Thanks Erin. If you’re like me, you want to implement many of these ideas, but first you need to clear your email inbox, finish the reference desk schedule, do that one thing your boss asked for by Friday . . . You may have heard the phrase “if somebody says that they don’t have time, what that means is that it’s not important enough to them.” I disagree. I think that most of us have too many things that are important to us, and we’re running around making ourselves, at best, burned out, and at worst, sick. The saying does have some truth: It’s not about finding time, it’s about making it. However, making time isn’t always simple.So where to start?
I think that a good place to start is to assess the current state of affairs: what are we doing with our time now?No doubt you’ve heard of, or perhaps have kept a time log or journal, where you write down how you spend your time periodically throughout the day.These can be a good exercise, but I like to use a faster, less exhaustive approach and here’s why.Time logs take time, and energy, which are both in scarce resources.My time (and I suspect your time) is not spent the same way from day to day, week to week, or one part of the year to the next. Because of that, it would take me a long time to capture enough data to be meaningful for analysis.Stuff changes, sometimes quickly. Why spend too much time keeping track of something that’s a moving target?I’m not good at being regimented, and after years of trying, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am better off playing to my strengths and working around my weaknesses than trying to change my personality.I’ll describe a quick, iterative approach to conducting a time inventory. Once you’ve gone through the steps, you can return to any point in the process and make adjustments.
This process involves a series of quick, timed lists. If you feeling anxious about the timer, feel free to keep the list with you and add to it if you think of things later. But try to stick to the 5-minute time frame for the first go through, because I think it’s important to the process. So for this first list, simply jot down what stuff takes up your time.Remember: we simply want to know what’s taking up a lot of time, what’s not. The biggest stuff will bubble up. If a few items get lost in the mix, don’t worry, you’ll surely find them. I like to review my calendar and to-do lists as I do this, because they provide raw data.Here’s a brief example from my time inventory. Notice that some things on the list are ongoing (ref desk), some are ongoing for awhile (task force), and some are a push to the finish line (publication and presentation deadlines). Other tasks are intermittent – I run reference stats when they’re needed.
The next step is to get a sense of how long you’re spending on each activity. I’m using hours per week for ease of comparison, pick what works for you.Totally estimate! We’re looking for patterns, not precision.
The next 5-minute list is to note how important each activity is. I’m using a notes plus numerical scale.Pause. Notice how everything is important? Let’s take another look. (click)Here is what happens when I assess the relative importance of each activity to me, not to my supervisor or because I made a commitment, or to the angel on my left shoulder. I may not be able to stop doing stuff, but there are times when I do get to make choices, and I can use what I learn from this process.
Next, assess when each item on your list needs to be completed.This is just a way to become more aware of short-term priorities. I know that I often feel I must respond to email right now, but really, it can wait. A lot of things can wait. Also, if I start to notice a pattern of tight deadlines, I may need to do something to effect this such as ask for more time from the outset of a project.
After completing these four lists, you’ll probably become aware of some patterns, and perhaps some things you want to change. On the screen you’ll see some prompts. Don’t feel that you need to limit yourself and also don’t worry if you don’t have answers for everything. If you have no answers, maybe ask a friend or colleague to look over it with you.
Here are some examples from my list. As you can see, I am a little bit type A.We’ll come back to this because there are a few other things to consider.
It’s not just about time.I can spend an entire day grading student assignments. I can also spend an entire day getting everything EXCEPT my grading done, until 4pm, at which point I grade madly and don’t get home until 7. Clearly time is not the only factor in getting things done.
One of the most important non-time factors is the actual Like most people, I have a wide and fluctuating range of feelings about the things I must get done. Additionally, the items on my list vary in difficulty. Easy things can be comforting, or they might be boring. Activities that are difficult and/or require learning can be exciting or perhaps daunting.
Another thing to consider is the quality of the time each activity requires.Can you do accomplish this task in few minutes here and there, or do you need to set aside a larger chunk of time?How often should you schedule this activity? Some things require consistency, others can be picked up anytime.Also consider the time of day – I like to exercise in the morning, before I can talk myself out of it, for example.
Finally, the environment that suits you best can vary, both by what it is you’re working on and by mood. Think about things like ambient noise, music, companionship, and interruptions. Consider whether you’d rather work alone or collaborate. Think about your work environment. For example, I find that having enough light helps me to stay focused.
This is a visual demonstrating some ideas to consider based on how you feel about a particular task and how much focus it requires. I’d like to highlight a few key points. First try to balance high focus activities with those that require less attention. The human brain is not designed to stay in 1 gear forever, and will function better this waySecond, adults are not so different from children in that incentives can make chores more palatable. I often such as “write 500 words, then take a break and shop for shoes online.” By “distract yourself with shiny things,” I mean that a a really nice note pad and roller ball pen can make even the most onerous task more tolerable. On the flip side, if you tend to get over focused on activities that you are able to find flow with, a timer or another type of time boundary can be a useful way to get through tasks at a reasonable pace.The most important thing is to create balance, whatever that means to you.
The last step is to pull all of this into an action plan. Above you’ll see my list of activities, with two columns – some notes about how it’s going, taken from my time inventory and reflection and some ideas for things to change or try, taken from my reflections after the time inventory and on the non-time factors that we just went over. Of course, I wouldn’t try to make all of these changes at once. You could ad a timeline column, or choose one to work on for a week, then moving on to the next Finally, it’s important to check in regularly and see how it’s going, both in terms of this action plan and any aspects of the inventory process which may have changed.
So with that – we’re done with the formal portion of this presentation. Thanks for your attention. Any questions for us?
Time Hacks: Managing your Day-to-Day and Long-Term Projects
Gray, Tara. Publish & Flourish: Become a Prolific Scholar. Teaching
Academy. New Mexico State University, 2005.
Rockquemore, Kerry Ann, and Tracey Laszloffy. The Black Academic’s
Guide to Winning Tenure—Without Losing Your Soul. Boulder:
Lynne Rienner, 2008.
Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive
AcademicWriting. Washington: American Psychological
do it manually
buy or write software
Thomas A. Limoncelli, Time Management for System Administrators
The “waterfall” or “executive” approach*
Managing/triaging the volume
Inbox zero (Merlin Mann)
and/or inbox as to-do list
delete, delegate, defer, do, respond
* I made this up.
Filters/rules: keep it out of your inbox
Simple thing done often: cleaning out messages
Listservs, newsletters, automated messages
If to: address is “email@example.com”
Move to folder ListservsLITA
If message subject contains “Special Offer”
Move to Trash
Simple thing done often: composing similar messages
Called “canned messages” in Gmail
“The ____ system is currently unavailable. We’ve reported the issue with the
vendor and will update you as soon as possible.”
Welcome e-mail for new colleagues with orientation information
Fielding feedback/common questions
Simple thing done often: replying, archiving/foldering, deleting, searching
In Gmail, activate keyboard shortcuts in Settings. Use J and K to navigate through
messages in your inbox. Enter to read messages. R to reply. E to archive and remove
from inbox. C to compose new. ? to see all shortcuts.
Common shortcuts for desktop programs
Ctrl+R to reply
Ctrl+N to create a new message.
List of all projects
Project names, owners, statuses, importance
As simple as a spreadsheet
Separate sheet for finished projects
Scope: what is and is not included
RACI: responsible, accountable, consulted, informed
Milestones and due dates
Checklists for common tasks
Google Docs spreadsheets
Portable, easy to share/edit on the fly
Can be embedded in web pages
One repository for project list
One repository for each large project
Repositories can have documentation, track issues and milestones
It’s what I do.
Online learning assessment
4 It’s interesting, and read our to serve.
2 Will anybody really I agreed report?
Book chapter revisions
5 Sigh. Must be done, I suppose.
3 I’m so done.
5 Important, a deadlinedeadline.
4 I enjoy this project + approaches.
Running reference desk
4 ImportantOCD. Nobodyis being made.
1 I’m being if a decision else cares.
Whenever I’m scheduled.
Online learning assessment
Can ask to reschedule meetings; flexible
Book chapter revisions
We have a whole month . . .
Need a draft this week in order to practice
Running reference desk
Not usually a rush.
What can you:
Do less of
Do more quickly
Ask for help with
What would you like to:
Do more of
Always offering to take extra desk hours.
Writing for publication. Keep it in balance.
Do more quickly:
Creating powerpoint slides.
Ask for help with:
Hmmmm . . .
Deadlines that are only in my head.
Learn more about research methods.
Outreach to liaison areas.
Try not bringing work to the reference desk for
Balance high focus activities
with those that require less
Dedicated chunks of time
I need to
Boundaries: set a
timer; set a day of the
something else first
Don’t tell anybody,
but I kinda like this
OK to multi-task
Location not so important important
Interruptions OK, maybe even good
Let yourself be bad at it
Small goals with incentives
I would rather
Brief work sessions
Get it over with first thing
Distract yourself with shiny things
How’s it going?
Things to change or try
I love the desk so much, I end up there
more than I can really afford.
Pause before offering to take extra desk
Online learning assessment task
Good, but I really don’t have time for it
and I feel badly about not doing much
Chat with chair about time commitment.
Fine, once these revisions are done.
But it’s been time consuming and I
could use a few months without a
Cut back on proposals to one or two a
Great, but I need to stop revising
Set a timer for 5 minutes/slide.
Running reference desk statistics
Takes me way too much time because I
love making graphs and charts.
Write down exactly what is needed (e.g.
busiest hours during the week) and do
Book chapter revisions
No more special projects for awhile (if
Set aside half a day, turn off telephone,
Ellie Dworak firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin White email@example.com
William Weare firstname.lastname@example.org