Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Time management for dummies

In an ideal world, I start my day with a plan. I make a little to-do list with the tasks I'd like to accomplish. I mentally map out certain times for certain tasks: "I have a half-hour block between these two meetings, so I'll review the new research results. This afternoon, I have two hours, so I'll do class prep." And so on. Sometimes, I actually stick to my schedule.

And then, there are days like today, when the unexpected "crisis" arises in the middle of the day. Sometimes it's a student (or a wave of students) who are really, really stuck on an assignment, and require an intervention in the lab. Sometimes it's an urgent task with an overdue deadline that must must must be done TODAY. Sometimes, like today, it's a large and ugly research-related snafu that must be resolved immediately.

Today's unscheduled crisis took a good three hours out of my afternoon. It cut into my workout time and my class prep time, among other things. In these circumstances, something should give. But class prep is necessary, particularly since I'm teaching a new-to-me topic. And I haven't worked out in a couple of days, and the crisis of the afternoon had me completely keyed up, so working out was necessary. So what ended up giving, in this case, is sleep and a decent dinner (although I could have done much worse than microwave popcorn and a handful of dates). I'm still up, still working, still have about an hour left of work to do, the residual effects of making up the class prep time this afternoon and doing the work I originally planned on tonight.

I'm a bit of a control freak, so when things don't go according to plan I get frustrated. I do take things in stride much better now than I used to---the old Jane would have had a complete meltdown this afternoon when the crisis hit, but I held it together fairly well, even keeping the cursing to a minimum. Now, though, as the hour gets later and the weariness creeps in, I find that the frustration I held at bay earlier is coming back---the frustration at a "perfectly-planned" day gone awry.


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