Episode 4: Create Your Ideal Week
Do you have too much going on? In all seriousness, can you fit everything that needs to be done on your calendar? If you feel like there are simply not enough hours in the day, this episode is for you.
More and more of what we are expected to do in academia is “shallow work”: paper pushing, email, useless meetings. This means that we are finding less and less time for “deep work” (terms explained by Cal Newport in his book Deep Work): the thinking and creating that we were trained to do, the reasons many of us got into this profession in the first place.
The market is flooded and if you don’t have time to write and publish or to bring in the big grant money,someone else is: someone who is willing to work nights and weekends, or who has home-care built in, or is turning themselves inside out to try and do it all.
I want you to see that the fact that you feel overworked and overwhelmed is not a reflection on your personal character. It’s not your fault. You are part of a system that is set up this way. But what do we do about it?
On this episode we’re talking about how to “find” time with a strategy called “my ideal week.”
(If you’re interested in more ways to make time to write, I’ve got a PDF list for you called 10 Ways to Make Time To Write. Grab it here.)
Guidelines for Creating Your Ideal Week Calendar
An ideal week calendar is a visualization of how you can make your work fit into your working hours. Here is how you do it.
- Come up with basic categories for everything you do. Some examples are: teaching (class meeting times, course prep, grading); research (data collection, lab work, reading, writing); service (meeting times, work on service-related things); etc.
- Map them onto your calendar. Assign each category a color, then map each one out onto your work week. Using a color-coded system will help with visualizing, and making adjustments later in the process.
- Reminders and suggestions.
- Don’t forget what I call “personal maintenance” time. Use this category for things like taking a walk, break times, and always taking time for lunch away from work.
- Be sure to block similar items together, and don’t forget to include “tiger time” (see episode 2 for more information).
- Schedule activities that tend to run over against immovable tasks, like scheduled meetings or class time, to prevent using more time than needed.
- Consider waiting to check email until after lunch.
“One of the things that really derails us in terms of time management is checking email first thing in the morning.” -Cathy Mazak
Reflect on Your Ideal Calendar
Once you have your ideal calendar laid out, with activities slotted into blocks, and everything you need to accomplish in place, it’s time to reflect on what you’ve come up with.
- Does what you have laid out accurately reflect your “load”, whatever that may be according to your university contract? In other words, if you are supposed to be spending 50% of your time on teaching and 50% on research, does this calendar reflect that?
- Does everything you need to do in a week fit into this calendar? If you are having to cram 50, 60, 70 hours into your work week to fit everything, something HAS to go. What will you cut? This is important to maintain a fulfilling career and avoid burnout.
- How would it feel to actually live out this schedule?
Try Your Ideal Week Calendar
This exercise is designed to help you make time for writing and for yourself. It is meant to help you spot things that are bloating your schedule and wasting time. But you won’t know for sure what works, and how to adjust it unless you actually give it a try.
“The reason that we try new things is because what we’re currently doing is not working.”
If you feel like what you are currently doing is not working in terms of your schedule and your time, then please, try it! Do the ideal week exercise, and value yourself enough to work through it and find a better experience for yourself.
“Let’s make this academic life more centered, less stressed, and less overwhelming.”
If you are in our Facebook Group and you decide to lay out your ideal calendar and give it a try, snap a pic, share it with us, and let us know what you’ve learned! If you’d like to join us, head here.