Generally speaking, I try to pay attention to what’s working and what’s not working in terms of managing the overwhelm that often comes with this job (or any job).
Paying attention to these strategies is a lovely first step, but then I actually have to keep doing the things that are working and/or figure out how to adjust whatever isn’t working.
I’m good at the noticing part, not as good with the follow through (always a work in progress!).
To remind myself to continue to do what’s working and adjust what isn’t, I thought I’d share where I’m at right now.
This showed up a lot toward the end of last term. There was a day or two where all I did was grade and that did not work out well. So, I adjusted by adding up the number of papers to grade, dividing them by the number of days I had to grade them, and then graded that number per day. I planned far enough in advance that the number was usually manageable (ranging from 2-5/day). This worked so much better than blocking off a single day to do them all. This term I’m going to try and keep this strategy going as assignments come in.
In research, I’ve paced myself by stopping while I’m still excited about whatever it is I’m working on. For example, one day I had an hour and a half blocked off for data analysis. When the 1.5 hours was up I looked at my schedule for the rest of the afternoon and thought, maybe I’ll just keep going and move the others things I was going to do to another day. However, I know that no matter what I’m working on, once I hit the hour 45 minute to two hour mark, I’m probably going to get tired of it. In an effort to sustain my energy for the project and the other work I was doing that day, I changed gears.
Another area where this has shown up is with general administrative work. I moved offices over spring break and currently my new office is one big mess! Each day I’m on campus, I do 1 or 2 small things during work breaks and then let the rest go. It’ll get done eventually!
Ignoring email until the afternoon
Starting off my day with email usually means I get sucked into something that I didn’t plan to spend time on. On most days, I won’t open my email until after 12pm. I’ve had multiple instances where someone emails a question early in the day, and then by the time I’ve gotten around to checking my email, they’ve sent a follow up saying never mind, they figured it out themselves. I know some people view email as an instantaneous form of communication, but for me, it doesn’t work that way.
Working out while working
This one only applies to when I work from home. Lately, I’ve been bringing my computer into the garage and doing work (course prep, editing, grading, data analysis) in between lifting sets. I get stronger and my work gets done, win, win. Granted, this doesn’t work if I’m on campus or if I’m doing cardio, but it does work nicely for lifting (which is my preferred method of working out anyway).
Clustering meetings on the same day if possible
I just don’t get as much done on meeting days. In addition to the hour+ of the actual meeting, there’s usually a ~15-30 minute buffer on either side where I’m transitioning from/to the next thing. An hour meeting is really 1.5 or 2 hours of my time. Attempting to have all my meetings on the same day (or across 2 days) is helpful so I can just focus on meetings and not worry about other things. Granted, this is really hard to orchestrate sometimes, but if I have the ability to do it, I’ll try!
I’ve been pretty consistent with pre-bedtime meditation sessions and I’ve noticed a big difference in my ability to cope with stress. I’ve also been trying to incorporate a quick session after meetings to reset my mind/body.
What’s not working?
I just can’t seem to get in bed before midnight... there are just too many things I want to do in a day! I know this needs to change, I’m just struggling to make adjustments. I'm currently reading (aka listening to) the book, Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker as motivation to get me started working on better sleep habits.
I’m sure this is a product of having constant access to information in my life, but I really struggle to let my mind just rest (unless I am specifically doing a meditation and even then it’s a struggle). I’m trying to embrace boredom and not always have a podcast going while doing mundane things like showering or household chores or commuting... granted I’m not helping my case by doing work while I workout!
I’ll check back in with myself at the end of spring term to see what sticks!