First off, I have to share the great news: I passed my Qualifying Exams in my doctorate program!!!! That took about 9 months of intense preparation, including over 200 pages of writing and studying. I am so glad it is over! Now I just have to write a dissertation (“just” –HA!).z
This last year, Padded Tush Stats grew far more than I expected. Pairing that with the insane Quals prep I had, everything in my life snowballed and I am still trying to catch up. Despite having Carolyn as an awesome helper with that website, I’ve still struggled. So I have been trying to do baby steps that make a difference in my productivity. BOY, I’ve found one, and I’d almost argue that it is a Baby LEAP.
So a while back I was at a Professors for the Future meeting (it’s kind of a rad group of a dozen grad students who were chosen because of their promise as rockin’ future professors–and I am honored to have somehow tricked them into picking me). We were talking about how stressed out academics are and how difficult it is to balance work and life. As you know, I’m pretty passionate about this topic so I think I chewed big holes in my tongue as I kept my mouth shut and tried not to go crazy and sound like the sleep-deprived-we-are-not-progressing-as-a-feminist-movement-in-academia freak that I am (off topic–I got so many emails after my last post of people worried about my personal well being–have no fear, I am doing fine and won’t go crazy [yet], but I am so GRATEFUL for your support).
But one thing we talked about in this meeting was “compartmentalizing” parts of your life. One person talked about how she ONLY checks email once a day. I balked. WHAT?! In this era, you have to apologize if you missed a call and returned it *gasp* an hour later. So people expect email to work the exact way, right? I posed this question to my group….
Suddenly the room seem divided into those who DO check once a day, and those who check all day. Would you believe the most productive people in the room check only once a day? No joke, I keep a tally of these people and admire them and YUP, it must be working, because that’s what they do.
I have been trying this and I can’t BELIEVE how much more productive that I am. I am getting a lot more done and I go to bed less stressed and with an empty email box. It’s also nice because people in my life (like Carolyn, who diligently emails me about two dozen emails a day because she is so on it) now get responses from me on a consistent basis. I’ll confess, I was procrastinating on tough or long emails and it would sometimes take days to get to them (<—Carolyn noticed that and now only puts in bold what I REALLY need to read….now that’s sad I pushed her to that). But alas, no more of that. I’m ON IT, people (crap, announcer’s jinx). But really, I have noticed that I am better at communicating with people and I actually get stuff done.
So let me give you my tips:
1) First off, give the world a heads up that they may not hear a response for 24-48 hours. This is establishing an expectation and it may take a while. I literally had an email from a student saying he was having a “panic attack” because he hadn’t heard from me in 8 hours—had he started his assignment earlier, this wouldn’t be a problem. Lesson learned–he won’t do it again because I established an expectation. One colleague of mine has it as her signature in an email. You could have it be set as a vacation message, but that’s pretty obnoxious. If you are a teacher, make it clear on the syllabus that you answer emails once a day. My signature looks something like this:
I respond to emails within 24-48 hours. If this is an urgent issue, please feel free to call me at 555-555-1236.
By having my email-checking at night, I have missed some fires that could have been put out during business hours. In a perfect world, my email checking would be first thing in the morning, but at that time, I am changing diapers, filing sippy cups,
trying not to pass out from sleep deprivation, etc. I didn’t want to do the email checking in the middle of the day, since my schedule is very consistent. One thing in my life IS consistent: putting the kids to bed (thank GOODNESS for that). Sometimes I look on my phone during the day just to see if there are “fires” and, if so, I do tend to them (<—this happens very rarely. It has to be a BIG fire).
2) Set aside a time at night where you can check the emails and respond to them. What’s crazy is by compartmentalizing this, it only takes an hour for me. I clean the house while my husband reads to the kids. Once the kids are tucked in and the house is clean, I go to my office and check my email.
3) If it is part of a bigger task, I let the person know that I am taking action on it, I archive it (in gmail), and then I promptly put it on my To-Do list and give it a deadline. Right now I am digging Wunderlist for this (Carolyn and I both joke that while some women are obsessed with shoes and purses, I’m obsessed with productivity apps. To see ones I’ve reviewed, you can go here).
Since I started checking my email once a day, I am so much more calm and way more productive. Here is my lovely sight tonight before going to bed:
So WHEW, that is one baby step completed. Other ways I’ve been more productive are by doing small intervals to ensure each area of my life gets attention and doing a brief morning routine to combat lazy days. Now I am on to the next step: tackling my to-do list. I used to do this 6-item a day format, but it has gotten more difficult.
Do any of you have suggestions for tackling a to-do list? I’m great at MAKING them, but would love advice for tackling those lists!