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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fragmentation [or segmentation?] of Time

The bad news about time management in the academic setting is that it is very fragmented, broken up by interruptions of classes and meetings, emails and grading. Many people don't have four or five straight hours each day in which there is nothing else scheduled.

The good news is that you only need 1-3 hours a day for your writing. You can schedule writing the same way as anything else. Instead of seeing time as fragmented, broken up into unusable shards, take control yourself and break it into usable segments. One of the worst excuses is that "I only have 15 minutes, so I can't get any writing done." 15 minutes is long enough to run a spell check, to look over a few sentences, and to maintain continuity on a project.

I am proctoring the PhD exam tomorrow. That will let me get three hours of my own writing done.


Clarissa said...

Today, I had 20 minutes between student appointments. Normally, I would have decided that nothing useful can be done in that time and just stayed online blogging.

Instead, I checked several quotes and some factual information that needed to be checked anyways and added all that to the document.

It works!

Ally said...

Other than trying to utilize those small bits of time, do you have any suggestions for those of us who can't schedule time to work on our research/writing? I ask as a librarian who pretty much is expected to have my door open to answer reference questions whenever I am here and not teaching a class. During slow points in the semester, and when everyone else is here (and thus I'm not fielding all of the reference) it doesn't work out half bad (a bit annoying at times to not know how long you'll have to work on something, but ok), but I've had occasions where I really had no time to prep for a class the next morning, much less get any writing done due to the steady stream of students (it was a day when our other reference librarian was out).

Jonathan said...

That's an excellent question. If research is part of your job description, then I would basically schedule it into your day (with the approval of the supervisor) and move to a part of the library where you won't be disturbed. Just three hours a week, say. Do it first thing in the morning. If your supervisors see research as something you do on your own time, then, I would do research in the spare moments between reference questions, but writing completely off site. Write 2 hours Sat. and Sun. a.m., and then one to three evenings a week for two hours. Treat your own research questions as reference questions for yourself, and answer those between those of your clients, but work at home or in a coffee shop to produce your scholarly writing. Being in a library, you are like a restaurant worker who is always going hungry, putting other people's research first.

Try a Sat. Sun. Tues. Thurs. schedule of writing. 4 days are enough. Of course I don't know your family situation. If you have small children you will have to adjust my advice accordingly.

Ally said...

Actually I must say, our director is very understanding, and actually the topic somewhat came up in a meeting today after I posted the comment (we're looking at going back to more of a traditional reference desk staffed accordingly). If it really got bad enough, I'd feel I could ask for that (your suggestion), but at the moment it's more that I feel like I can't predict when I'm going to have time appropriate to each of my duties, which is partially a time management issue of my own, that is just exaggerated with the open door issue. But your thoughts are much appreciated.

Jonathan said...

In the meantime, I would still try to some writing outside the library in a time and space protected from other duties. Then you have that to fall back on when reference desk work becomes overwhelming. Another thing I do on very busy days is just to have my document open on my computer desk-top all day long and returning to it whenever I can. That's not ideal, but it is a stop-gap measure for desperate times.