We all have our tricks with time management. Some are effective and others have the appearance of helping you manage your time, but might just make you think that you're organized. I don't have any easy answers, but I will share how I manage my time effectively. I first have to thank a colleague for insisting that I establish boundaries for getting work done. About four years ago, Dr. Matt James politely encouraged me to shut my door. Not a week doesn't go by that I don't thank him for this simple suggestion for effective time management. It was really hard for me to shut my door and establish this first boundary.
We were both working as Undergraduate Advisors at the time and were chatting about all the time that advising can take. He smiled and said, "I have a suggestion for you--you should shut your door to get work done. Don't keep your door open when you don't have office hours." Now, this wasn't new advice, but it resonated with me differently given that I was three months in to my first full-time tenure track job. I thought that if the Chair of the Undergraduate Committee was encouraging me to shut my door, then maybe I should. Previously, I’d d had a mostly open door policy, but prior to that I didn't have the same expectations for advising, teaching, and extensive committee work. My job security increased, but so did the demands for my time.
Related to managing my time effectively, I also keep an excel spreadsheet for all the family members and the respective activities that we are all engaged in Monday through Friday. On Sunday nights we review all our calendars and make sure that we are all in sync, as this saves lots of headaches. Now, back to my work schedule, I have taken to scheduling my lunch and work out times directly in my schedule so that no one can book appointments during this time. Many of my colleagues and those in administration use Outlook, so sure enough people can see when you’re busy and when you’re available. By booking my lunch hour or workout time (even if it’s at 6 am or 6 pm, I’ve made an appointment for and with myself. Yes, this is time for me. I am going on six months of making a concerted effort to not eat at my desk or in my office. I am going outside to eat, to a colleague's office or even to the larger lunchroom downstairs. This way I am away from a screen and actually enjoy a break away from the computer screens.
I also schedule in writing time or thinking time, too. I do this to protect my time, as otherwise I might not have the time to do so. It also offers me that precious 15-59 minutes to think about the project. As academics there is always something for us to read, review, grade, and write. We have the luxury of flexibility (allegedly), but the job is often with us. That nagging to do list hovers in the backdrop.
How do you manage your time?
Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.
Janni Aragon is a Senior Instructor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Victoria. She is an occasional blogger at University of Venus and her areas of interest are varied: Gender and Politics, Women and Technology, American Politics, Feminist Theories, Youth Politics, and Popular Culture. Currently she is working on a co-edited Introduction to Women’s Studies textbook and when she has time, she blogs at http://janniaragon.wordpress.com/.