Monday, May 3, 2010

On Time Management

I am a bit of a time management nerd. I used to wear a digital timer on my belt so that I could time every minute of my work day from coffee breaks to manuscript writing. But lately, I've been in a funk. I've been surfing the internet (gasp!) and overmultitasking to where nothing sticks in my brain.

I recently attended an NSF workshop for junior faculty that reset my clock and I think I'm back on track. The most effective piece of advice I heard was concerning email. Checking email consumes time, and it takes X minutes to get back on task after checking the email. If you check your email 20 times a day (yes, you really do), then you waste 20X minutes getting back on task. A solution is to check your email only 3 times a day at prescribed times. I tried this for a week, and the change was immediate. Instead of checking my email (all the f**king time), I forced myself to focus on other pieces of work. For the first time in ages, I was able to leave work satisfied with my day's accomplishments. Let's keep it up.

So I think that *wasting* a day attending a workshop may have ultimately saved me 20X minutes per day...

5 comments:

K said...

I also make sure that I tell my students at the beginning of the semester that I am not checking all the time -- so not to expect instant responses from me. It works...

joshphd said...

This is a great idea! I'm am only a graduate student (for a couple of more weeks anyway), and I check my e-mail constantly! It doesn't help that my school uses Outlook and I get a nice little popup when I get an e-mail (yes I can disable it, but I like it too much). When I start my job in Fall, I'll have to remember to give this a shot!

OverEngineered said...

Interesting- did you use the stopwatch to see how long it takes you to do something, or to make sure you didn't take more than the time you allotted for a particular task?

Janus Professor said...

I used the timer to make sure I didn't overcommit to one task. For instance, I would allot 30 min to reading articles, one hour for lunch, one hour for setting up an experiment... That helped me graduate on time. But the time will not work for assistant professors!

Macky said...

time management is one of the keys to success..thanks for sharing this...