The romanticized period of someone working a single career for 30 years or so has disappeared a long time ago. Last seen in the 1970s, the single career path began to fade in the 1980s and was completely obliterated by the 1990s. Today’s workers, including technical writers, have to regularly retrain themselves every few years to stay relevant in a changing workplace.
The big problem for someone already established in a job but looking to promote is that traditional re-training doesn’t frequently work. Most classes are taught during business hours when people are at their day jobs. Fortunately, the world of online learning has exploded with affordable opportunities—most importantly in the same institutions that grant career-recognizing degrees and certificates. Now you, too, can learn biology in your slippers.
The other challenge most face is finding time to re-train. Even with e-learning, working writers have to reschedule their lives to still meet the requirements of their day job, produce writing after hours, and find time to take classes. And in between all of that, there needs to be a life balance with family. Something has to give, and many times home life ends up getting the short stick.
Methods of Managing
The first big step any multi-tasking writer needs to do is stop looking at the entire consolidated challenge. Instead, the writer should take one step at a time. This means planning out the week and everything that needs to be done, but then focusing on the immediate day. Worry and stress about what’s coming two weeks later rarely does any good. Time management works best by focusing on the tasks at hand, getting them done on time each day, and moving to the next one sequentially. This reduces anxiety and results in a far higher level of productivity and learning.
Second, using multi-layered calendars with color coding helps a lot. Google provides a free one with its online apps, which can also be accessed with a smartphone. Due to the multi-layering, a user can have one calendar for school, one for work, and one for writing. They can all be displayed at the same time for potential time conflicts or individually for focusing. It’s a beautiful tool when used correctly, managing what seems like chaos otherwise.
Third, find times to take a break, eat right, exercise and sleep. All are critical for health and ongoing energy. Without them, performance drops quickly. A person should dedicate at least 6 to 7 hours of sleep each night, no exceptions. This becomes very important when under stress from multiple demands.
Technical Writing and Learning Simultaneously
Working two jobs and studying can be done, but it takes a lot of organization and daily focus. Trying to be a perfectionist will not work under such strain, so don’t try it. Instead, time management is key to meeting deadlines. Re-training is a necessary process in most jobs these days, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Writers can manage the challenge with a bit of forethought and some good calendar tools.
Tom L is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.