On no particular Friday, I had run out of mental gas. However, I had set up myself with several meetings, had edits to do on an article that had been accepted, had a laundry list of recommendations to write for students, and above all: I really wanted to crawl back in bed or just relax for a few hours.
As I tried to pysche myself up for the meetings, I opened up my calendar, only to close it almost immediately. It was far too scary. I noticed several things though:
- my afternoons are largely blocked off already
- i work best in the mornings
- i have done a GOOD job of blocking off time for ‘life stuff’ like working out and social activities (which generally happen ‘after hours’)
- there are some things in my calendar that are ‘non-negotiable’ and i have been diligent about keeping them as ‘sacred time’ because of the value they have in my life: personally and professionally
- i will often work until about 8 p.m. most work days and have worked hard to modify my schedule to fit my needs and try to find some balance. i may be up at 7 a.m. working on those days but i try to take a break in the middle of the day to get re-energized.
Thinking reflectively about it, I should not have scheduled meetings for a Friday. Thankfully, there were in the morning, my “prime time” for my brain, my attention, and my time. By Friday afternoon, you’re better off going shoe shopping with me because that’s all the mental capacity I can handle after 3 p.m.
I covet Friday’s in academia because it’s my ‘catch up’ day. It’s the day I do this neat thing called “administrivia” and move a lot of paper, virtual or real, answer emails I’ve put off all week, and even schedule appts. off campus (life tasks) because I know it won’t be my most productive day.
I saw this post way back in the spring, saved it, and here we are….late fall…. Elmore discusses what he recommends as ways to be the BOSS of your calendar and I would agree and argue several of his points.
1. Identify one objective that energizes you each day and do it.
- what’s the ‘big task’ of the day you need to tackle?
- if there’s more than one, can you chunk it out?
- respect your circadian clock. do you handle tasks better in the morning? are you a night owl?
2. Place similar activities in time blocks.
- i put all of my ‘school site’ work in one chunk, sometimes that’s the whole afternoon since i’m often out at schools until 6 p.m. and then come back to do several more hours of work. i build my schedule so working until 8 p.m. is the norm for me on those days.
3. Schedule in advance your biggest “rocks.”
- i would easily say that ‘writing’ is my biggest rock personally. i really need to go to my happy place to get the writing done. even after several years, i still have not found the perfect place to find my happy place. sometimes, i don’t have the luxury of finding my super happy place and i just need to get it done.
4. Invite a colleague to help you say no and stay on track.
- we’ve talked about having friends in and outside of your faculty work. this is a perfect time to connect. whether it’s a mentor or some other type of colleague, it’s ok to find an accountability buddy.
5. Create systems to help you accomplish ongoing tasks.
- need a reward, a motivator, or find satisfaction in crossing things off of your ‘to do’ list? whatever works, employ it!
6. Plan for margins in the calendar for priorities you must pursue.
- forgive yourself. there might be days when you just sink more than swim. go home, lick your wounds, recover, and get back on that horse the next day. odds are you’re already doing great, we just need to reflect and revisit our calendar from time-to-time in order to breathe and reboot.