Over the last few months I have been getting some coaching on juggling work issues better.  One of the words of advice is to schedule time to complete tasks.  I find that it is extremely helpful.  For example, I am teaching a freshmen-level introduction to computer programming class.  I have scheduled time to prepare lessons during the week.  In the past, I would have never done this and would have just worked on the lessons at home or on the weekend instead of during the week.  This has allowed me to acknowledge that this is a task that I should be actually working on at work, which is great.

Another thing that scheduling items has helped with is allowing me to make sure I do certain things that I want/need to do.  For example, I have set aside 30 minutes each day (60 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays) for exercising.  This is extremely important for my sanity and wellbeing.  Finally, I have set aside 30 minutes a day for writing.  This allows me to do a couple of things: (1) write this blog roughly once a week, and (2) slowly, torturously, write papers and proposal.  This has worked great, since I have not written any proposals so far that actually have deadlines.

The problem with this system is how it holds up under pressure. Up until now, everything has been pretty low stress.  When the semester started, I had something like 5 lessons done.  I now have 9 done, and I am about to give my 8th today.  That means I run out of lessons on Wednesday.  Given how fast I am making lectures, next Monday will be good. Next Wednesday will not be completed, though.  My wife has a pressure cooker.  Inside that cooker, the water boils first, then the pressure starts to build.  At this point, I feel like the water is boiling and the pressure is just starting to kick up.  It feels bad.  But, I know that it is going to get worse. Much worse.  And next Wednesday is that day.

At this point, I have 8 hours of my week set aside specifically for lecture prep (for this class, I should note). The choice, then, is to decide whether I should work harder at home (which is difficult considering my kids’ and wife’s schedules – another source of pressure), or find another 8 hours of work time that I can carve out to actually complete these lectures.  If you look at my calendar, it is difficult to see where this will come from.  I guess this is the whole point, though.  To realize that you can’t do everything.  Something has to give to maintain sanity.  This puts a very stark face on that concept.

The idea here is to realize that there is a (large) issue somewhere in the near future and plan for that.  I clearly see the problem.  I understand that a solution needs to be created. Now, I just have to implement something.  That is the hard part – determining what to cut in order to maintain sanity.  If I don’t do this, something will give anyways.  The question is whether it is surgical or whether it just falls to the floor.

Anyways, my 30 minutes are up.  On to the next calendar item!


About aaronridley

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