Academic work requires so much solitary work and this makes it flexible and at times impossible. Work always beckons and the to do list can become burdensome. We are at the start of Summer term at the campus where I work, and it is the perfect time to think about how you can re-focus on the way you work. What works for you?
Right about now academics are thinking about the long list of things to accomplish during the Summer. Honestly, though, how do you work?
I find that I need some white noise when I am doing certain tasks and other tasks requires quiet or music at a low volume. At the day’s end when I am completely alone this is the time that I listen to music set high. I like to chunk out as many tasks as I can during these evenings alone at work. My job requires lots of meetings and this means that I have to catch up from the meetings. I am an early riser and tend to get lots completed before anyone else in my family wakes up.
I have blogged previously about the importance of having good work and life balance and boundaries. I know that this is extremely important, but the reality of work is that some months are more busy than others. I am also trying to think about the way I work and what keeps me organized and able to get things done. I love coffee and the entire process of making and savoring it. This ritual is part of my morning and reading the papers. I also realize that the caffeine is necessary most days.
I need desk time to plan and think, and I need to walk around and will find myself in walking meetings. <They are awesome!> . I will talk into my phone and dictate notes from a meeting or send myself emails to update. I also use this time to clear my head and plan for the next meeting, task, or day. I need some alone time to organize my day. I use Todoist to organize my tasks and I have found this tool works well for me. While this is not a feminist rant, I was thinking about this quote and feel it fits.
I’m always very honest in my blog posts and I have to admit that I don’t like seeing email in my queue. I try to get to the emails as quickly as possible. And, I don’t like seeing several hundred emails on Monday mornings. This means that I do respond to work emails during the weekend. Now, I don’t respond to all of them, as I will flag some noting that they are higher priority come Monday and then others I will respond to in a timely (immediately through the next 24 hours) manner. I have now taken to responding to some student emails and stating that I will get to their email (answer their query) on Monday and also state, “It’s the weekend, I hope that you enjoy it.”
I know that I’ll hear from people who swear that they don’t respond to students’ emails over the weekend or that no one at their campus does. Cue Bill Cosby acting like Noah and saying, “Riiiight” at the 58 second mark or 1.17. It’s not that I don’t believe these people–it’s just that my reality is that if I don’t respond in about 24 hours, I hear repeatedly from the student. I rather say that I got the email and will attend to it. I also will make a point of responding to all emails when an assignment is due the next Monday. It’s the nature of my job and the students who I work with in the department. I also am responsible for this access, I know. Some will tweet me or Facebook message me. I am a heavy user of social media and this is one cost–access to me and my time. I am not going to complain, but I will try to have some work life balance.
I am trying to set a good example for my kids, co-workers, and the Teaching Assistants who report to me. I explain to my team of Teaching Assistants that they also do not have to respond to emails from students over the weekend and not from me, too. I ask them to act as if the email (if one gets sent during the weekend) arrived Monday morning and respond thereafter. I want them to see me encourage boundaries. This takes hard work, but I have to say that during the last year it’s been worth it. I’m protecting my schedule more and I feel happier. I still love my job, and look forward to walking into the classroom, office hours, and other teaching related events. I’m loathe to say that I love meetings, as that’s a lie. I like some meetings and do not look forward to others! How do you deal with your email queue?
It is that time of year, when professors are writing students letters of reference for graduate school. Just a few words of advice to students: Be organized and patient.
1. Ask professors weeks before the letters are due.
2. Provide us all the information we need.
This includes~ Who, What, Where, and When, Fill out all necessary forms. Really organized students provide me a Word or Excel file with the schools, deadlines, and any additional information.
I ask for a copy of your letter of intent and cv/resume. I might even meet with you and ask what your motivation is for continuing your education.
3. Remind us. Send an email a few days before a due date. Do not feel like you are pestering–these email reminders are great.
4. Thank us. This can be an email or a note. It’s not necessary to do more. Remember that your tenure line faculty actually get paid to mentor and do things like write letters. Keep in mind that part-time faculty do not get compensated for this extra work. Remember to thank them profusely–a card, bottle of wine or a face to face thank you is nice.
Good luck with this process!