It’s about time

Posted on December 1st, 2010 by Paul Stainthorp

Closing the University of Lincoln for the day has led to a little flurry (ha!) of interesting blogging.

When people are able to spend a few hours away from the shop floor (and I was right to stay away, by the looks of things) they have time to think: something that can be in regrettably short supply.

[I apologise to the students who have been missing lectures and library time. I'm not suggesting we should shut the campuses down more often, just to let people wander through snowy scenes, stroking their beards academically... but you've gotta make the most of these opportunities when they arise. I hope you've had a good snow day yourselves!]

In fact; lack of time, full stop, is by far the biggest problem I face at work. It begins with a kernel of my own lack of organisational ability, and is exacerbated by:

  • The number of emails I receive a day: some 300~400/day ‘gross’; translating to 50~60/day that actually require my attention in some way.
  • Procrastination, and an environment that invites it: at the University, there’s always something more interesting going on than the thing I should be getting on with.
  • The number and the breadth of projects in which I’m involved. E-resources is a broad and varied field; Lincoln’s going through a whole load of interesting changes, and I find it difficult to say “no”.

I could, as others have done, abandon distractions such as Twitter entirely, but I’m still having far too many valuable conversations to pull the plug completely.

My latest simple trick to keep the work flowing: a massive, imposing ‘To Do‘ list, Blu-Tack®-ed to the wall near my desk, and updated every couple of days. Actually it’s two lists: one page of individual tasks, ordered by priority; and a second page of wider project ‘threads’ – all the work I mustn’t forget about, even if it’s just bubbling away in the background. If someone asks me to do something now, it gets added to the überlist (priority negotiable, and dependent on who’s asking…) or it doesn’t get done at all. It’s crude, but it’s helping.

Q. How do you keep on top of things?

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