One of the hardest things that I feel like I have to deal with is time.  I literally have 21 standing meetings every week (luckily, 16 of those are 30 minute meetings, but that is 13 hours of standing meetings a week).  Plus I have to teach 3 times a week, for a total of 5 more hours (18 hours total).  Every other week, I have to attend the Honor’s Student Seminars (4 more hours).  Laying it out like this doesn’t make it seem that bad (only ~22 hours of my ~40 hour work week).  But, it is horrible.  In essence, I have the very beginning of the day, and over lunch.  The rest of the time is take up.  Except for Fridays.

For the last year, I have tried to carve out a section of my week in which I have no meetings at all.  This semester that is Friday.  When people send out doodle polls or ask about meeting times, Fridays are not available for me.  This is because I need to have some time of the week in which I can actually DO something.  With 8 full hours of time, I can concentrate on things like reading papers for my grad students or writing some text.  Or, doing something that I really enjoy, like coding a new plotting routine (Teach yourself Python in just 8 short hours!) Or, even more crazy – make up new or grade old homework! See, 8 hours is not much time, but it allows me unbroken time to accomplish some tasks, which you can’t do when you have a stream of student walking through your office (not to say that I don’t like that, but allowing this to happen 80% of the time is more than enough.)  In case you are keeping track, that means that 22 hours of meetings/class has to occur in 32 hours of work time, which is somewhat crazy. It should be noted that this week I had to attend an all day meeting on Friday.  While the meeting was quite useful, it means that I accomplished nothing on my day to actually accomplish things.  That sort of stresses me out a bit.

Then there is home time.  This is pretty insane also.  At this point, my kids are (roughly) teenagers, and are involved with some activities outside of home.  My son is involved in Hockey and Robotics.  This weekend we had to make the decision to go to one or the other on Saturday and go to Hockey on Sunday.  Robotics won for Saturday.  We left the house at 9:00 and got home at 4:45. On Sunday his game was in Waterford, which is about an hour away, so that is four hours of time committed to Hockey.  This type of schedule makes it very hard to relax from a long week.

Over the last many years, my wife and I have had many discussion about exercise.  In order to actually not gain a lot of weight and to generally feel better about everything, you sort of need to exercise.  This means that you need to set a certain number of hours a week aside.  That is tricky.  I try to run every day.  Try being the operative word here.  I can run 10 minute miles, which means two to three miles takes me 20-30 minutes. Plus the time to get ready and the time to cool down and all of that.  It doesn’t seem like a large commitment, but it is.

Then there is time for hobbies and such.  Yeah, that is really hard.  It seems like the only time I ever get for these is when we have a three day weekend or a holiday.  There is no time in a normal week to go out and take/process pictures or do wood working.  Those are really extras.

Everything is a compromise with time.  When you add something to the schedule (say writing a blog), something else has to give.  The question end up being – what will fall off the plate?


About aaronridley

Professor at the University of Michigan, Department of Climate and Space Science and Engineering.
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