It’s the start of a new semester at the university, which means graduation is just months away for many college seniors. The “real world” is just around the corner, and yet I see so few students really prepared for that moment. Now, I will admit to you that in many ways I was not all that different. At this time, I did not have a job lined up waiting for me after graduation. I didn’t know exactly where I was going or what I would be doing. I was, however, actively looking for work. I had a plan, and I had been putting in the time and taking opportunities throughout my college years that would eventually lead me in the right direction.
When I graduated from college I went home for a couple of weeks and then left to take a summer job as a lab assistant. It did not pay much money, and I lived in a large house with about 25 other college students. Still, I took the opportunity to work in my field. While I was there, I got a call with a job offer related to an application I submitted months earlier. I moved hundreds of miles away, and the rest is history. The point is that I was always working towards something and answered the door when opportunity knocked. Unfortunately, I don’t see that attitude in a lot of college students today. They seem to be making a lot of mistakes when it comes to their career search and prospects.
Happy New Year! A new year is a chance to reflect on the year behind you and think about your hopes for the year ahead of you. Most of us make resolutions and start the year afresh with plans to pay down debt, lost weight, exercise more, eat better, read more, or other such self-improvements. I used to make those types of resolutions too. Then, one year I realized that I was resolving to do the same things every year…just better. At that point those things don’t seem much like resolutions; they are really sticking to healthy behaviors. So, I changed my view of resolutions and started making a list of goals I wanted to accomplish over the next year. That worked pretty well for me. I had a list of priorities and could check off those accomplishments. This year I sat down to make my list of goals for 2016, a pattern quickly emerged. My checklist included a lot of things like “finish paper #1”, “finish paper #2”, “finish paper #3”, “finish book draft”, “finish closet redesign”, finish, finish, finish.
At that point, I realized that what I needed more than anything was a one-word resolution: FINISH. That is my biggest weakness and biggest struggle. Like many of you, I am busy. In addition to my job as a university professor, journal editor, and writer, I am an active mother of two busy children. My daughter is a dancer. Parents of serious dancers will know this can easily take over your entire life. On top of that, my son is an actor and plays select soccer. I am the assistant manager of his soccer team. I also make ballet costumes for my daughter’s ballet productions. One more thing: I homeschool both of my children. I do a lot. Unfortunately, I also don’t finish a lot (at least in a reasonable amount of time).
Here’s a blueprint for not finishing what you start. First, attempt an overwhelming amount of multitasking. Moms are the queens of multitasking. We couldn’t imagine life any other way. Yet, research coming out over the past year or two keeps telling us that multitasking is bad for our overall productivity. If you are like me, you laugh and roll your eyes wondering who can afford to do one task at a time. While laughing and rolling your eyes, you are probably running a load of laundry, helping with homework, and yelling at someone. Unfortunately, I think they might be right. I’m not suggesting that we stop multitasking altogether. I realize that finishing some big tasks means temporarily reducing the amount of tasks occupying my mind.
Second, you end up not finishing when you are not selfish with your time. Again, mothers have a terrible time with this. We give to our families and think about our own needs last. My time and energy are scattered in so many different directions, and I don’t do a very good job putting myself in the schedule. I’ve decided to change this over the next year by making and keeping appointments with myself.
If you are going to finish, you need a plan. What are your New Year’s resolutions? Could you summarize them in one word? Do you have a harder time starting or finishing projects?