Beki Grinter

Posts Tagged ‘time management’

New Year Resolution

In academia, computer science, discipline, research on January 2, 2011 at 9:16 pm

I don’t make New Year resolutions, mainly because I don’t feel that I have time to make the resolutions before the New Year is upon me. It’s not to say that I don’t think about making them, just that I feel that when that time of the year comes around there’s not enough time to make them.

Feeling like I do not have enough time to get everything I want to get done is a challenge I’ve faced since I was in graduate school. Graduate school was the first time that I can recall routinely feeling that there was more to be done than I could ever get done. It was the place where I first started carrying papers to read in my bag which would “age in place.” If I still had them in the bag some of them would be adults by now. Instead some of the adults got read and filed, others, well they got put in the “to read” stack. Then every few years I purge that stack. More recently, I decided to move some of my reading online to my iPad, and now I see a similar unread stack building up.

So, this year, while my ill formed New Year resolutions still include making more time for reading, I think the most important one I have is to come to terms with the fact that I can’t possibly do everything that I think needs to be done. This year, I resolve to be more realistic about time. It’s either that or I need to start on a project to squeeze more time out of the 24 hour day.

Immediate versus Important: Academic Time Management and Dependencies

In academia, academic management on October 5, 2010 at 8:20 pm

We all know the advice “don’t let the immediate trump the important.” I think it’s great advice. It reminds me to think about what’s more important and give that priority.

Sometimes I have defined “important” to include “non-work related” activities. Taking time to do some genealogy, or a bit of knitting, or go see a film, etc. That’s really important for mental health and wellness. And sometimes it’s in these moments that I actually come to see my own work more clearly.

Sometimes I have included “about work” related activities. Blogging is one of those. I enjoy blogging, it helps me to think not just about research but also the contexts in which it happens. Blogging is a genre that I still feel relatively new to, and I am just beginning to learn what effect it has on my writing and thinking.

But, recently I’ve been wondering about what happens when the immediate is the important and there’s more important beyond the immediate. It’s nice to believe that there’s a strong conceptual distinction, but it seems to me that being a faculty member is a lesson in times when immediate and important collide.

I am reminded of this when after submitting papers to the CHI conference I am asked to review and involved in some other CHI related activities. These are important, and they have a degree of immediacy. Most crucially, they are things that other people depend on me to get done. People in both my visible and invisible college (my HCI colleagues).

So, I decided to consult some time management books. Perhaps I got the wrong ones, but none of them dealt effectively with dependencies that arise from obligations. Sure, they did say that you should be careful what you commit to, and that is good advice, but they seemed to presume a greater deal of control over those obligations. How do you juggle the needed recommendation letter (set by a different institution) with the keen student in your class who seeks advice and who asks a great question, with a paper review solicited because someone else has had to drop out due to a life circumstance. By responding to situations that are to a degree entirely out of your control, but never-the-less warrant a timely response.

I’m a bit more cynical about the immediate versus the important. I’m a bit more cynical about time management strategies. What I want is one that explains work-life balance, and accounts effectively for unplanned and uncontrollable dependencies that arise because other people have important matters that can not be planned ahead.

Service and Commitment: thank you students…

In academia on August 26, 2010 at 9:46 am

It’s the first week of the semester. It’s great in that way that first weeks are, there’s so much to accomplish… Female Science Professor had a recent post on service by graduate students.Specifically, how much and what type of service should students do for their academic institution.

Female Science Professor and Wendy P, in my opinion, have it exactly right. There is much good that can be gotten from this type of service, but it has to be managed. It may have come up in the comments, but I think learning to balance time commitments, much in the same way that any GTA must balance their time spent in the classroom with their research time. This is good preparation for faculty life, and probably any life.

But there’s more than that. Service to a program, school, community, instills a sense of commitment to the enterprise. That’s crucial. We could all show up for free pizza (well we are in Computing) and week after week eat and leave. Commitment requires giving and gaining. Do I feel more committed to the School of Interactive Computing because I am asked to and give my time to service for these entities and the myriad of programs (CS, CM, HCC, CS., ROBO)… and centers (GVU, RIM)…

Of course. And are there rewards. Yes. Sometimes all I see is the “to-do” list, but when I step back I look across the span of activities and what I really see are all the people who give alongside of me, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And it is a crazy amazing whole.

And in this regard I must give a huge shout out to the students who have created a culture that I like to describe as “a force to be reckoned with.” Actually, many forces, I am sure that there are many cultures (by program, by time in the office, by language and culture, by well who knows). And it’s a form of service, one that turns on giving and commitment to the institutions of which they are members. Its whole is making sure some really good things happen. Sharing of advice, listening to talks, helping new students settle in, describing the “low-down”, being there to celebrate students’ accomplishments, being moral support and so much more. I’ve spent most of my service time focused on graduate programs, so I’ll just say that “team go to defenses and proposals and wait for results” or “team visit posters and applaud project presentations” wow… And of course there’s “team meet the new faculty candidate” and I remember you well, because there were more of you than I’d ever encountered… both times. It was noted.

So service. You have to give, but what you get is a whole that is truly greater than the sum of the parts. And when I am reminded of this, I know why giving matters. And I know what getting means. And to the students, thank you thank you thank you. Keep the good work up BUT ONLY in balance to the other demands that you have.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Academic School Year

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline on August 18, 2010 at 4:29 pm

It’s the end of the academic summer. Actually it’s three working days from the end of the academic summer. Classes start next week. Those three days matter, I am clinging on to them with a type of mental fervor that is not to be underestimated (or is that misestimated).

Those three days represent everything I am going finish this summer. That would include my course preparation, the books I’m going to read, and clearly the papers and grants I am going to write. Three days, that should be enough.

The academic summer is a bit like the academic weekend. Friday is a time to imagine all the wonderful things that will be accomplished over the weekend. And then it starts, and stuff does get done, but not everything that is imagined, because I think like many of my colleagues I imagine that I will complete more than I can realistically achieve, especially if I also then do what I should which is take time off, go on vacation, and spend time with family.

The academic summer is also like the academic bag. Approach a colleague and ask them to remove the contents of their bag, focusing particularly on the tools of the job. How many have articles that they have intended to read in their bag for a) six weeks, b) six months or c) six years. One of the advantages of going to France was that for a time I was printing in A4, and so I could easily date those articles. Eventually I purchased a smaller bag and that seems to have solved some of this, but like the summer, like the weekend, the bag is also a place of academic imaginations.

So, my academic summer is almost over. Following FemaleScienceProfessor I was careful to compartmentalize my time this summer, and I feel I got some great things done. Computing at the Margins was moved forward, I did some writing, reading, etc. I saw my first student graduate, yay!

And there is much to look forward to with the new academic year. New students, undergraduates and graduates will arrive. Their excitement about starting a program at Georgia Tech, perhaps mixed with a tinge of intrepidation, is the adventure of a new bachelors, a professional degree, their entry into research. That they give to us, entrust in us, those ambitions, their hopes and fears, what an honour. There is also the privilege of teaching classes which I view as the opportunity to play a role in helping individuals develop knowledge. I think it’s a team process.

So, it’s really all good. But it’s different. It’s a departure from a schedule that is mostly mine to one that is a combination. It’s time to finish preparing for a class I’ve never taught. Ho hum. Classes more generally remind me of being on stage. I get pre-performance nerves. In addition to my performance, I also become the one person everyone knows, while I struggle to learn everyone’s names. And so, I’m clinging to these last days of summer, deferring anxieties about what is to come, and wondering whether my colleagues are too.

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