Sunday, March 24, 2019

Time management and the confetti bomb

Gwinne and Dame Eleanor have good posts up about time management and schedules and also links to people who write about time management and schedules. ("fabulous SHU" and "GetaLifePhD" and "Raul Pacheco-Vega" are three of them.)

Such charts! Such beautiful, colorful charts! I hunger for their time charts.

But then reality sinks in. As xykademiqz described so eloquently (and I posted, too), charts are not for the likes of us INTP types. And even if the MBTI is invalid, I'm claiming that it is because it fits.

Figure 1. Leuchtteurm1917 or . . .
For now, I'm sticking with the ex post facto method: the black notebook, in which I record what I'm actually doing, with a to-do list in the right margin, rather than how I think my day might unfold. I also keep the Excel spreadsheet for writing and noting events.

It's gotten so bad (or good) that if I do anything mildly work-related--write, read, grade papers, answer emails (especially answer emails)--I grab frantically for the black notebook to write down the time.

If I work, it's in there. If I waste time, it's in there. At least I know what I was supposed to be doing, because of the to-do list.
Figure 2.. . . Moleskine? Name your poison.

This is where the confetti bomb comes in. Suppose you're sitting in your office, as one does, grading papers, as one does, and keeping to your color-coded grading block.

Then, if you're a person in the world, and especially an administrative person in the world, someone walks in and says, in effect, "Congratulations! Here's a juicy, complex problem that it will take many phone calls, meetings, and a lot of thought to solve. Oh, and it needs a solution now."

That someone heaves a confetti bomb, which then detonates all over your desk.

Now, you could say this: "Now is my SACRED WRITING TIME or SACRED GRADING TIME or MY ORANGE BLOCK! Can't you see that it is my orange block and not a confetti block? Go away immediately. My chart says you can't be here."

Or you could do what most of us do.

Get to work cleaning up the confetti bomb, and write it in your notebook so you'll know why your best-laid plans gang aft agley. 


xykademiqz said...

You cheered me up to no end with this post. *infinity electronic hugs*

I often wonder what kinds of lives uber-planners live in which all this planning actually materializes. I cannot go from toilet to fridge at home without being interrupted to do something for someone. If I leave my office door at work open at any point when I don't have to, there will be someone coming in to ask for my time/advice. I have to employ secret-agent-like maneuvers to get any intellectually nontrivial work done in my office (e.g., headphones in order to not hear knocks on the door and random noises from nearby classrooms; not opening door if someone does knock w/o a prior appointment; not answering my phone; sneaking into my office an hour before everyone; when asked about availability, shamelessly lying that I am tied up or out of town when I am in the office and working). There is so much shit pulling me in every direction that a ton of energy goes on deflecting, and two tons on dealing with the stuff I cannot deflect and have to deal with on the spot even though I'd rather not.

In short, my time is very much *not* my own to schedule most of the time. Since August, I have been sitting on a book chapter that needs serious revising. I just don't have the time needed to devote to it. It's in such a bad shape that doing it piecemeal won't cut it. I need to sit in a cave for a week and basically write it anew. The time -- the kind of time I need for this -- is simply not there, especially this year with the teaching overload and a ridiculous amount of service.

gwinne said...

Oh, thank you for this. Yes, the explosions of time confetti!! A colleague described this problem of admin types as 'whack-a-mole' I'm less inclined to violent metaphor, but, they do keep coming.

In response to xyk ("I often wonder what kinds of lives uber-planners live in which all this planning actually materializes") I do consider myself a planner. And the problem is precisely that the plan can't happen. My desired life and my reality have come closer together with respect to my work, actually, partly because I have a general "admin" block in which I do whatever urgent matters arise. But my home life does not. I did exactly one of the five things I was supposed to do this month....which was very similar to what I was going to do last month.

I do still find it valuable to have a clear architecture to my week. I also know what often gets sacrificed (yoga class! taking care of my taxes!) when it gets derailed.

gwinne said...

Also, this is why I avoid going to the office :)

When I'm there, I assume that block of time will have nothing productive to show for it, anyway...

nicoleandmaggie said...

When schedules like this work for me it's reverse causality-- I have the time to do the schedules, not the other way around. Usually vacation when everyone else is gone and nobody in my family is sick.

undine said...

Thanks, xykademiqz. I know what you're talking about and being in a cave for a week sounds about right.

gwinne--right? My guess is that the super-planners have personal assistants and nannies and what not so that they can stay focused. I try for the admin block, but like a lot of other jobs, it has times when you can't leave things until that time. And yes, I have yet to do my taxes (!).

nicoleandmaggie--there is no surer sign of an academic than someone who plans work while on vacation :).