Thursday, 27 July 2017

Watch this space... I'm moving!

I've decided to bite the bullet and get a custom website made - so watch this space! New content is being saved for its new home. Watch this space :-)

Monday, 12 June 2017

Researching - How to find the time!

Two years into a full academic post, and with a good number of study days, I still find it difficult to manage my time effectively to fit in actual academic research. It's not unusual - study leave can only really be taken after the terms have ended, but teaching gives way to marking, assessment boards, planning for the next term, and all manner of meetings that get put off until the end of term. So how to make time for actual research? I went back to basics with my original Time Management blog post, but I realised that this is only the beginning.

There are a number of good resources out there to help busy academics manage their time. Dr Helen Kara's  Research and Evaluation for Busy Practitioners is a great tool for a range of sectors. The Times Higher Education has a good article, Workload Survival Guide, full of advice from other academics. And even has a section on Tips for Time Management. For me, these offer some great advice, but I am generally pretty poor at sticking to all their wisdom. I make an effort for maybe one day or week, then by the next time I have study leave, it all gets forgotten, and I fall into the same ruts as before.

If you're luck enough to get study leave, or find yourself with a day - or even half day - to do something verging on 'scholarly', you need to develop your own tips and tricks to get things done. I've found that these are some of the best pieces of advice I've found to maintain some level of productivity, and reduce the guilt:

Block out space in your diary. At the start of term, once classes and important meetings have been established, block out a reasonable amount of time in your diary, and protect it at all costs (even if that means saying 'no' to things). It might only be half a day every couple of weeks, but it will be something and it will be yours.

Turn on your out-of-office, then turn off your emails (close the browser, block incoming emails to phones and tablets). Don't answer until you've said you would.

Pick one thing. It might only be a little thing - read an article. Write 100 words. Scope a new research project. But pick one thing, and get it done. It's important not to overload your 'to-do' list, else it will seem never-ending and achievable.

Clock off at 5pm. Or 6pm. Or whatever time you choose, really, but the important thing to do is clock off. Check out. Stop working. Research, academia, administration - it's all never ending. Once one paper is finished, the next beckons. Don't give in. Put work down, and leave it alone, and try not to think about it. Your evenings and weekends (or mornings and Friday's -whatever suits you) is yours to step back. Helen Russel discusses the concept of being more productive by working less hours in her book, The Year of Living Danishly.

Restrict Social Media use. Everyone says it. We rarely do it. But if I start the day checking Twitter, I'll check it several times throughout the day without thinking. Start as you mean to go on. Don't bother until you've achieved what you set out to do that day. Even then, only check it at lunchtime or after you've finished. The same goes with the news.