Following my previous post on the commitment calendar I was asked to share the spreadsheet that I am using to help me get a sense of what I have committed to do each month. The link to that is here.
This is now the second month of using it. I sat down on the morning of the first working day of the month to plan out what I was going to get done, and when that was going to happen. I have found it easiest to use half days as the smallest unit. Coming up with the list of stuff that has to be included takes a few steps:
1) Standard predictable things like scheduling some time each week to review my to-do list, plan what needs to be done, update this spreadsheet, schedule stuff in my calendar, etc. I’m scheduling half a day a week for this. The first one of these in the month is used for planning the rest of the month but it’s not clear what the rest of these slots will be used for yet. Sure, I’ll need a bit of time every week to check my to-do list etc but I hope I won’t need half a day a week. This will allow for a little slack in the schedule. I am also being explicit that I need time to do email. I am blocking out half a day a week to get my inbox to zero and respond to messages and do small admin tasks.
2) Then there is the stuff that will vary depending on what your roles are as an academic. I’m including supervision time: how much time you devote to this will depend on how many students you have but need to cover all the time spent on face to face contact, reading and commenting on drafts, etc. I’ve also added in time for teaching (to cover preparation, contact time and marking) and time for citizenship/admin roles such as sitting on committees and leading programmes.
3) Stuff that’s happening this month only – this will be things like attending a conference or taking some holiday.
The next thing that happened was I realised just how over-committed I was for the month. As a result I decided that there were some things that weren’t going to happen this month. Having to make hard decisions and accepting that I can’t get everything done that I might like to has made it easier to say no to other requests that have come in over the past week.
I have found it useful to schedule half day slots in my diary that relate directly to the commitments so i know when I am going to get each of these things done. This is helping me see what can get done in half a day (and what can’t!). For example, is half a day enough time to read a paper and write a review for it? I am hoping that this provides me with more insight into how long it takes you to do different things so it is easier to plan with more accuracy (though it’s well known that we find it very difficult to avoid being overconfident about what we can achieve in a given time https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planning_fallacy ) Even engaging in this planning task has helped me realise that there are some things that I can’t do as early as I would like.
So far this week my 3 working days have been MUCH longer than I had wanted or planned for them to be. This suggests that I’m still overestimating what can be done in a given amount of time. It has also meant that today (Thursday) I’ve been much less productive than I wanted to be and have struggled to motivate myself to do the things I had planned to do. Hopefully tomorrow I will have recovered enough to have the energy to catch up with the things on today’s list that haven’t been finished.