I spent time in my last post briefly describing the practical decision-making process I learned in my doctoral program. I wasn’t anticipating another major life decision so early this summer, but things have happened a bit faster than expected!
In April of 2015, I resigned a tenure track faculty position to pursue part-time consulting work along with adjunct online teaching. Although I knew I was rapidly approaching “FI”, I was not ready to “retire early” and give up teaching.
Then, just when I had started enjoying the thought of the “downshift” to more part-time, flexible work – I got a call from a former colleague. To give you the quick version – I ended up taking a full-time (temporary) faculty position for last year. And today, my department chair notified me that I am their “first choice” for a multi-year, full-time position. I really enjoyed both my colleagues and students last year, so now I have another decision opportunity…
With one child finishing up high school and another completing an undergraduate degree next spring, do I sign on for the “long term” or “downshift” again to the part-time consulting work along with the online teaching? (I kept both of those jobs last year in addition to the full time faculty position!)
In this post, I will begin using the decision-making process I learned so you can see it “in action”. Let’s get started with the first step!
- Develop the Decision Question.
It is really important for me to clarify the decision question and make sure I am working on the “right” question. Is it – Should I take the full-time faculty job or the part-time consulting & online teaching? Or do you see a problem with the question?
I’ll give you a hint – this is NOT a good decision question. What do you notice? The question is much too narrow. Decision questions that are broad allow more creative options to be considered. If I used this decision question, I could really limit the options I consider for next year.
I then try to think about it much more broadly. Maybe the decision question is – What employment will best meet my needs for the next year? That is much broader than the original question, but there is still one more issue to consider. Did you notice it this time? (It gets easier once you follow the process a few times!)
Do I really need to be employed? By having the term “employed” in the question, the assumption is that I must have a job. There are other ways to pay bills – including tapping in to savings/investment accounts, or even changing our living situation to decrease our expenses. Also keep in mind that I have just reached “FI” (financial independence), so that will become part of the decision process at some point.
What my husband and I have determined is that in order for us to continue our current level of (frugal) spending and meet our financial obligations, we will need about $3000/month in addition to his pension (he is already retired).
So after spending time clarifying my decision question and thinking about it more broadly, I have changed the question. The original was “Should I take the full-time faculty job or the part-time consulting & online teaching?” And the new question I am considering is, “What is the best way for us to generate $3000/month?”
I use the word “considering” because I will still come back and re-visit this question throughout the process. Reflection is a huge part of making smart decisions. I also changed “I” to “us” in the new question. My husband is an important part of this decision and by thinking broadly, he may be included in generating part of that $3000 each month.
With a broad decision question, I can already see that it might be a combination of part-time work and using some of our savings/investments to meet this new goal. It could also be a totally new opportunity for work that comes along. An open decision question can lead to all kinds of new and creative options. And I have also noticed that as soon as I free up my schedule, I seem to get new job offers coming in on a regular basis! (I didn’t mention that after I received the email from my department chair yesterday, another colleague contacted me about an opening that was coming up to see if I might be interested!)
What I hope you can see from my decision opportunity is that it is incredibly important to spend time thinking deeply about what you are really considering. The more time that is spent early in the process, the more likely you will be working on the “right” question. This will also save you a great deal of time as you move forward in making the decision! My next post will be about the second step – Defining Goals.
Think back to a “big” decision (a job change, purchase of a car or house, etc.) you have made in the past. Was the question too narrow? Did it limit the options you considered? Please share any examples in the comments.
Photo credit: shho @freeimages.com