that day — if it ever comes — is a long way off still).

6. It’s worth taking the time to know yourself.

One of the most valuable things I did was read about personality type and strengths. Taking the time to know better who I am and how I work (for example, that I have a vast appetite for information, that I need a creative outlet, and that I need quiet time to myself) has helped me to realize better how to take care of myself and how to work more efficiently.

7. There is help out there, but you have to ask for it.

OK, I didn’t do enough to take advantage of many of these resources, but I know they are there — career resources, credit counseling, advice on just about anything — not to mention YouTube how-tos. You can, go old school and open your Yellow Pages, be cutting edge and use Siri, or something in between. If you take the time to look, to call, to ask, you can make use of the help that is available.

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2 Responses to “Lessons From a Reduced Work Schedule”

  1. 1 jan mead

    well written and good reminders


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