More on Productivity

Picking up from yesterday…….

The next change I made really drove up my productivity. It all started a few months ago when I saw a job ad for an editor in the corporate office of a well-known business, an office that just happens to be 10 minutes from here. I had all the requirements, including a journalism degree, but the job only paid $10-12 an hour. I debated about the job, but not for long because it was quickly snapped up. (Shows how bad the economy is!) But I got to thinking about it and realized that if I devoted regular hours to my writing, I could earn more than that and wouldn’t have to leave home or buy new clothes.  🙂

So I began having regular business hours for my writing. Each weekday I’m holed up in the office (doors closed) writing from 1-5 pm, with a brief break at 3 for a cup of tea. (While I’m in here, my husband is with our son, who cannot be left unattended.) During these hours, I do not check email. In fact, I don’t go online at all unless I’m fact-checking something. I don’t do any business-related work either. Nor do I run down to the basement and start a load of wash, or quickly make something and throw it in the oven for dinner. All I do is think and write and think some more and write some more.

And it’s working! It’s amazing how much writing I’m getting done during these 20 hours per week. It hasn’t been easy, though. After the thrill wore off, there were several times when I faced an enormous temptation to just jump online to surf for a few minutes’ break, but I didn’t give in.

Then that passed, and I found it was real work to just stay with one topic for four hours. My attention span had disintegrated to the point that four hours on one subject was torture. I remember being in college and getting a precious “stacks pass,” which meant I could roam about the stacks of the enormous U of I library, reading anything I wanted. I spent hours there, sometimes having to be kicked out because they were closing. I sure had an attention span back then, reading books straight through. Now I couldn’t even concentrate on one project for four measly hours.

But I kept at it, and I’m slowly getting over that hurdle. Now the four hours passes in no time (most days, anyway), and it’s much easier to stay on track. I’m finishing up a book about preparing our kids for the new economy, as well as a Bible study I designed for my daughter when she was a young teen. I’m working on one book four days a week, and the other one day a week. We hope to have both of them out this year. But I don’t think either of them would be in the works if I hadn’t started having office hours.

Here’s a question for the veteran homeschool moms who pop by this blog now and then: Have you had trouble concentrating too? Or is it just me?

Another Dirty Secret about College

There are some facts about colleges that deans of higher education would prefer that you not know.

In addition to the fact that half of all college students drop out before graduation, there’s the reality that most of the high-growth jobs of the future do not require a college degree.

This flies in the face of the common wisdom of the past 50 years that said you must have a college degree in order to get a decent job. That’s true in some career fields (who wants to be the patient of a neurosurgeon who hasn’t gone through college and medical school?) but it’s certainly not true for all fields.

The U.S. government makes projections about the growth (or lack of growth) in different career areas. You can find those numbers at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) website. Here’s the latest BLS projection of above average growth and above average wage occupations. It’s an interesting document. Note that the projected increases in job growth are for a ten-year period (2006-2016).

When reading it, keep in mind that a high percentage increase in a given career field doesn’t necessarily translate into a lot of jobs. Check the “Employment” column on the left side of the page for actual numbers (in the thousands).

For example, on the first page you’ll see that the rate of increase for “aircraft cargo handling supervisors” is a healthy 23.3%. But that only equals 1,000 new jobs over the next ten years. Not exactly a booming career field in a country of over 300 million people.

On the other hand, note that while the BLS projects there will only be 10.4% more truck drivers needed over the next ten years, that’s the equivalent of 193,000 new jobs.

Once you become familiar with the chart layout, note the “source of training” column on the right side of the page. Most of the jobs on the first few pages do not require a bachelor’s degree. As you go through the document, you’ll find more jobs that do require at least a four-year degree. There are quite a few.

However, only a few of them show the highest growth potential in both percentages and numbers. They include a variety of tech careers, social workers, jobs in education, and accountants. For those willing to earn more than just a bachelor’s degree, a career as a pharmacist, physician or surgeon would certainly be a growth area to consider.

Still, most of the above average growth jobs that require bachelor’s degrees don’t equal many jobs. For example, only 100 jobs per year nationwide are expected to open up for archivists, anthropologists and archaeologists, marine engineers and naval architects, and atmospheric and space scientists. So unless your child passionately desires to become one of those professionals, you might want to gently point him or her in another direction.

Since many of the degree-required careers have such low projected job numbers, today’s parents have to think seriously about whether a degree is even worth it, particularly if their children’s interests and abilities don’t necessarily fit with the jobs with the most openings and growth in the future.

Again, colleges and universities will not tell you that the degrees they offer do not necessarily translate into good jobs, especially in the working world of the 21st century. This is one area where parents and their teens really have to do the homework for themselves.