Monthly Archives: June 2014

Time Management 101 From Dr. Tough Love

Time Management in Grad School | New Faculty


“I love the sound of a deadline, I love the sound it makes as it goes whooshing by….” Whoever said this and coined it should be shot.

A  student missed a deadline. And they knew it. An email arrived while I was sleeping informing me that they were going to miss it. Life is a moving target friend. You just got shot.

It’s not fatal, they extended it by a few days. Upon request to meet because they’d just been confused the last few weeks, I handed over some resources, we discussed a few things, and onward ho. Take a stab at it friend. It’s writing, not your last love note before you die. But again, they failed to produce. Time management friends. Time management.

I forget that grad students (students in general) think we’re only working on ‘their thing’ & was reminded of that when a student said, “oh, is this for our stuff?” after telling him that it wasn’t he said, “oh, you have more work than this?” yes sir…..gads of other work besides your (now late) work…..

Is it ok to miss a deadline? Absolutely, but don’t do it because you’re confused and then wait until the last moment. That’s not cool, in fact, it’s really un-classy. And we’re going for super classy folks. In all seriousness, don’t be that guy. Ever. Or at least try not to be. It’s better to take a stab at the writing and get it all back with a million comments in Word or bleeding than to turn nothing in at all. That’s even worse. Slow productivity is at least still productivity. Shutting down the machine is just a pain in the neck for everyone involved.

The fatal error for this student: Time management or lack thereof. A second year grad student should have a better handle on this. I misjudged them. My mistake. Excuse after excuse flooded my inbox, came to see me in my office, and generally interrupted my workflow for days. In fact, I’m still waiting. Instead of reading their work, I have had 15 minutest to blog today-score! Or, in the spirit of the world cup- GOALLLLL!!!!!!

Summer is a great and wonderous (albeit short) time to create some good habits, set manageable expectations, and get your act together. I can only assume 50% of the responsibility for the student missing their deadline (yet again) and if I asked for $1 every time I got a crap ass excuse, I would be able to go out for dinner. I cannot do the writing for the student, they were hired specifically for this task, they’ve had weeks and I can no longer stand for the excuses. Welcome to grad school.

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30 Minute Meetings

30 Minute Meetings | New Faculty


I participated in a meeting with some partners not too long ago for work. The conversation was in a lull about the topic and people were getting off tangent. I sat there for a few minutes, hoping it would turn back, but after about five minutes, I made eye contact with the “organizer” and gave him a look, mouthing the words “bring it back” to him. When the meeting was scheduled, there was no set ‘time’ delegated, no objectives or points for discussion, but having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. I wanted to tear my hair out several times over the course of a two hour meeting that could have been completed in an hour. I made a decision:

30 minute meetings.


I learned a long time ago that “yes” some meetings need more time and they are given their fair duty but many meetings I encounter, particularly some of those weekly ‘check in’ meetings can be cut to 30 min without issue.

Why do I do it?

There’s a few reasons:

  • 30 minutes mean we get down to business and save the small talk if we finish early. I do want to know how you are, how your kids, pets, gerbil, etc… are doing, but I really want to get business done first.
  • psychological. I’ve noticed that when I request only 30 minutes, we get done with business in a very efficient manner. 60 minute meetings usually cause a lot of sittingaroundandstaringateachother syndrome that I truly cannot stand.
  • the group is usually relatively small for the 30 minute meetings, 5 people or less, sometimes just two of us. There’s no reason we can’t get business done.
  • i hate small talk. the introvert in me usually sits/stands there (awkwardly at best) waiting for the thing to start or keep it moving.

Do meetings go over 30 minutes? Yes, absolutely and that’s ok but being up front about only needing 30 minutes helps put everyone at ease, helps people plan and allocate their time, and can serve as a catalyst to do other things.

How do I block my calendar? I block 30 minutes to the meetings that I can and am specific in my language about only needing 30.

I will usually send an agenda or list of bullet point items that I’d like to discuss. It helps steer the conversation and serves as a guide.

I understand and respect the need for “think tank” time but a weekly check in is usually just that, a check in.

If it goes over, that’s usually ok. I’ve learned that I need a break between meetings to recharge and organize my thoughts so I try to plan my calendar that way. I’m not always successful, but I’ve learned that scheduling myself with back to back meetings is like a death sentence.

I will assess who the meeting is with. How many people at the table? Dean of the college (they get all the time they want)? Is this someone who I am meeting for the first time or well established partner that I already have a good rapport with?

I’m still guarding my time like a watchdog with a herd of cattle. I share just enough but also block off time for my own work. I have even started a tumblr page this summer and attached the link to the end of my email that I update once each day, “where am i?” Anyone who wants can access it and I will usually give a general outline of the day:

Screenshot 2014-06-12 16.18.55

I’m hoping it becomes a normal habit for me by the time the semester begins again so I just update it from my phone in the morning and I’m off. I created a QR code for my door so anyone who wants can just scan it and stalk.

Managing my meetings has helped me continue to manage my schedule. If someone wants me, they can find me or at least get a general sense of where I am. If they want to meet, they know they start with 30 minutes. Does it always work? No. But it’s sure better than wasting countless hours in meetings that have no end.

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9 month salaries and summer service

Tenure, She Wrote

Like many professors in the US, I am paid a 9 month salary. In the past week, I’ve received several emails that have prompted me to think about my institutional responsibilities during the summer: one that requested feedback on revising our Biology curriculum, one that requested comments on the research statement of a spousal hire, and one (from our Provost!) expressing concern that many faculty in my small department were unavailable to meet with some upcoming candidates for an external position (a position where the person would be affiliated with my department, but where no attempts were made to consult faculty in our department about preferred weeks/dates for scheduling interviews).

I fully expect that these requests and many others will be the norm rather than the exception- students will want to meet with committee members and perhaps defend their thesis or take their qualifying exams, there will be administrative positions…

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Tech Out, Chalk In, Well Almost

great thoughts!



This is not so much in response to Mary Flanagan’s  essay, “The Classroom as Arcade,” recently published by Inside Higher Ed,  which features a vivid observation of a student in class who “check[ed] out from a class he likes” to play a role-playing game on an electronic device while others “openly engaged with their Facebook pages,” also in class, though I would say that kind of behavior falls under classroom management–even if students live in a world where technology controls their fingers and eyeballs as if they were marionettes.  But reading Flanagan’s essay reminded me that I had not yet taken the opportunity to sound off on what appears to be the standard practice for years now of equipping every classroom with a computer and an electronic overhead projector, along with either a television or pull down screen to show what is displayed on the computer.

I recall also a former college president making a…

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