I'm currently working for a small software development company. I don't love it, but I don't hate it either, and up until this point I've gotten far in the company by working very hard.

I've recently been accepted into a couple PhD programs, and depending on which one I go to I'll either be leaving my job in 3 months or 5. The rest of my career will be in academia or research - this job was and continues to be little more than a way to pay my bills and put away money for when I go back to school.

The problem is, I've hit a brick wall. Since I got my first acceptance letter, all motivation has been sucked out of me and I haven't been able to focus or care since.

I won't be telling my boss that I'm leaving until I give 2 weeks notice. I know the situation at my work well enough to know that would be a big mistake.

I realize that there may be no answer and this may be off topic, but I don't suppose it can hurt to ask. What do I do in this situation? Is there any good way to motivate myself to perform better? Is there anything worth doing in a 5-month lame duck period?

I'm not worried about losing my job, but I feel bad because when I sit at my desk for 8 hours doing 3 hours of actual work, I'm wasting client and company money.

  • If you're going for a phd, you should be bored doing nothing. – user8365 Mar 5 '15 at 21:59
  • "The rest of my career will be in academia or research." Ah the youthful optimism of the new graduate student. – Eric Mar 5 '15 at 22:01

That's what is called being a professional. It doesn't matter if you know you have a winning lottery ticket, if you are going to continue getting paychecks for your work, you must continue to give them what is expected. If you slack off or in any way reduce the quantity or quality of your work, that may come back to haunt you in the future.

Either you do what needs to be done or you are honest and quit right now. But until then, you have the moral and professional obligation to continue providing them the agreed results.

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  • Agreed. That's why I feel guilty, because I want to do work, but at the end of the day I'm just staring at the screen having too much issue focusing. I'm not actively slacking - I still sit at my desk with my work open, but I have to build up willpower just to write a few lines code. – ThatGuy Mar 5 '15 at 19:41
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    Try time boxing - commit yourself to a certain result for a period of time - like 20 solid minutes. It requires focus and self control, which are good things to have regardless. – user1220 Mar 5 '15 at 19:44
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    @user1220 "that may come back to haunt you in the future." What world are you living in? I've seen people in companies do the most hideous things to their fellow co-workers and eventually when they get fired, HR claims they cannot give negative reviews. I've seen (really seen this) used car salesmen completely fabricate resumes and get positions as VP of divisions only to get fired 2 years later. All while collecting 6-figure salaries. You know what nothing happened to them. I just found out that my last supervisor lied about having a physics degree from Penn State.He still works there. – user32685 Mar 5 '15 at 20:06
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    @ConfusedDeer HR can't say much, but many industries are tight knit where "People know people" I've had plenty of times I've gotten jobs because "one of our employees worked with a guy who spoke well of you" just the same I've had people call me about people I've worked with in the past, some I my feedback got them jobs, others my feedback likely prevented them from being hired. So while HR says "John worked here from X to Y with title Z" your peers might say "I wouldn't hire this person" – RualStorge Mar 5 '15 at 21:06
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    @ConfusedDeer this is true, but this person is talking about slacking for potentially 3 to 5 months. A week or two notice slacking can be overlooked but months is unlikely. – RualStorge Mar 5 '15 at 21:17

Part of being a professional (and a decent employee) is earning your paycheck. If I'm to pay you 100$ I expect to get 100$ (or more) worth out of you.

Unprofessional behavior means no job

Since job retention isn't a major motivator let's take a different angle. I also worked in education for a good 6 years or so. Started in IT, started teaching classes, etc. I will say from being the "fly on the wall" schools take your past and present professionalism VERY seriously, in addition to this they also are very well connected and they always tend to "know a guy, who knows a guy, who knows you"

That said if you flake on your current job and just waste money and time it'll probably find it's way into the hands of whomever is ultimately going to hire you. (which means you probably wouldn't get hired)

You're not hired til your hired

Okay, so you're leaving this job to further your education. No problem! you can leave this job on excellent terms, be the professional, and probably count on a good reference from your peers.

That said you have a plan, get the PHD and work the world of education. (It's a VERY fulfilling career path, one I miss at times) Problem... you don't have a job until you have a solid offer, and between now and completion of your PHD ALOT can happen grants can be pulled, plans can change, and you could be left with no job. By not burning that bridge you might be able to have a "plan b" just in case.

I personally try to always have a plan B and while I pursue plan A I more or less assume it's a 50/50 plan A won't pan out. That said you should assume the same, if you don't shape up now you might not have a plan a or plan b when it's all said and done. (so retaining this job now isn't the only issue, it could also make or break your job in the future)

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It should be easier as no matter what happens you know you'll be leaving so it doesn't matter.

Use the time to finish off what you're doing and leave it in a good state to hand over, and, as it doesn't sound like you're busy, find something else to do that benefits your soon to be ex-employer.

Build some stuff to automate some of the boring tasks you need to do/paperwork you need to collect etc. It'll fill the time, you'll feel better and the employer will miss you when you go (you never know when you'll need a reference).

Take the high road, and you'll feel better.

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