Sunday, September 24, 2017

Energy Management While Winning Epically

So, you want to get through grad school or your postdoc(s) and still win epically? Excellent... Prepare to Burnout.

This is a great decision, but we have both good and bad news. The good news is that it's certainly possible. The bad news is that it's exhausting and needs to be done right. The other good news is that it can be done right!

In grad school, your workload is high, but your time is largely yours to manage. A lot of people find this a challenge in itself as they simply end up working constantly. This is just the nature of the type of people who attend grad school. Financial stress is the absolute last thing you want during this period, there is a clear trade-off. Less stress means better focus and better outcomes in general, including better research. However, establishing additional revenue streams means more time spent out of the lab / office / dank university dungeon etc.

When I was running my tutor operation in grad school, I found this balance initially difficult and exhausting, but I later converged on a system that was really working for me. I tutored most nights by the end of grad school, and as I wasn't too certain I wanted an academic position and prefer working for myself, I prioritized this over TA type teaching at my university. This balance will be different for everyone and is highly personal.

As I went along, I optimized for clients who lived near to me to minimize my travel, and for clients preparing for the same exams as each other (even exams I had recently taken). All of this saved a great deal of time, effort and fundamentally, my energy. The whole process went from a daunting and exhausting overhead each week to an easy and enjoyable hour each day in the afternoon. I also found reliable and well-paying clients after really learning how to do this (by failing for some time). This also really helped reduce stress and make the whole thing feel absolutely worth it. The key factor is really understanding what saps your energy and maintaining it for the things you most care about.

By the end of my Ph.D. I was set up with a system that was fully working for me. If you're the type of person who reaaallly wants to succeed on all fronts, like many people in grad school do, then there is a real danger of burnout. It's also not realistic to think that tutoring won't take time from research. It certainly did, but it was also certainly worth it! It was something I could do that was interesting and stimulating, without being my research. It was also a great personal boost, as it's a task I could do a great job of myself, without relying on anyone else or the whim of any journal editor! Overall, I felt that once my operation was running nicely, it helped with my research. I could take a holiday when I felt like it because of my extra income. I could relax about my research knowing I had options and experience as an entrepreneur and look at the topics that really interested me. This helped most of all I'd say as it let me pursue my research goals with passion and without too much worry. We all have that Ph.D. friend who's in constant meltdown. I wasn't that candidate!

It also helped me make my future choices, as it showed me what it's like to work for myself, and how to market and grow a personal service. This was an extremely rewarding process which I felt helped me to gain skills my fellow researchers weren't necessarily up on which have carried over into my research.

So overall, a well set up tutor operation can be a huge asset rather than a burden, but it needs to be done right. One of the most important factors if you're planning to take on this challenge is managing your personal energy so you can get the most out of the experience.

#whyitutor #whydelphi

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Making Extra Money in Grad School

So, you want to get a Ph.D. Great. Likely you're really smart and going to have a great time, and learn more than at any other time in your life and even maybe change the world (a little bit at least). However, likely you're also about to get horribly underpaid compared to your market value, all your friends and likely your admin colleagues who don't have degrees. My commiserations for this.

Ok, what to do about this debacle. I ran a small Math and Programming tutoring business on the side during my time in grad school with success. Buuuuut, it could have been better if I'd thought sooner, done the sums, and got on it earlier.

Let's look at the US situation (the same principles apply in many other places of course). If you start tutoring at the start of your Ph.D., for three hours a week (a medium estimate), in groups of two (a medium estimate), for $40 each an hour (a low estimate), for 48 weeks of the year, you will put away 3*2*40*58 = $13920 per year. After 6 years (typical for US grad school), you will have $83520. If you put this into any typical index fund (3% PA is a low estimate) , you will have:
 13920*((1.03^6) + (1.03^5) + (1.03^4) + (1.03^3)+ (1.03^2) + (1.03^1)) = $92,741

$92,741 for 3 hrs a week online. Just sayin'.

If you're serious about it and do 6 hours rather than three, you'll have $185,483 and be most of the way to buying a house. Also, just sayin'. More about managing your time in grad school if you choose to do this, especially if you're not resting all your hope on landing an academic position soon. It's worth noting that these numbers apply to postdocs too.

#whyitutor #whydelphi