Thursday, November 11, 2010

Living Life in a Demanding Profession

In my time at CU it has come up several times that graduate students often work very long hours.  An informal survey in my department showed that the average grad student puts in between 50 and 65 hours per week between classes, teaching, research, and other administrative responsibilities.  The numbers get worse for those of us that want a tenure-track position.  I have yet to hear anyone say that, on average, they worked less than 60 hours per week while they were trying to get tenure.  That's at least 1.5 full-time jobs for those that think a 40 hour work week actually means anything today.

I bring this up because one of the biggest challenges for those pursing a very time-intensive career path is who to balance career with the rest of life.  I am a firm believer that a life well-lived involves a lot more than a career, but how does one protect those other areas of life from being overrun by work-related stress?

If anybody knows about work-related stress, it's a football coach at a NCAA Division I-A university.  Legendary Kansas State coach Bill Snyder eats only one meal per day during football season to put more time into his job.  In his words,
"I never was a breakfast eater, and I learned that by working over the lunch hour, you could get a lot more done. That was so good, I did it during dinner."
 He eats his only meal of the day when he gets home at night - which is usually after midnight.  If that man has a work-life balance, I can't see where it would fit into his schedule.

This is what makes a new book by BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall so amazing.  Mendenhall has been the head coach at BYU for almost 6 seasons and has won over 70% of his games, including 4 consecutive top-25 finishes. Clearly he's good at his job, but the title of his book is "Football Comes 5th".  What comes in first through fourth?  Faith, family, knowledge, and friends... and then football. 

The book is specifically written for young people, however I'd love to give it a read anyway.  I'd love to know how he excels in a field with a total of 120 jobs where the competition thinks taking time out for dinner is a luxury, because that sounds a little too familiar to my field for comfort.


  1. Yes, for better or worse we seem to live in a world where in order to stay on top n very competitive markets a 40 hour week just will never do.

    Actually, I'll tell you who really have it bad: medical residents. They don't make much money, have huge medical school debt and are often worked the max the law allows: 80 hours a week! (And that limit is only an average over 4 weeks so in some cases they will work 100 hours in a single week and then just work 3 70-75 hour weeks to comply with the average.)

  2. Joe,
    You're right about medical residents. A friend of mine that is a nephrologist (bonus points if you know what that it without Google's help) said if he is seen by a young doctor he asks "when did you last sleep?" If the answer is more than 18 hours ago, he refuses to be treated by that doctor. The scary thing is that he says it happen all the time.

  3. A nephrologist is a doctor who takes care of kidneys. Where are my bonus points? I have a friend who is a nephrologist.


To add a link to text:
<a href="URL">Text</a>