Tips for adjusting to a new work schedule

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calendarLisa Crafford, office manager at financial planning and investment management firm Fox, Joss & Yankee, recently decided to go back to school. She enrolled in the Executive MBA program at The College of William and Mary, a part-time program that allows her to continue to work full time. The mother of two young children travels from Northern Virginia to Williamsburg, Va. every other week for classes on Fridays and Saturdays. As a full-time working mom taking on a heavy academic schedule, she’s had to find ways to adjust to her new reality. 

This is just one example of the changing work situations in which many workers find themselves. Perhaps, like Crafford, you’re taking classes while juggling a full-time job. Or you’re going from a part-time to a full-time schedule. Maybe you’re a new mom coming back from maternity leave or you’ve recently taken medical or disability leave. Whatever the situation may be, adjusting to a new work/life schedule can be challenging. Here are some tips for making the transition a little easier.

Do a dry run
If you’re going back to work full time, start adjusting to your new schedule a few weeks prior. Wake up at the time you’ll need to wake up and get ready as if you’re going in to work. This way, your body gets used to the new schedule, so you aren’t struggling on your first day back. Also consider doing a test run to the office via the transportation mode you plan to use. By knowing how long it’ll take you to get to and from work, you can plan your morning and evening schedules accordingly.

In Crafford’s cause, knowing she’d need to balance work, school and family life, she began studying the subject matter two to three times a week in the months leading up to her program. Not only did it help her get into a routine, but it also confirmed that she was making the right choice by going back to school.

Ease back into it
When you come back to work after a long break, you may want to prove yourself by taking on extra hours or a heavy workload. But if you take on too much, and you don’t give yourself time to adjust, you’ll easily become overwhelmed. Instead, don’t be too hard on yourself. If you can leave at 5 p.m. every day your first week back, do it. If you think you’ll have some initial trouble going back to a five-day work week, or you’re worried about getting to your evening class on time, talk to your employer about working from home one day a week or working adjusted daily hours. You’ll serve your company better if you’re not overextending yourself.

Set priorities
With a busier schedule, you won’t be able to do everything you did before, so start prioritizing. You may have to cut back on your workout routine or miss out on that weekly dinner with friends. Crafford found it helpful to make a list of her daily activities — from small to big — to manage her schedule. “From silly things like which TV shows was I willing to give up, and which events I wanted to attend, I wrote it all down,” she says. “Sometimes a physical reminder that I have other priorities is what I need to keep me on track.”

Ask for help
Most people will find themselves in a situation at one point in their career when they’re overwhelmed and need some help. So don’t be afraid to ask others for assistance in easing the transition. Tap your family or friends to babysit while you’re taking classes. Ask your significant other to take on more of the housework. Rely on your colleagues for questions or feedback on the first few projects you complete once you’re back. By building a strong support system, you’ll adjust to your new work situation in no time.

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